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Page 963



That it be an instruction to the said deputies, when assembled in General Congress,
with the deputies from the other States of British America, to propose to the said Congress,
that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his Majesty, begging leave to lay
before him, as Chief Magistrate of the British Empire, the united complaints of his Majesty's
subjects in America: complaints which are excited by many unwarrantable encroachments and
usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon the rights
which God, and the laws have given equally and independently to all. To represent to his
Majesty that these, his States, have often individually made humble application to his imperial
throne, to obtain, through its intervention, some redress of their injured rights; to none of which
was ever even an answer condescended. Humbly to hope that this, their joint address, penned in
the language of truth, and divested of those expressions of servility, which would persuade his
Majesty that we are asking favors, and not rights, shall obtain from his Majesty a more respectful
acceptance: and this his Majesty will think we have reason to expect, when he reflects that
he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed
with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government, erected for
their use, and, consequently, subject to their superintendence; and, in order that these, our
rights, as well as the invasions of them, may be laid more fully before his Majesty, to take a
view of them, from the origin and first settlement of these countries.

To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants
of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all
men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice, has placed them of going in quest
of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as,
to them, shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had,
under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of
Europe, had possessed themselves of the Island of Britain, then less charged with inhabitants,
and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of
that country. Nor was ever any claim of superiority or dependence asserted over them, by that
mother country from which they had migrated; and were such a claim made, it is believed his
Majesty's subjects in Great Britain have too firm a feeling of the rights derived to them from
their ancestors, to bow down the sovereignty of their State before such visionary pretensions.

And it is thought that no circumstance has occurred to distinguish, materially, the British
from the Saxon emigration. America was conquered, and her settlements made and firmly
established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their own blood was
spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that
settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves
alone they have right to hold. No shilling was ever issued from the public treasures of
his Majesty, or his ancestors, for their assistance, till of very late times, after the Colonies had
become established on a firm and permanent footing. That then, indeed, having become valuable
to Great Britain for her commercial purposes, his Parliament was pleased to lend them
assistance against an enemy who would fain have drawn to herself the benefits of their commerce,
to the great aggrandizement of herself, and danger of Great Britain. Such assistance, and in
such circumstances, they had often before given to Portugal and other allied States, with whom
they carry on a commercial intercourse. Yet these States never supposed, that by calling in
her aid, they thereby submitted themselves to her sovereignty. Had such terms been proposed,
they would have rejected them with disdain, and trusted for better, to the moderation of their
enemies, or to a vigorous exertion of their own force. We do not, however, mean to underrate
those aids, which, to us, were doubtless valuable, on whatever principles granted; but we would
show that they cannot give a title to that authority which the British Parliament would arrogate
over us; and that may amply be repaid by our giving to the inhabitants of Great Britain such
exclusive privileges in trade as may be advantageous to them, and, at the same time, not too
restrictive to ourselves. That settlement having been thus effected in the wilds of America, the
emigrants thought proper to adopt that system of laws, under which they had hitherto lived
in the mother country, and to continue their union with her, by submitting themselves to the
same common sovereign, who was thereby made the central link, connecting the several parts of
the empire thus newly multiplied.

But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from
the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives
and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable
crimes against their people, brought on them, afterwards, the exertion of those sacred and
sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme
necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While
every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on
that side of the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to
oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly, this country
which had been acquired by the lives, the labors, and fortunes of individual adventurers, was by
these Princes, several times, parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of
their fortunes; and, by an assumed right of the Crown alone, were erected into distinct and
independent governments; a measure which, it is believed, his Majesty's prudence and understanding
would prevent him from imitating at this day; as no exercise of such power, of dividing


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and dismembering a country, has ever occurred in his Majesty's realm of England, though now
of very ancient standing; nor could it be justified or acquiesced under there, or in any part of
his Majesty's empire.

