Monthly Archives: February 2007

Item of the Day: A Letter to the Author of a Pamphlet, Called Taxation no Tyranny (1775)

Full Title:  An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare. To Which are Added, Some Observations on a Pamphlet Entitled,   Taxation no Tyranny: In which the Sophistry of That Author’s Reasoning is Detected.  By a Doctor of Laws.  London:  Printed for J. Donaldson, Corner of Arundel Street, In the Strand.  MDCCLXXV.



I have read your ingenious pamphlet, by which you make as much of the subject you write on as it is capable of:  but I submit a few observations on the subject of it to your consideration.

1.  You say, that it is the right of the supreme power, in every community, to demand the necessary contributions from those who are subject to it, and that this was never denied till lately, by the lovers of anarchy in America.

I never heard that the Americans denied this position; but they affirmed another position, that that supreme power may give to settlers in any new Colony what privileges they think proper.  All lands are derived to the subject from the sovereign; and the moment they are in the crown, they can be given by it to the subject, on which condition it pleases.  This is the rule with regard to charters granted by the crown, even here in Britain; and when these charters are granted, they cannot be violated by the crown, nay nor by the parliament, justly; for the nature of a free government is such, that all property is inviolable, except the possessor of it do something which forfeits the right he has to the protection of his property, by the laws of his country.  There are instances, to be sure, where, for the publick good, private property may be exchanged for its value with the proprietor:  but these things are never to be done, except in cases of necessity.  The case of the Americans is still more favorable:  their predecessors, at the risk of their lives and fortunes, enlarged the British dominions, and had charters granted them by the crown for their encouragement; and amongst other privileges, they had a power given them of taxing themselves, which they have possessed for about 200 years.  And would it be right for either king or parliament to take of these subjects in America their money, in any other way than what is approved of by their charters?  If it be said, that this privilege of taxing themselves is not exclusive of any taxation by parliament; the answer is evident, that in that case their privileges, by their charter, of taxing themselves are nothing, because a parliament may tax them to the utmost they can bear, and then tell them, they may tax themselves when they please, when they can bear no more.  This new scheme of ministers breaking in upon charters in America, and their constant custom for about 200  years, has always appeared to me below the dignity of the crown and parliament, who have both of them often homologated these privileges, by the continuation of which, we should in a few years be the greatest nation in Europe, and by oppressing America we shall lose our trade with them, ruin our manufacturers, lessen the number of our sailors, and consequently lessen our security against our natural enemy the French.

2.  You say, it would be a reflection upon English power and English honour not to tax America.  In my opinion, instead of being a reflection upon English power and English honour not to exert its power of taxation, which you seem to think, it would be to the honour and glory of England not to break through what they themselves have established, and to keep their faith religiously with their brethren in America.  And although they had no charter nor privileges, I think it would be our interest to grant them the privileges they desire; for by that alone they are become a great people, and able to assist their mother country, and by that they will be every year the more able to assist it.  And that opinion propagated with so much industry by pensioners and placemen, of their becoming independent of their mother country, is a mere chimera; they neither wish it, nor can it ever be in their power, the navigation act being a bar to it, as by that we command their trade.

3.  You observe, that the advocates for America here are enemies to their native country.  It seems as clear to me as any proposition in Euclid, that noting can preserve this country but a good correspondence with America, and that the late acts of parliament in the last sessions, must ruin that good correspondence, if put in execution.   Is it possible, that you can think that the Americans can see themselves surrounded by French Papists in Canada with indifferency; and can any good Protestant in Britain see Popery made the established religion in Canada, and the extent of that province enlarged to double of what it was, and to see slavery established there by law, and to see the trade of this country with America ruined, by which our nursery of sailors is greatly diminished, and our manufactures undone?  Can any man in Britain see with indifference, that instead of being furnished with naval stores from the northern powers of Europe, at the expense of near two millions a year, and that we are now sure of being furnished with these tings from America, in exchange for our manufactures, and that now by these acts of parliament we are in danger of losing all these advantages, and the prospect of many more, by being furnished with other things from thence, such as, Raw Silk, Fruits, Wines, &c.  It is true, Sir, we ought to regard the Americans as our brethren, and so not to encroach upon their privileges. . . .

