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government may have been best, each was supreme within the colony where it prevailed; each was alike esteemed by those among whom it had been instituted; and where each existed all the others were alike despised.
It was a happy circumstance that there was little intercourse among the colonies in the colonial period, for their intercourse could hardly have been friendly. It was fortunate, also, that this absolute independence of each other as to government was sanctioned by prescription, not less than by law and fact, before their union had been dreamed of; for an unwise union of antagonistic elements could only have produced a strife of factions, civil war, and military despotism, or permanent disruption; and a union of the colonies before the acknowledgment of their entire separate sovereignty would have been an unwise union, offering continual pretexts for sectional aggressions upon local institutions, and compelling sectional resistance to the usurpation of majorities. On the other band, it was a wise and gracious providence which laid upon the colonies a war of years, to be endured, not in formal union with each other, but as a confederation of independent States ; till they should have forgotten ancient discords in the recollection of their common wrongs, their common glory, and their common interests; that is, till they should have been prepared for union under one political organization, which, without destroying or impairing their distinct supremacy as sovereign States, should yet unite them by a common bond in all things in regard to which their interests were identical -a bond which, under God, gave them seventy years of domestic peace, which nothing but judicial blindness could have led the people to assail, and which God's judgment on a thankless people could alone have suffered to be broken.
There was, however, one notable instance of colonial combination and confederation in New England. It was proposed as early as 1637, but difficulties having occurred, the articles of confedera! tion were not adopted till 1643, when “ a perpetual league of friendship and amity," styled the United Colonies of New England, was formally entered into, " for purposes of offence and defence, and mutual advice and succor," by the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth. Rhode Island asked to be
admitted to the league, but was rejected. By the conditions of this union the charges of all wars, offensive and defensive, were to be borne in common, according to an apportionment previously agreed upon. In case of the invasion of any colony, the others were to furnish & certain contingent of armed men for its defence Commissioners appointed by each colony were to meet and determine all points of war, peace, leagues, aids, charges, &c., and to frame and establish agreements and orders for other general interests. No general government over the confederated colonies was contemplated. Each was still in all respects to govern its own people according to the tenor of its charter. This union, so important during the troubles which then agitated the mother country, was not annulled by Charles II. on his restoration; but though it was styled perpetual, it lasted only forty-three years, when it ceased upon the abrogation of colonial charters by King James. It was never afterwards renewed.
In the beginning of the previous chapter, we have shown the constitutional status of the individual colonist. The mutual independence of the colonies has just been illustrated. It remains that we should indicate the status of the colonies in respect of England, which will perhaps be best done if we state at once the opposite constitutional positions assumed by England and the colonies respectively in the controversy which resulted in the Revolution. This was a new question in England, in regard to which there was much confusion of ideas. The general scope, however, of the several arguments was this: On the part of England it was claimed that her American possessions were acquired in part by conquest and in part by cession from the natives; that these possessions were therefore held by right of conquest ; that colonists and settlers in a conquered country are, in common with the natives of the country, to be gov. erned by such laws as it may please the conqueror to impose, and to enjoy only such rights as he may please to recognize; that the colonies were in no sense parts of England, but separate and subordinate dominions; that they were mere dependencies, not on the crown, but on the realm of England ; and hence that the realm, as represented by the Parliament of England, including king, lords, and commons, was entitled by the right of conquest to impose such laws and taxes on them as its sole will should direct.