That the exercise of a free trade with all parts of the world, possessed by the American
colonists, as of natural right, and which no law of their own had taken away or abridged, was
next the object of unjust encroachment. Some of the colonies having thought proper to continue
the administration of their government in the name and under the authority of his Majesty,
King Charles the First, whom, notwithstanding his late deposition by the Commonwealth of
England, they continued in the sovereignty of their State, the Parliament, for the Commonwealth,
took the same in high offence, and assumed upon themselves the power of prohibiting their trade
with all other parts of the world except the Island of Great Britain. This arbitrary act, however,
they soon recalled, and by solemn treaty entered into on the 12th day of March, 1651, between the
said Commonwealth, by their Commissioners, and the colony of Virginia by their House of
Burgesses, it was expressly stipulated by the eighth article of the said treaty, that they should
have “free trade as the people of England do enjoy to all places and with all nations, according
to the laws of that Commonwealth”? But that, upon the restoration of his Majesty, King
Charles the Second, their rights of free commerce fell once more a victim to arbitrary power;
and by several acts of his reign, as well as of some of his successors, the trade of the colonies
was laid under such restrictions, as show what hopes they might form from the justice of a
British Parliament, were its uncontrolled power admitted over these States. [525] History has
informed us, that bodies of men as well as individuals, are susceptible of the spirit of tyranny.
A view of these acts of Parliament for regulation, as it has been affectedly called, of the American
trade, if all other evidences were removed out of the case, would undeniably evince the truth
of this observation. Besides the duties they impose on our articles of export and import, they
prohibit our going to any markets Northward of Cape Finisterre, in the kingdom of Spain, for
the sale of commodities which Great Britain will not take from us, and for the purchase of others,
with which she cannot supply us; and that, for no other than the arbitrary purpose of purchasing
for themselves, by a sacrifice of our rights and interests, certain privileges in their commerce
with an allied State, who, in confidence, that their exclusive trade with America will be continued,
while the principles and power of the British Parliament be the same, have indulged themselves
in every exorbitance which their avarice could dictate or our necessity extort; have raised their
commodities called for in America, to the double and treble of what they sold for, before such
exclusive privileges were given them, and of what better commodities of the same kind would
cost us elsewhere; and, at the same time, given us much less for what we carry thither, than
might be had at more convenient ports. That these acts prohibit us from carrying, in quest of
other purchasers, the surplus of our tobaccos, remaining after the consumption of Great Britain
is supplied; so that we must leave them with the British merchant, for whatever he will please
to allow us, to be by him re-shipped to foreign markets, where he will reap the benefits of making
sale of them for full value.

That, to heighten still the idea of Parliamentary justice, and to show with what moderation
they are like to exercise power, where themselves are to feel no part of its weight, we take leave
to mention to his Majesty, certain other acts of the British Parliament, by which they would prohibit
us from manufacturing, for our own use, the articles we raise on our own lands, with our
own labor. By an act passed in the fifth year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George the
Second, an American subject is forbidden to make a hat for himself, of the fur which he has
taken, perhaps, on his own soil; an instance of despotism, to which no parallel can be produced in
the most arbitrary ages of British history. By one other act, passed in the twenty-third year of
the same reign, the iron which we make, we are forbidden to manufacture; and, heavy as
that article is, and necessary in every branch of husbandry, besides commission and insurance,
we are to pay freight for it to Great Britain, and freight for it back again, for the purpose
of supporting, not men, but machines, in the island of Great Britain. In the same spirit of
equal and impartial legislation, is to be viewed the act of Parliament, passed in the fifth year
of the same reign, by which American lands are made subject to the demands of British creditors,
while their own lands were still continued unanswerable for their debts; from which,
one of these conclusions must necessarily follow, either that justice is not the same thing in
America as in Britain, or else, that the British Parliament pay less regard to it here than there.
But, that we do not point out to his Majesty the injustice of these acts, with intent to rest
on that principle the cause of their nullity; but to show that experience confirms the propriety
of those political principles, which exempt us from the jurisdiction of the British Parliament.
The true ground on which we declare these acts void, is, that the British Parliament has no
right to exercise authority over us.

That these exercises of usurped power have not been confined to instances alone, in which
themselves were interested; but they have also intermeddled with the regulation of the internal
affairs of the Colonies. The act of the 9th of Anne for establishing a post office in America,
seems to have had little connection with British convenience, except that of accommodating his
Majesty's ministers and favourites with the sale of a lucrative and easy office.