4.  You say in defence of these acts of parliament against America, that it is time to curb them before they turn too powerful.  I am clearly of opinion with Sir Robert Walpole, that the more numerous, rich, and powerful they are, the better for their mother country, because their riches centre here; and the more numerous they are, the more occasion they have for our manufactures: and that sensible minister, as I am well informed, when pressed to tax America, always said, that the only right way to tax them was to encourage their trade with us, and their demand for our manufactures, which must increase as the number of inhabitants in America increased; for, said he, the last buyer of goods always pays the taxes raised by these goods.  This tax they don’t grudge to pay, but would grudge to pay taxes directly laid upon them by any body but their own assemblies. . . .

5. You say, our shewing our superiority is the only way to make our trade profitable with America.  Hitherto the sensible part of mankind have thought that trade was to flourish only by indulgencies, and not by force; you think quite otherways:  and I shall use no other argument to convince you of your mistake, than to refer you to the applications to parliament from most of the trading towns in England, and amongst others from London, shewing the destructive consequences to trade by the measures now followed by the ministry. . . .


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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Great Britain, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: A View of Religions (1791)

Full Title:  A View of Religions, in Two Parts.  Part I.  Containing an Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Religious Denominations, Which Have Appeared in the World, From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day.  Part II. Containing a Brief Account of The Different Schemes of Religion Now Embraced Among Mankind.  The Whole Collected From the Best Authors, Ancient and Modern.  By Hannah Adams. The Second Edition, with Large Additions.  Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.  Apostle Paul, Boston: Printed by John West Folsom.



The Diests are spread all over Europe, and have multiplied prodigiously among the higher rank in most nations.  But the sentiments which are distinguished by this title, are rarely embraced among the common people.

The name Diests is said to have been first assumed about the middle of the sixteenth century, but some gentlemen in France and Italy, in order to avoid the imputation of Atheism.  One of the first authors who made use of this name was Peter Viret, a celebrated divine; who, in a work which was published in 1563, speaks of some persons in that time who were called by a new name, that of Diests.  these, he tells us, professed to believe  a God, but shewed no regard to Jesus Christ, and considered the doctrines of the apostles and evangelists as fables and dreams.

The  Lord Edward Herbert, baron of Cherbury, who flourished in the seventeenth century, has been regarded as the most eminent of the deistical writers, and appears to be one of the first who formed Deism into a system; and asserted, the sufficiency, universality, and absolute perfection of natural religion, with a view to discard all extraordinary revelation as useless and needless.  He reduced this universal religion to five articles, which he frequently mentioned in his works.

I.  That there is one supreme GOD.

II.  That he is chiefly to be worshipped.

III.  That piety and virtue are the principal parts of his worship.

IV.  That we must repent of our sins; and if we do so, God will pardon us.

V.  That there are rewards for good men, and punishments for bad men, in a future state.

The Diests are classed by some of their own writers into two sorts — mortals and immortal Deists. — The latter acknowledge a future state — the former deny it, or at least represent it as a very uncertain thing.

The learned Dr. Clarke, taking the denomination in the most extensive signification, distinguishes Deists into four sorts. — The first are, such as pretend to believe the existence of an infinite, eternal, independent, intelligent Being; and who, to avoid the name of Epicurean Atheists, teach also, that this Supreme Being made the world; though, at the same time, they agree with the Epicureans in this, that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein.

The second sort of Deists are those who believe not only that being, but also the providence of God, with respect to the natural world; but who, not allowing any difference between moral good and evil, deny that God takes any notice of the morally good and evil actions of men: these things depending, as they imagine, on the arbitrary constitution of human laws.

A third sort of Deists there are, who believe in the natural attributes of God, and his all-governing providence, and have some notion of is moral perfections also; yet deny the immortality of the soul, believing that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any future restoration or renovation of things.

A fourth, and the last sort of Deists are, such as believe the existence of a Supreme Being, together with his providence in the government of the world, as also all the obligations of natural religion; but so far only as these things are discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation.

Some of the Deists have attempted to overthrow the christian dispensation, by representing the absolute perfection of natural religion.  Others, as Blount, Collins, and Morgan, have endeavoured to gain the same purpose by attacking particular parts of the christian scheme; by explaining away the literal sense and meaning of certain passages; or by placing one portion of the sacred canon in opposition to the other.  A third class, wherein we meet with the names of Shaftsbury, and of Bolingbrooke, advancing farther in their progress, expunge from their creed the doctrine of future existence, and annihilate among them all the moral perfections of the Deity.

Many of the modern Deists in Europe, are said to be of that class, who deny the immorality of the soul, and any future state of existence.






