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OF THE LAW CONCERNING THE RIGHTS OF
OF THE ABSOLUTE RIGHTS OF PERSONS.
The rights of persons in private life are either absolute, being such as belong to individuals in a single, unconnected state ; or relative, being those which arise from the civil and domestic relations.
The absolute rights of individuals may be resolved into the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right to acquire and enjoy property. These rights have been justly considered, and frequently declared, by the people of this country, to be natural, inherent and unalienable. The effectual security and enjoyment of them depend upon the existence of civil liberty; and that consists in being protected and governed by laws made, or assented to, by the representatives of the people, and conducive to the general welfare. Right itself in civil society, is that which any man is entitled to have, or to do, or to require from others, within the limits prescribed by law. The history of our colonial governments bears constant marks of the vigilance of a free and intelligent people, who understood the best securities for VOL. II.
political happiness, and the true foundation of the social ties. The inhabitants of the colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts, in the infancy of their establishments, de
clared by law that the free enjoyment of the liber2* ties, *which humanity, civility, and Christianity
called for, was due to every man in his place and proportion, and ever had been, and ever would be, the tranquillity and stability of the commonwealth. They insisted that they brought with them into this country the privileges of English freemen ; and they defined and declared those privileges with a caution, sagacity, and precision, that have not been surpassed by their descendants. Those rights were afterwards, in the year 1692, on the receipt of their new charter, re-asserted and declared. It was their fundamental doctrine, that no tax, aid, or imposition whatever, could rightfully be assessed or levied upon them, without the act and consent of their own legislature; and that justice ought to be equally, impartially, freely, and promptly administered. The right of trial by jury, and the necessity of due proof preceding conviction, were claimed as undeniable rights; and it was further expressly ordained, that no person should suffer without express law, either in life, limb, liberty, good name, or estate ; nor without being first brought to answer by due course and process of law.a
a Hazard's State Papers, vol. i. p. 408. 487. edit. Philad. 1792. Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts, vol. ii. p. 64. Revised Laws of Massachusetts, published in 1675. Baylie's Historical Memoir, vol. i. p. 229. Bancroft's Hist. vol. i. p. 452. It was a provision in the charters to the Virginia settlers, granted by James I., in 1606 and 1609 ; and in the charter to the colonists of Massachusetts in 1629 ; of the province of Maine in 1639 ; of Connecticut in 1662; of Rhode-Island in 1663; of Maryland in 1632; of Carolina in 1663 ; and of Georgia in 1732, that they and their posterity should enjoy the same rights and liberties which Englishmen were entitled to at home. Such privileges were implied by law without any express reservation. The like civil and religious privileges were conceded to New-Jersey
• The first act of the general assembly of the colony of Connecticut, in 1639, contained a declaration of rights in
by the proprietaries in February, 1665. Bancroft's Hist. vol. ii. 316. In the free and liberal charter of Massachusetts of 1629, powers were granted to the whole body of the proprietors to make laws not repugnant to the laws of England. The colonists of New-Plymouth assumed the necessary powers of government by an original compact among themselves, and which they subscribed before they landed on the rock at Plymouth; and which they had in contemplation before they embarked from Holland. Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, p. 95. All the New-England colonies, on their first establishment, were pure democracies : none more so ever existed. The governments of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Haven, were thus formed by voluntary compact. Under the first Massachusetts charter, the legislative body was composed of the governor, assistants, and the whole freemen of the company in person. The first general court of delegates was in 1634. The freemen had become too numerous to assemble in a body, and governor Winthrop directed, that the towns should assemble in general court by deputies, to revise and make laws. The statute of 1636 declared, that the freemen of each town might choose, by papers, depaties to the general court. This was introducing voting by ballot. See Digest of Massachusetts Colony Laws, published in 1675. Winthrop's Hist. of New-England, by Savage, vol. i. p. 128. 185. 220. For more than eighteen years, the whole body of the male inhabitants of the old colony of Plymouth constituted the legislature. Bancroft's Hist. vol. i. p. 348. In 1636 the election of the governor and assistants by the freemen was declared to be annual, and in 1638 the personal attendance of the freemen at the general court was deemed to be grievous, and each town was thenceforward to choose deputies. Brigham's edit. of Plymouth Colony Laws, 1836, p. 36, 37. 63. And by statute in 1671, ibid. p. 258, if any freemen did not appear at election in person, or by proxy, he was for such neglect to be amerced. The free planters of Connecticut, in 1639, provided that the choice of officers was to be by ballot, and that is the general assembly or court was not at any time duly convened, the freemen might meet and hold the same in person or by deputy. Chalmers says, that the introduction of representative government in Massachusetts was in violation of the charter of 1629, and this was the opinion of Sir George Treby, and other high legal authority in England. But though there was no express provision for it in the charter, it would seem to have been necessarily implied when the growth of the colony required it; and it was justified by the model of the English house of commons, where the principle of representation was inherent and vital. The first assembly of Maryland, in 1633, consisted of the whole body of the freemen, and in 1639, a represen
nearly the same language ;a and among the early resolutions of the general assembly of the colony of New York, in 1691 and 1708, we meet with similar proofs of an enlightened sense of the provisions requisite for civil security. It was declared by them,b that the imprisonment of subjects without due commitment for legal cause, and proscribing and forcing them into banishment, and forcibly seizing their property, were illegal and arbitrary acts. It was held to be the unquestionable right of every freeman, to have a perfect and entire property in his goods and estate; and that no money could be imposed or
tative assembly was established. Spark's American Biography N. S. Vol. 9. Life of Governor Calvert.
a Trumbull's Hist. of Connecticut, vol. i. p. 98. Lars of Connecticut, edit. Boston, 1672, edit. 1702, and edit. New-London, 1715, by Timothy Green. The edition of 1702 I have not seen. The edition of 1672 was the first printed code. There was a code of laws compiled in 1650, and it was circulated in written copies read in each town.
Journal of the Assembly of the Colony of New York, vol. i. p. 6. 224. The general assembly of the colony of New-York passed an act on the 131h of May, 1691, declaratory of the rights and privileges of the people of the colony. It was declared that a session of the general assembly should be held annually, and that every freeholder within the province, and every freeman of a corporation, were entitled to vote for members of the assembly; that no freeman was to be deprived of any rights or liberties, or condemned, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land ; that no tax of any kind, or on any pretence, should be levied upon the persons or estates of any of the subjects of the province, except by the act of the general assembly; that all trials were to be by a jury of twelve men, and in all capital and criminal cases there was to be a previous indictment or presentment by a grand inquest; and that the tenure of all lands was to be in free and common socage. This declaratory act, or charter of privileges, contained several other provisions, but it was repealed by the king in 1697. Bradford's edition of Colony Laws, 1719. There was a prior act of the same purport, and nearly in the same words, passed by the first general assembly of the province in 1683, under the administration of the Duke of York. It was styled " The charter of liberties and privileges, granted by his royal highness to the inhabitants of New-York.” App. No. 2, to the revised edition of the Laws of New-York in 1813, vol. ii.