That thus have we hastened through the reigns which preceded his Majesty's, during which
the violations of our rights were less alarming, because repeated at more distant intervals,
than that rapid and bold succession of injuries, which is likely to distinguish the present from
all other periods of American story. Scarcely have our minds been able to emerge from the
astonishment into which one stroke of Parliamentary thunder has involved us, before another
more heavy and more alarming is fallen on us. Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the
accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and
pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical
plan of reducing us to slavery.


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That the act passed in the fourth year of his Majesty's reign, entitled “An Act Act for granting
Stamp act.
Act declaring
right of Parliament
the Colonies.
Act for granting
duties on
paper, tea, &c.
Act suspending
of New York.

One other act passed in the fifth year of his reign entitled “An Act

One other act passed in the sixth year of his reign, entitled “An Act

And one other act, passed in the seventh year of his reign, entitled “An Act

From that connected chain of Parliamentary usurpation, which has already
been the subject of frequent application to his Majesty, and the Houses of
Lords and Commons of Great Britain; and, no answers having yet been condescended
to any of these, we shall not trouble his Majesty with a repetition of the
matters they contained.

But that one other act passed in the same seventh year of his reign, having
been a peculiar attempt, must ever require peculiar mention. It is entitled
“An Act

One free and independent Legislature, hereby takes upon itself to suspend the powers of
another, free and independent as itself; thus exhibiting a phenomenon unknown in nature, the
creator and creature of its own power. Not only the principles of common sense, but the common
feelings of human nature must be surrendered up, before his Majesty's subjects here,
can be persuaded to believe that they hold their political existence at the will of a British Parliament.
Shall these governments be dissolved, their property annihilated, and their people
reduced to a state of nature, at the imperious breath of a body of men whom they never saw,
in whom they never confided, and over whom they have no powers of punishment or removal,
let their crimes against the American public be ever so great? Can any one reason be assigned,
why one hundred and sixty thousand electors in the island of Great Britain, should give law
to four millions in the States of America, every individual of whom is equal to every individual
of them in virtue, in understanding, and in bodily strength? Were this to be admitted, instead
of being a free people, as we have hitherto supposed, and mean to continue ourselves, we should
suddenly be found the slaves, not of one, but of one hundred, and sixty thousand tyrants;
distinguished, too, from all others, by this singular circumstance, that they are removed from
the reach of fear, the only restraining motive which may hold the hand of a tyrant.

That, by “An Act [14 G. 3.] to discontinue in such manner, and for such time as are
therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares and merchandise,
at the town and within the harbor of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay,
in North America', which was passed at the last session of the British Parliament, a large and
populous town, whose trade was their sole subsistence, was deprived of that trade, and involved
in utter ruin. Let us for a while, suppose the question of right suspended, in order to examine
this act on principles of justice. An act of Parliament had been passed, imposing duties on
teas, to be paid in America, against which act the Americans had protested, as inauthoritative.
The East India Company, who, till that time, had never sent a pound of tea to America on
their own account, step forth on that occasion, the asserters of Parliamentary right, and send
hither many shiploads of that obnoxious commodity. The masters of their several vessels,
however, on their arrival in America, wisely attended to admonition, and returned with their
cargoes. In the province of New England alone, the remonstrances of the people were disregarded,
and a compliance, after being many days waited for, was flatly refused. Whether in
this, the master of the vessel was governed by his obstinacy, or his instructions, let those who
know, say. There are extraordinary situations which require extraordinary interposition.
An exasperated people, who feel that they possess power, are not easily restrained within
limits strictly regular. A number of them assembled in the town of Boston, threw the tea into
the ocean, and dispersed without doing any other act of violence. If in this they did wrong,
they were known, and were amenable to the laws of the land; against which, it could not be
objected, that they had ever, in any instance, been obstructed or diverted from the regular
course, in favor of popular offenders. They should, therefore, not have been distrusted on this
occasion. But that ill-fated colony had formerly been bold in their enmities against the house
of Stuart, and were now devoted to ruin, by that unseen hand which governs the momentous
affairs of this great empire. On the partial representations of a few worthless ministerial dependants,
whose constant office it had been to keep that government embroiled, and who, by
their treacheries, hope to obtain the dignity of British knighthood, without calling for a party
accused, without asking a proof, without attempting a distinction between the guilty and the
innocent, the whole of that ancient and wealthy town, is in a moment reduced from opulence
to beggary. Men who had spent their lives in extending the British commerce, who had invested,
in that place, the wealth their honest endeavors had merited, found themselves and
their families, thrown at once on the world for subsistence by its charities. Not the hundredth
part of the inhabitants of that town, had been concerned in the act complained of; many of
them were in Great Britain, and in other parts beyond sea; yet all were involved in one
indiscriminate ruin, by a new executive power, unheard of till then, that of a British Parliament.
A property of the value of many millions of money, was sacrificed to revenge, not repay, the
loss of a few thousands. This is administering justice with a heavy hand indeed! And when
is this tempest to be arrested in its course? Two wharves are to be opened again when his
Majesty shall think proper; the residue, which lined the extensive shores of the bay of Boston,
are forever interdicted the exercise of commerce. This little exception seems to have been
thrown in for no other purpose, than that of setting a precedent for investing his Majesty with
legislative powers. If the pulse of his people shall beat calmly under this experiment, another
and another will be tried, till the measure of despotism be filled up. It would be an insult on
common sense, to pretend that this exception was made, in order to restore its commerce to
that great town. The trade, which canot be received at two wharves alone, must of necessity
be transferred to some other place; to which it will soon be followed by that of the two wharves.
Considered in this light, it would be an insolent and cruel mockery at the annihilation of the
town of Boston.