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Filed under 1790's, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Religion

Item of the Day: The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (1809)

Full Title:  The Natural and Civil History of Vermont. By Samuel Williams, LL.D. Member of the Meteorological Society in Germany, of the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Massachusetts.  In Two Volumes.  Volume I.  The Second Edition, Corrected and Much Enlarged.  Burlington, VT. Printed by Samuel Mills.  Sold at His Bookstore in Burlington by Mills and White, Middlebury, Isaiah Thomas, Jun.  Worcester, Thomas and Andrews, Boston, Thomas and Whipple and S. Sawyer and Co. Newburyport.  1809.


Three centuries have passed away since America was first discovered by Columbus.  From that time until now, the affairs of America have engaged the attention of historians and philosophers.  The natural productions of this continent, have been one object of general inquiry.  Among the Spanish writers, there are some good essays on the natural history of the southern parts of America.  In Canada, some of the physicians and Jesuits were attentive to the natural productions of that part of the continent; and have left some valuable pieces on the natural history of New France.  This kind of knowledge was not much attended to, by the first settlers of the British colonies; and we have but few of their ancient writings, in which it was contemplated at all.  Obliged to depend upon transient and partial accounts, the best writer upon natural history, M. de Buffon, has fallen into many mistakes respecting the natural productions of America, which, more accurate observations would have corrected.  The subject instead of being fully explored, is yet a treasure but little examined.

The Man of America was an object still more curious and important.  But the age in which the first discoveries and settlements were made, was not enough enlightened, to afford either accurate or impartial observations, on the manners, customs, language, abilities, or state of society, among the Indians.  Prejudiced by their sordid manners, and enraged by their barbarities, the men of Europe never looked for any thing good in such men:  And while interest and revenge joined to destroy that unhappy race, but few were able to consider their customs or rights with calmness, or dared to say any thing in their favor.  It is not more than half a century, since this subject has been properly attended to by philosophers:  And their conclusions have been of the most opposite and contrary kinds.  Some have with great zeal advanced, that the perfection of man was to be found in the savage state; while others have as warmly contended, that this was the lowest state of degradation and abasement, to which the human race can possibly be reduced.  Such opposite and contrary systems make it necessary to examine this part of the natural history of man, with great care and impartiality; that we may distinguish what was valuable in that stage of society, and what was disadvantageous and degrading.

An object of still higher magnitude and importance has been presented to our view by the American Revolution.  The first settlers in the British colonies were left in a great measure by their sovereigns to take care of themselves.  The only situation which they could take, while they were clearing the woods and forming their settlements, was that of equality, industry, and economy.  In such a situation every thing tended to produce, and to establish the spirit of freedom.  Their employments, customs, manners, and habits;  their wants, dangers, and interests, were nearly the same; these, with every other circumstance in their situation, operated with a steady and certain tendency, to preserve that equality and freedom, which nature had made.  This spirit of freedom was in some degree checked by the customary interpositions of royal authority:  But these were too irregular and contradictory, to become masters of veneration, to alter the natural feelings of men, or to change the natural course and tendency of things:  And while the ministers of kings were looking into their laws and records, to decide what should be the rights of men in the colonies, nature was establishing a system of freedom in America, which they could neither comprehend or discern.  The American Revolution explained the business to the world, and served to confirm what nature and society had before produced.

 Having assumed their rank among the nations of the earth, the states of America now present to the world a new state of society; founded on principles, containing arrangements, and producing effects, not visible in any nation before.  The uncommon and increasing prosperity which has attended it, has ascertained its spirit and tendency:  The people are distinguished by the spirit of inquiry, industry, economy, enterprize, and regularity:  The government is dependent upon, but guides, and reverences the people:  And the whole country is rapidly increasing in numbers, extent, wealth, and power.  The highest perfection and felicity, which man is permitted to hope for in the present life, may rationally be expected in such a state of society:  And it becomes of course the object of universal inquiry and attention.  

To represent the state of things in America in a proper light, particular accounts of each part of the federal union seem to be necessary; and would answer other valuable purposes.  An able historian, the Reverend Dr. Belknap, has obliged the world with the history of New Hampshire.  The following treatise is designed to describe the operations of nature and society, in the adjacent state of Vermont.  This is the youngest of the states, an inland country, and now rapidly changing from a vast tract of uncultivated wilderness, to numerous and extensive settlements.  In this stage of society, industry and economy seem to produce the greatest effects, in the shortest periods of time. . . .

