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A FULL VINDICATION.
DECEMBER 15, 1774.
A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress from the
calumnies of their enemies, in answer to a Letter under the signature of a Westchester Farmer; whereby his sophistry is exposed, his cavils confuted, his artifices detected, and his wit ridiculed, in a General Address to the inhabitants of America, and a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New-York. Veritas magna est et prevalebit–Truth is powerful and will prevail. New-York: printed by James Rivington: 1774.
FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN:
It was hardly to be expected that any man could be so presumptuous, as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures adopted by the Congress : an assembly truly respectable on every account! Whether we consider the characters of the men who composed it; the number and dignity of their constituents; or the important ends for which they were appointed. But, however improbable such a degree of presumption might have seemed, we find there are some in whom it exists. Attempts are daily making to diminish the influence of VOL. II.
their decisions, and prevent the salutary effects intended by them. The impotence of such insidious efforts is evident from the general indignation they are treated with; so that no material ill-consequences can be dreaded from them. But lest they should have a tendency to mislead, and prejudice the minds of a few, it cannot be deemed altogether useless to. bestow some notice upon them.
And first, let me ask these restless spirits, Whence arises that violent antipathy they seem to entertain, not only to the natural rights of mankind, but to common sense and common modesty ? That they are enemies to the natural rights of mankind is manifest, because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another. That they have an invincible aversion to common sense, is apparent in many respects: They endeavor to persuade us, that the absolute sovereignty of parliament does not imply our absolute slavery; that it is a Christian duty to submit to be plundered of all we have, merely because some of our fellow subjects are wicked enough to require it of us; that slavery, so far from being a great evil, is a great blessing; and even, that our contest with Britain is founded entirely upon the petty duty of three pence per pound on East India tea; whereas the whole world knows, it is built upon this interesting question, Whether the inhabitants of Great Britain have a right to dispose of the lives and properties of the inhabitants of America, or not? And lastly, that these men have discarded all pretension to common modesty, is clear from hence; first, because they, in the plainest terms, call an august body of men, famed for their patriotism and abilities, fools or knaves; and of course the people whom they represented, cannot be exempt from the same opprobrious appellations; and secondly, because they set themselves up as standards of wisdom and probity, by contradicting and censuring the public voice in favor of those men.
A little consideration will convince us, that the Congress, instead of having "ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected, or basely betrayed the interests of the colonies," have, on the contrary, devised and recommended the only effectual means to secure the freedom, and establish the future prosperity of Ame
rica upon a solid basis. If we are not free and happy hereafter, it must proceed from the want of integrity and resolution, in executing what they have concerted; not from the temerity or impolicy of their determinations.
Before I proceed to confirm this assertion by the most obvious arguments, I will premise a few brief remarks. The only distinction between freedom and slavery consists in this: In the former state a man is governed by the laws to which he has given his consent, either in person, or by his representative: In the latter, he is governed by the will of another. In the one case, his life and property are his own: in the other, they depend upon the pleasure of a master. It is easy to discern which of these two states is preferable. No man in his senses can hesitate in choosing to be free, rather than a slave.
That Americans are entitled to freedom is incontestable upon every rational principle. All men have one common original: they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right. No reason can be assigned why one man should exercise any power or pre-eminence over his fellow-creatures more than another; unless they have voluntarily vested him with it. Since, then, Americans have not, by any act of theirs, empowered the British Parliament to make laws for them, it follows they can have no just authority to do it.
Besides the clear voice of natural justice in this respect, the fundamental principles of the English constitution are in our favor. It has been repeatedly demonstrated, that the idea of legislation, or taxation, when the subject is not represented, is inconsistent with that. Nor is this all; our charters, the express conditions on which our progenitors relinquished their native countries, and came to settle in this, preclude every claim of ruling and taxing us without our assent.
Every subterfuge that sophistry has been able to invent, to evade or obscure this truth, has been refuted by the most conclusive reasonings ; so that we may pronounce it a matter of undeniable certainty, that the pretensions of Parliament are contradictory to the law of nature, subversive of the British constitution, and destructive of the faith of the most solemn compacts. What, then, is the subject of our controversy with the mother country? It is this: Whether we shall preserve that security to our lives and properties, which the law of nature, the genius of the British constitution, and our charters, afford us; or whether we shall resign them into the hands of the British House of Commons, which is no more privileged to dispose of them than the Great Mogul ? What can actuate those men who labor to delude any of us into an opinion, that the object of contention between the parent state and the colonies, is only three pence duty upon tea? or that the commotions in America originate in a plan, formed by some turbulent men, to erect it into a republican government? The Parliament claims a right to tax us in all cases whatsoever: its late acts are in virtue of that claim. How ridiculous, then, is it to affirm, that we are quarrelling for the trifling sum of three pence a pound on tea; when it is evidently the principle against which we contend.
The design of electing members to represent us in general Congress, was, that the wisdom of America might be collected in devising the most proper and expedient means to repel this atrocious invasion of our rights. It has been accordingly done. Their decrees are binding upon all, and demand a religious ob
We did not, especially in this province, circumscribe them by any fixed boundary; and therefore, as they cannot be said to have exceeded the limits of their authority, their act must be esteemed the act of their constituents. If it should be objected, that they have not answered the end of their election, but have fallen upon an improper and ruinous mode of proceeding, I reply by asking, Who shall be the judge? Shall any individual oppose his private sentiment to the united counsels of men, in whom America has reposed so high a confidence? The attempt must argue no small degree of arrogance and self-sufficiency.
Yet this attempt has been made; and it is become, in some measure, necessary to vindicate the conduct of this venerable assembly from the aspersions of men, who are their adversaries, only because they are foes to America.
When the political salvation of any community is depending,