By the act for the suppression of riots and tumults in the town of Boston [14 G. 3.], passed
also in the last session of Parliament, a murder committed there, is, if the Governor pleases,
to be tried in the court of King's Bench, in the island of Great Britain, by a jury of Middlesex.
The witnesses, too, on receipt of such a sum as the Governor shall think it reasonable for them


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to expend, are to enter into recognizance to appear at the trial. This is, in other words, taxing
them to the amount of their recognizance; and that amount may be whatever a governor
pleases. For who, does his Majesty think, can be prevailed on to cross the Atlantic for the
sole purpose of bearing evidence to a fact? His expenses are to be borne, indeed, as they shall
be estimated by a governor; but who are to feed the wife and children whom he leaves behind,
and who have had no other subsistence but his daily labor? Those epidemical disorders, too,
so terrible in a foreign climate, is the cure of them to be estimated among the articles of
expense, and their danger to be warded off by the almighty power of a Parliament? And the
wretched criminal, if he happen to have offended on the American side, stripped of his privilege
of trial by peers of his vicinage, removed from the place where alone full evidence could be
obtained, without money, without counsel, without friends, without exculpatory proof, is tried
before judges predetermined to condemn. The cowards who would suffer a countryman to be
torn from the bowels of their society, in order to be thus offered a sacrifice to Parliamentary
tyranny, would merit that everlasting infamy now fixed on the authors of the act! A clause,
for a similar purpose, had been introduced into an act passed in the twelfth year of his Majesty's
reign, entitled, “An Act for the better securing and preserving his Majesty's dockyards, magazines,
ships, ammunition and stores”; against which, as meriting the same censures, the several
Colonies have already protested.

That these are the acts of power, assumed by a body of men foreign to our constitutions,
and unacknowledged by our laws; against which we do, on behalf of the inhabitants of British
America, enter this, our solemn and determined protest. And we do earnestly entreat his
Majesty, as yet the only mediatory power between the several States of the British empire, to
recommend to his Parliament of Great Britain, the total revocation of these acts, which, however
nugatory they may be, may yet prove the cause of further discontents and jealousies
among us.