The most important of all our philosophical speculations, are those which relate to the history of man.  In most of the productions of nature, the subject is fixed, and may always be found and viewed in the same situation.  And hence a steady course of observation, serves to discover and ascertain the laws by which they are governed, and the situation they will assume in other periods of time.    It is probable the actions and affairs of men are subject to as regular and uniform laws, as other events:  And that the same state of society will produce the same forms of government, the same manners, customs, habits, and pursuits, among different nations, in whatever part of the earth they may reside.  Monarchy, freedom, superstition, truth and all the general causes which actuate mankind, seem every where to bear the same aspect, to operate with the same kind of influence, and to produce similar effects; differing not in their nature and tendency, but only in the circumstances and degrees, in which they influence different nations.  But nothing is stationary, nothing that depends upon the social state, is so unalterably fixed, but that it will change and vary with the degradation or improvement of the human race.  And hence, while the nature of man remains unaltered, the state of society is perpetually changing, and the men of one age and country, in many respects appear different from those of another.  And as men themselves are more or less improved, every thing that constitutes a part of the social state, will bear a different appearance among different nations, and in the same nation in different circumstances, and in different periods of time. To ascertain what there is thus peculiar and distinguishing in the state of society in the Federal Union, to explain the causes which have led to this state, to mark its effect upon human happiness, and to deduce improvement from the whole, are the most important objects which civil history can contemplate in America:  And they are objects, every where more useful to men, than any refinements, distinctions, or discoveries, merely speculative.

I have wished to keep such objects in view, in considering the state of society in this part of the continent.  But it is with diffidence that I submit the attempt to the view of the public. The dispostion of America is to favor such attempts and publications, as are adapted to promote any valuable public purpose:  But speculative and useless essays cannot much engage the attention of a people, whose main object is the prosperity and improvement of their country.  The public sentiment will be a just decision, among which of these, the following work ought to be placed.

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Filed under 1800's, American Indians, American Revolution, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Vermont

Item of the Day: Johnson’s Taxation no Tyranny (1775)

Full Title:

Taxation no Tyranny; an Answer to the Resolution and Address of the American Congress, [by Samuel Johnson]. Third edition. Printed in London for T. Cadell, 1775.


In all the parts of human knowledge, whether terminating in science merely speculative, or operating upon life private or civil, are admitted some fundamental principles, or common axioms, which being generally received are little doubted, and being little doubted have been rarely proved.

Of these gratuitous and acknowledged truths it is often the fate to become less evident by endeavours to explain them, however necessary such endeavours may be made by the misapprehensions of absurdity, or the sophistries of interest. It is difficult to prove the principles of science, because notions cannot always be found more intelligible than those which are questioned. It is difficult to prove the principles of practive, because they have for the most part not been discovered by investigation, but obtruded by experience, and the demonstrator will find, after an operose deduction, that he has been trying to make that seen which can be only felt.

Of this kind is the postition, that the supreme power of every community has the right of requiring from all its subjects such contributions as are necessary to the public safety or public prosperity, which was considered by all mankind as comprising the primary and essential condition of all political society, till it became disputed by those zealots of anarchy, who have denied to the parliament of Britain the right of taxing the American colonies.

In favours of this exemption of the Americans from the authority of their lawful sovereign, and the dominion of their mother-country, very loud clamours have been raised, and many wild assertions advanced, which by such as borrow their opinions from the reigning fashion have been admitted as arguments; and what is strange, though their tendency is to lessen English honour, and English power, have been heard by English-men with a wish to find them true. Passion has in its first violence controlled interest, as the eddy for a while runs against the stream.

To be prejudiced is always to be weak; yet there are prejudices so near to laudable, that they have been often praised, and are always pardoned. To love their country has been considered as virtue in men, whose love could not be otherwise than blind, because their preference was made without a comparison; but it never has been my fortune to find, either in ancient or modern writers, any honourable mention of those, who have with equal blindness hated their country.

These antipatriotic prejudices are the abortions of Folly impregnated by Faction, which being produced against the standing order of Nature, have not strength sufficient for long life. They are born only to scream and perish, and leave those to contempt or detestation, whose kindness was employed to nurse them into mischief.

To perplex the opinion of the Puiblick many artifices have been used, which, as usually happen when falsehood is to be maintained by fraud, lose their force by counteracting one another.

The nation is sometimes to be mollified by a tender tale of men, who fled from tyranny to rocks and deserts, and is persuaded to lose all claims of justice, and all sense of dignity, in compassion for a harmless people, who having worked hard for bread in a wild country, and obtained by the slow progression of manual industry the accommodations of life, are now invaded by unprecedented oppression, and plundered of their properties by the harpies of taxation.