In answer to this reasoning the colonies maintained that they themselves, whether by conquest or by cession, were the true acquirers of their several territories, which, till settled by them, had belonged to England only by the vague right of discovery; that it was only through them that England had actually become possessed of these dominions; and that it was absurd that they should be subjected to a right of conquest they had themselves acquired. Reverting to the circumstances under which the colonies were planted, they observed that the original colonists were free-born Englishmen; that they had settled in a country which had as yet been neither conquered nor acquired by cession, and in which no laws nor government existed ; that therefore by the law of nations they were, from the moment of their landing, governed by the laws of England, as those laws existed at that time and so far as they were applicable to the condition of a colony; and hence that they were from the first fully invested with the rights, as well as obligated by the duties, of naturalborn English subjects. They conceded that the colonies were not parts of the realm of England, but separate and distinct dominions, nor did they deny that to a limited extent they were dependent on England. Some of them admitted further that they were dependent, not upon the crown, but on the realm of England. But they declared that this dependence must be so interpreted as not to override the constitutional rights of the colonists as English subjects under the laws of England, as they stood at the time of the plantation of their several colonies. Referring to the Great Charter of King John, the most important of those laws, and the scarcely less important statute De tallagio non concedendo of Edward I., they showed that the consent of the subject given through his representatives in Parliament was necessary to the legal levying of taxes. Hence they argued that, according to the letter not less than the spirit of the English Constitution, taxes on the colonists could only be assessed by their consent so given; and since the colonies, being separate dominions from the realm of England, were incapable of being represented in the Parliament of England, the conclusion was inevitable that their own colonial legislatures, in which only they were represented, could alone give constitutional sanction to
the imposition of taxes in the colonies. Concerning the claim of Parliament to exercise the rights of paramount sovereignty, they said that the dependence of the colonists, not being such as to vitiate the rights or liberties of their inhabitants, the sovereignty of Parliament, could in reason be no greater in the colonies than the king's sovereignty in England, and hence that, as the sovereign in England could make no laws and impose no taxes but through Parliament, so in the colonies the Parliament of England could have no sovereign right of legislation or taxation, but through the colonial legislatures. Every position thus assumed by the Americans in their controversy with Great Britain, has since that time been completely vindicated by the verdict of the English Parliament itself. The whole colonial system has been constituted on the principles enunciated in America a century ago ; and the concessions which would have kept the colonies of North America devoted subjects of the British crown, are now the common axioms of its colonial juris. prudence. A more complete justification there could hardly be of the position of colonial America ; but we may well wonder that a legislative body like the Parliament of England, which had battled so deternuinedly against the usurpations of a monarchy, and by the Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement had so completely limited the crown as to insure the freedom of the subject, should itself have seized so empty a pretext to set up a despotic parliamentary authority over its dependencies. And when we find that one whose mind was so clear, large, and liberal as Blackstone's, could (surely through oversight) accept the empty and self-contradictory reasoning which aimed to prove that the colonial dependencies were to be governed by the right of conquest as subjugated provinces, it would be difficult to give a better exposition of the strange anomaly than is enunciated in the aphorism, that despotism, when possible, is always certain. The saying is as true of parliaments as of princes, and as true of majorities as of parliaments. Wherever power is lodged, there is a certainty that, if not checked by a restraining influence, it will be used to its full limit, if indeed all limitations be not broken down. The cases of King John, the Puritan majority of eleven in the Long Parliament, and the present instance of parliamentary usurpation in the matter of the colonies, will illustrate our meaning. Cases nearer home, however obvious, we cannot here discuss.'
We now approach the grand event of the last century, the reëstablishment on a new continent, with all the aids of a mature and still advancing civilization, of the ancient principle which lay at the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon polity. Already we have seen the colonies, established like the Saxon tribes, in perfect independence of each other, growing up in the enjoyment of the rights and liber. ties, which centuries of bloodshed had at lenght wrung from the Norman monarchs and their various successors. We have seen them educated, by the exercise of local sovereignty as dependencies of a great kingdom, for still more complete self-government. The arrogant assumption of the English Government of a right to govern them as denizens of conquered countries by the arbitrary laws of conquest, left them no choice but to become the slaves of arbitrary power or to exercise the great right of rebellion against tyranny which is so emphatically recognized in Magna Charta. Individually they were too weak to rebel successfully, and hence a confederation became necessary to insure success. Their first con. federation showed them the advantages of union, and revealed defects in its extemporary articles; and thus through error and defect they were led to the incomparable form of government provided by the present Constitution, which is a complete revival of the Anglo-Saxon polity. Securing and maintaining the complete right of self-government to every sovereign State, and legislating for them only in matters as to which their interests are identical, the Union, brought into existence by the States under the Constitution, is a full revival of the system of the Anglo-Saxon Empire, differing from it only by the various improvements, which the progress of civilization have suggested.
The story of the Revolutionary. War lies beyond our province, but before we enter on the constitutional detail reserved to us, we venture to premise a few words on the right of revolution.
The right of revolution is simply a particular application of the general right of self-defence. In the state of nature every individual person has the right to defend by violence his life, liberty, and property, against assaults by whomsoever made. The purpose of