That we next proceed to consider the conduct of his Majesty, as holding the executive
powers of the laws of these States, and mark out his deviations from the line of duty. By the
Constitution of Great Britain, as well as of the several American States, his Majesty possesses
the power of refusing to pass into a law, any bill which has already passed the other two
branches of the Legislature. His Majesty, however, and his ancestors, conscious of the impropriety
of opposing their single opinion to the united wisdom of two Houses of Parliament,
while their proceedings were unbiased by interested principles, for several ages past, have
modestly declined the exercise of this power, in that part of his empire called Great Britain.
But, by change of circumstances, other principles than those of justice simply, have obtained
an influence on their determinations. The addition of new States to the British empire has
produced an addition of new, and, sometimes, opposite interests. It is now, therefore, the
great office of his Majesty to resume the exercise of his negative power, and to prevent the
passage of laws by any one legislature of the empire, which might bear injuriously on the rights
and interests of another. Yet this will not excuse the wanton exercise of this power, which
we have seen his Majesty practice on the laws of the American Legislature. For the most
trifling reasons, and, sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his Majesty has rejected laws
of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire
in those Colonies, where it was, unhappily, introduced in their infant state. But previous to
the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations
from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this, by prohibitions, and by imposing duties
which might amount to a prohibition, having been hitherto defeated by his Majesty's negative;
thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs, to the lasting interests
of the American States, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous
practice. Nay, the single interposition of an interested individual against a law was scarcely
ever known to fail of success, though, in the opposite scale, were placed the interests of a whole
country. That this is so shameful an abuse of a power, trusted with his Majesty for other
purposes, as if, not reformed, would call for some legal restrictions.

While equal inattention to the necessities of his people here, has his Majesty permitted our
laws to lie neglected, in England, for years, neither confirming them by his assent, nor annulling
them by his negative; so that, such of them as have no suspending clause, we hold on the
most precarious of all tenures, his Majesty's will; and such of them as suspend themselves till
his Majesty's assent be obtained, we have feared might be called into existence at some future
and distant period, when time and change of circumstances shall have rendered them destructive
to his people here. And, to render this grievance still more oppressive, his Majesty, by
his instructions, has laid his Governors under such restrictions, that they can pass no law, of
any moment, unless it have such suspending clause; so that, however immediate may be the
call for legislative interposition, the law cannot be executed, till it has twice crossed the Atlantic,
by which time the evil may have spent its whole force.

But in what terms reconcilable to Majesty, and at the same time to truth, shall we
speak of a late instruction to his Majesty's Governor of the Colony of Virginia, by which
he is forbidden to assent to any law for the division of a county, unless the new county will
consent to have no representative in Assembly? That Colony has as yet affixed no boundary
to the westward. Their western counties, therefore, are of an indefinite extent. Some of them
are actually seated many hundred miles from their eastern limits. Is it possible, then, that
his Majesty can have bestowed a single thought on the situation of those people, who, in order
to obtain justice for injuries, however great or small, must, by the laws of that Colony, attend
their county court at such a distance, with all their witnesses, monthly, till their litigation
be determined? Or does his Majesty seriously wish, and publish it to the world, that his subjects
should give up the glorious right of representation, with all the benefits derived from
that, and submit themselves the absolute slaves of his sovereign will? Or is it rather meant to
confine the legislative body to their present numbers, that they may be the cheaper bargain,
whenever they shall become worth a purchase?

One of the articles of impeachment against Tresilian, and the other Judges of Westminster
Hall, in the reign of Richard the Second, for which they suffered death, as traitors to their
country, was, that they had advised the King, that he might dissolve his Parliament at any time;


Page 967
and succeeding kings have adopted the opinion of these unjust judges. Since the establishment,
however, of the British constitution, at the glorious Revolution, on its free and ancient
principles, neither his Majesty, nor his ancestors, have exercised such a power of dissolution
in the island of Great Britain; [526] and when his Majesty was petitioned by the united voice
of his people there, to dissolve the present Parliament, who had become obnoxious to them,
his ministers were heard to declare, in open Parliament, that his Majesty possessed no such
power by the constitution. But how different their language, and his practice, here! To declare,
as their duty required, the known rights of their country, to oppose the usurpation of
every foreign judicature, to disregard the imperious mandates of a minister or governor, have
been the avowed causes of dissolving Houses of Representatives in America. But if such
powers be really vested in his Majesty, can he suppose they are there placed to awe the members
from such purposes as these? When the representative body have lost the confidence of their
constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they
have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then, indeed,
their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the State, and calls for an exercise of the
power of dissolution. Such being the cause for which the representative body should, and
should not, be dissolved, will it not appear strange, to an unbiased observer, that that of Great
Britain was not dissolved, while those of the Colonies have repeatedly incurred that sentence?

