« 前へ次へ »
terror and pity are happily combined, not without a proper superaddition of that admiration which latter ages have brought into the drama. The heroes of Boston, he tells us, the stamp act had not been repealed, would have left their town, their port, and their trade, have resigned the splendour of opulence, and quitted the delights of neighbourhood, to disperse themselves over the country, where they would till the ground, and fish in the rivers, and range the mountains, AND BE FREE.
These surely, are brave words. If the mere sound of freedom can operate thus powerfully, let no man hereafter doubt the story of the Pied Piper. The removal of the people of Boston into the country, seems even to the congress not only difficult in its execution, but important in its consequences. The difficulty of execution is best known to the Bostonians themselves; the consequence, alas ! will only be, that they will leave good houses to wiser men.
Yet before they quit the comforts of a warm home for the sounding something which they think better, he cannot be thought their enemy who advises them to consider well whether they shall find it. By turning fishermen or hunters, woodmen or shepherds, they may become wild, but it is not so easy to conceive them free; for who can be more a slave than he that is driven by force from the comforts of life, and is compelled to leave his house to a casual comer, and whatever he does, or wherever he wanders, finds every moment some new testimony of his own subjection? If choice of evil be freedom, the felon in the galleys has his option of labour or of stripes. The Bostonian may quit his house to starve in fields; his dog may refuse to set, and smart under the lash, and they may then congratulate each other upon the
smiles of liberty, profuse of bliss, and pregnant with delight.
To treat such designs as serious, would be to think too contemptuously of Bostonian understandings. The artifice indeed is not new; the blusterer who threatened in vain to destroy his opponent, has sometimes obtained his end, by making it believed that he would hang himself.
But terrors and pity are not the only means by which the taxation of the Americans is opposed. There are those who profess to use them only as auxiliaries to reason and justice, who tell us, that to tax the colonies is usurpation and oppression, an invasion of natural and legal rights, and a violation of those principles which support the constitution of English government.
This question is of great importance. That the Americans are able to bear taxation is indubitable; that their refusal may be overruled is highly probable ; but power is no sufficient evidence of truth. Let us examine our own claim, and the objections. of the recusants, with caution proportioned to the event of the decision, which must convict one part of robbery, or the other of rebellion.
A tax is a payment exacted by authority from part of the community for the benefit of the whole. From whom, and in what proportion such payment shall be required, and to what uses it shall be applied, those only are to judge to whom government is intrusted. In the British dominions taxes are apportioned, levied, and appropriated by the states assembled in parliament.
Of every empire all the subordinate communities are liable to taxation, because they all share the benefits of government, and therefore ought all to furnish their proportion of the expense.
This the Americans have never openly denied. That it is their duty to pay the costs of their own safety they seem to admit; nor do they refuse their contribution to the exigencies, whatever they may be, of the British empire; but they make this participation of the public burden a duty of very uncertain extent, and imperfectobligation, a duty temporary, occasional, and elective, of which they reserve to themselves the right of settling the degree, the time, and the duration, of judging when it may be required, and when it has been performed.
They allow to the supreme power nothing more than the liberty of notifying to them its demands or its necessities. Of this notification they profess to think for themselves, how far it shall influence their counsels, and of the necessities alleged, how far they shall endeavour to relieve them. They assume the exclusive power of settling not only the mode, but the quantity of this payment. They are ready to co-operate with all the other dominions of the king; but they will co-operate by no means which they do not like, and at no greater charge than they are willing to bear.
This claim, wild as it may seem, this claim, which supposes dominion without authority, and subjects without subordination, has found among the libertines of policy many clamorous and hardy vindicators. The laws of nature, the rights of humanity, the faith of charters, the danger of liberty, the encroachments of usurpation, have been thundered in our ears, sometimes by interested faction, and sometimes by honest stupidity.
It is said by Fontenelle, that if twenty philosophers shall resolutely deny that the presence of the sun makes the day, he will not despair but whole nations may adopt the opinion. So many political dogmatists have denied to the mother-country the power of taxing the colonies
and have enforced their denial with so much violence of outcry, that their sect is already very numerous, and the public voice suspends its decision.
In moral and political questions the contest between interest and justice has been often tedious and often fierce, but perhaps it never happened before that justice found much opposition with interest on her side.
For the satisfaction of this inquiry, it is necessary to consider how a colony is constituted, what are the terms of migration as dictated by nature, or settled by compact, and what social or political rights the man -loses, or acquires, that leaves his country to establish himself in a distant plantation?
Of two modes of migration the history of mankind informs us, and so far as I can yet discover, of two only.
In countries where life was yet unadjusted, and policy unformed, it sometimes happened that by the dissensions of heads of families, by the ambition of daring adventurers, by some accidental pressure of distress, or by the mere discontent of idleness, one part of the community broke off from the rest, and numbers, greater or smaller, forsook their habitations, put themselves under the command of some favourite of fortune, and with or without the consent of their countrymen or governors, went out to see what better regions they could occupy, and in what place, by conquest or by treaty, they could gain a habitation.
Sons of enterprise like these, who committed to their own swords their hopes and their lives, when they left their country, became another nation, with designs, and prospects, and interests, of their own. They looked back no more to their former home; they expected no help from those whom they had left behind; if they conquered, they conquered for then
selves; if they were destroyed, they were not by any other power either lamented or revenged.
Of this kind seem to have been all the migrations of the early world, whether historical or fabulous, and of this kind were the irruptions of those nations which from the north invaded the Roman empire, and filled Europe with new sovereignties.
But when by the gradual admission of wiser laws and gentler manners society became more compacted and better regulated, it was found that the power of every people consisted in union, produced by one common interest, and operating in joint efforts and consistent counsels.
From this time independence perceptibly wasted away. No part of the nation was permitted to act for itself. All now had the same enemies and the same friends; the government protected individuals, and individuals were required to refer their designs to the prosperity of the government.
By this principle it is that states are formed and consolidated. Every man is taught to consider his own happiness as combined with the public prosperity, and to think himself great and powerful, in proportion to the greatness and power of his governors.
Had the western continent been discovered between the fourth and tenth century, when all the northern world was in motion; and had navigation been at that time sufficiently advanced to make so long a passage easily practicable, there is little reason for doubting but the intumescence of nations would have found its vent, like all other expansive violence, where there was least resistance; and that Huns and Vandals, instead of fighting their way to the south of Europe, would have gone by thousands and by myriads under their several chiefs to take possession of regions smil-.