But your Majesty, or your Governors, have carried this power beyond every limit known
or provided for by the laws. After dissolving one House of Representatives, they have refused
to call another, so that, for a great length of time, the Legislature provided by the laws, has
been out of existence. From the nature of things, every society must, at all times, possess
within itself the sovereign powers of legislation. The feelings of human nature revolt against
the supposition of a State so situated, as that it may not, in any emergency, provide against
dangers which, perhaps, threaten immediate ruin. While those bodies are in existence to
whom the people have delegated the powers of legislation, they alone possess, and may exercise,
those powers. But when they are dissolved, by the lopping off of one or more of their branches,
the power reverts to the people, who may use it to unlimited extent, either assembling together
in person, sending deputies, or in any other way they may think proper. We forbear to trace
consequences further; the dangers are conspicuous with which this practice is replete.

That we shall, at this time also, take notice of an error in the nature of our land holdings,
which crept in at a very early period of our settlement. The introduction of the Feudal tenures
into the kingdom of England, though ancient, is well enough understood to set this matter
in a proper light. In the earlier ages of the Saxon settlement, feudal holdings were certainly
altogether unknown, and very few, if any, had been introduced at the time of the Norman
Conquest. Our Saxon ancestors held their lands, as they did their personal property, in absolute
dominion, disencumbered with any superior, answering nearly to the nature of those possessions
which the feudalist termed allodial. William the Norman, first introduced that system
generally. The lands which had belonged to those who fell in the battle of Hastings, and in
the subsequent insurrections of his reign, formed a considerable proportion of the lands of the
whole kingdom. These he granted out, subject to feudal duties, as did he also those of a great
number of his new subjects, who, by persuasions or threats, were induced to surrender them
for that purpose. But still, much was left in the hands of his Saxon subjects, held of no superior,
and not subject to feudal conditions. These, therefore, by express laws, enacted to render uniform
the system of military defence, were made liable to the same military duties as if they had
been feuds; and the Norman lawyers soon found means to saddle them, also, with the other
feudal burthens. But still they had not been surrendered to the king, they were not derived
from his grant, and therefore they were not holden of him. A general principle was introduced,
that “all lands in England were held either mediately or immediately of the Crown”; but this
was borrowed from those holdings which were truly feudal, and only applied to others for the
purposes of illustration. Feudal holdings were, therefore, but exceptions out of the Saxon
laws of possession, under which all lands were held in absolute right. These, therefore, still
form the basis or groundwork of the Common law, to prevail wheresoever the exceptions have
not taken place. America was not conquered by William the Norman, nor its lands surrendered
to him or any of his successors. Possessions there are, undoubtedly, of the allodial
nature. Our ancestors, however, who migrated hither, were laborers, not lawyers. The fictitious
principle, that all lands belong originally to the king, they were early persuaded to
believe real, and accordingly took grants of their own lands from the Crown. And while the
Crown continued to grant for small sums and on reasonable rents, there was no inducement
to arrest the error, and lay it open to public view. But his Majesty has lately taken on him
to advance the terms of purchase and of holding, to the double of what they were; by which
means, the acquisition of lands being rendered difficult, the population of our country is likely
to be checked. It is time, therefore, for us to lay this matter before his Majesty, and to declare,
that he has no right to grant lands of himself. From the nature and purpose of civil
institutions, all the lands within the limits, which any particular party has circumscribed
around itself, are assumed by that society, and subject to their allotment; this may be done by
themselves assembled collectively, or by their legislature, to whom they may have delegated
sovereign authority; and, if they are allotted in neither of these ways, each individual of the
society, may appropriate to himself such lands as he finds vacant, and occupancy will give him

That, in order to enforce the arbitrary measures before complained of, his Majesty has,
from time to time, sent among us large bodies of armed forces, not made up of the people
here, nor raised by the authority of our laws. Did his Majesty possess such a right as this,
it might swallow up all our other rights, whenever he should think proper. But his Majesty
has no right to land a single armed man on our shores; and those whom he sends here are


Page 968
liable to our laws, for the suppression and punishment of riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies,
or are hostile bodies invading us in defiance of law. When, in the course of the late war, it
became expedient that a body of Hanoverian troops should be brought over for the defence
of Great Britain, his Majesty's grandfather, our late sovereign, did not pretend to introduce
them under any authority he possessed. Such a measure would have given just alarm to his
subjects of Great Britain, whose liberties would not be safe if armed men of another country,
and of another spirit, might be brought into the realm at any time, without the consent of
their legislature. He, therefore, applied to Parliament, who passed an act for that purpose,
limiting the number to be brought in, and the time they were to continue. In like manner is his
Majesty restrained in every part of the empire. He possesses indeed the executive power of
the laws in every State; but they are the laws of the particular State, which he is to administer
within that State, and not those of any one within the limits of another. Every State must
judge for itself, the number of armed men which they may safely trust among them, of whom
they are to consist, and under what restrictions they are to be laid. To render these proceedings
still more criminal against our laws, instead of subjecting the military to the civil power, his
Majesty has expressly made the civil subordinate to the military. But can his Majesty thus put
down all law under his feet? Can he erect a power superior to that which erected himself?
He has done it indeed by force; but let him remember that force cannot give right.

That these are our grievances, which we have thus laid before his Majesty, with that freedom
of language and sentiment which becomes a free people, claiming their rights as derived
from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their Chief Magstrate. Let those flatter, who
fear; it is not an American art. To give praise where it is not due might be well from the
venal, but it would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. They know,
and will, therefore, say, that kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people. Open
your breast, Sire, to liberal and expanded thought. Let not the name of George the Third, be a
blot on the page of history. You are surrounded by British counsellors, but remember that
they are parties. You have no ministers for American affairs, because you have none taken
from among us, nor amenable to the laws on which they are to give you advice. It behooves
you, therefore, to think and to act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right
and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them, requires not the aid of many counsellors.
The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do
your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. No longer persevere in sacrificing
the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desires of another; but deal out to all
equal and impartial right. Let no act be passed by any one legislature which may infringe on
the rights and liberties of another. This is the important post in which fortune has placed
you, holding the balance of a great, if a well-poised empire. This, Sire, is the advice of your great
American council, on the observance of which may perhaps depend your felicity and future fame,
and the preservation of that harmony which alone can continue, both to Great Britain and
America, the reciprocal advantages of their connection. It is neither our wish nor our interest
to separate from her. We are willing, on our part, to sacrifice everything which reason can
ask, to the restoration of that tranquillity for which all must wish. On their part, let them be
ready to establish union on a generous plan. Let them name their terms, but let them be just.
Accept of every commercial preference it is in our power to give, for such things as we can
raise for their use, or they make for ours. But let them not think to exclude us from going
to other markets to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, nor to supply those
wants which they cannot supply. Still less, let it be proposed, that our properties, within our
territories, shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth, but our own. The God who
gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin

This, Sire, is our last, our determined resolution. And that you will be pleased to interpose,
with that efficacy which your earnest endeavors may insure, to procure redress of these
our great grievances, to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America against any apprehensions
of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole
empire, and that that may continue to the latest ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British
i, 124. Ford ed., i, 426. 1774.


The Summary View was not written for publication. It was a draft I had prepared for a petition to
the King, which I meant to propose in my place as a member of the convention of 1774. Being stopped on
the road by sickness, I sent it on to the Speaker, who laid it on the table for the perusal of the members.
It was thought too strong for the times, and to become the act of the convention, but was printed by subscription
of the members, with a short preface written by one of them. If it had any merit, it was that of
first taking our true ground, and that which was afterwards assumed and maintained.—
To John W. Campbell.v, 465. Ford ed., ix, 258. (M., Aug. 1809.)


12 C. 2 c. 18. 15 C. 2 c. 11. 25 C. 2 c. 7. 7. 8 W. M. c. 22. 11 W. 34 Anne. 6 C. 2 c. 13.—Note by Jefferson.


On further inquiry, I find two instances of dissolutions before the Parliament would, of itself, have been
at an end, viz.: the Parliament called to meet August 24, 1698, was dissolved by King William, December
19, 1700, and a new one was called to meet February 6, 1701, which was also dissolved, November 11, 1701, and
a new one met December 30, 1701.—Note by Jefferson.