We are told how their industry is obstructed by unnatural restraints, and their trade confined by rigorous prohibitions; how they are forbidden to enjoy the products of their own soil, to manufacture the materials which Nature spreads before them, or to carry their own goods to the nearest market: and surely the generosity of English virtue will never heap new weight upon those that are already overladen, will never delight in that dominion, which cannot be exercised but by cruelty and outrage.

But while we are melting in silent sorrow, and in the transports of delicious pity, dropping both the sword and balance from our hands, another friend of the Americans thinks better to awaken another passion, and tries to alarm our interest, or excite our veneration, by accounts of their greatness and their opulence, of the fertility of their land, and the splendour of their towns. We then begin to consider the question with more evenness of mind, are ready to conclude that those restrictions are not very oppressive which have been found consistent with this speedy growth of prosperity, and begin to think it reasonable that they, who thus flourish under the protection of our government, should contribute something toward its expence.

But we are then told that the Americans, however wealthy, cannot be taxed; that they are the descendants of men who left all for liberty, and that they have constantly preserved the principles and stubbornness of their progenitors; that they are too obstinate for persuasion, and too powerful for constraint; that they will laugh at argument, and defeat violence; that the continent of North America contains three millions, not of men merely, but of Whigs, of Whigs fierce for liberty, and disdainful of dominion; that they multiply with the fecundity of their own rattle-snakes, so that every quarter of a century doubles their numbers.

Men accustomed to think themselves masters do not love to be threatened. This talk is, I hope, commonly thrown away, or raises passions different from those which it intended to excite. Instead of terrifying the English hearer to tame acquiescence, it disposes him to hasten the experiment of bending obstinacy before it is become yet more obdurate, and convinces him that it is necessary to attack a nation thus prolific while we may yet hope to prevail. When he is told through what extent of territory we must travel to subdue them, he recollects how far, a few years ago, we travelled in their defence. When it is urged that they will shoot up like the Hydra, he naturally considers how the Hydra was destroyed.

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, Liberty, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Anticipation (1778)

Full Title: Anticipation: Containing the Substance of His M—–Y’s Most Gracious Speech to both H—-S of P–L—–T, on the Opening of the approaching Session, together with a full and authentic account of the Debate which will take Place in the H—E of C—–S, on the Motion for Address, and the Amendment. With Notes. London: Printed for T. Becket, the corner of the Adelphi, in the Strand, 1778.


Several reasons concurred to urge the Editor to this publication. The critical situation of public affairs seemed to require an extraordinary diffusion of political knowledge; yet, in the common course, but few of the million, who are so deeply interested in the result of parliamentary debates, can be admitted to an audience of them. Sometimes, the Members shut their galleries against the intrusion of any of their Constituents; and it is always a standing order, from the opening of the session, to prohibit the publication of their debates. Under these circumstances, an authentic account of the first day’s debate, put forth at this day, will clearly avoid any breach of that order, and, without exposing the Constituents to crowding in the gallery, to furnish them with their Represenatives Speeches, taken down with the strictest fidelity, cannot but afford them some amusement, and indeed real use. Besides, the first day’s debate is generally a kind of outline of the debates of the whole session; so that a critical observer, by contempating the buds and seedlings of this early eloquence, may calculate what degree of radical strength they possess, how far they will expand and bloom, and whether they are hardy enough to stand the winter.

 The Editor cannot but seize this opportunity to thank those Gentlemen who have furnished him with the most authentic materials for some of the speeches, which, they will imediately see, he has copied verbatim from their manuscripts–and he sincerely hopes, their having appeared in print before they are spoken, will not deter the several Gentlemen from delivering them with their usual appearance of extempore eloquence.

November 23, 1778.


The Gentlemen trading to the East-Indies, West Indies, and other parts, who intend taking or sending thither any pamphlets this season, are hereby informed, that this work is authentic, faithful, and striclty impartial; and as the nice and discerning eye of the Brisish islands and settlements near us, must feel an interest in these matter, good allowance will be given for taking quantities–Also the best Dutch was, and stationary wares.


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Filed under 1770's, Government, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Satire

Item of the Day: Milton’s Areopagitica (1753)

Full Title: The Works of John Milton, Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous. Now more correctly printed from the ORIGINALS, than in any former Edition, and many Passages restored, which have been hitherto omitted. To which is prefixed, An Account of his Life and Writings. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand, MDCCLIII.


A SPEECH for the Liberty of Unlicens’d PRINTING,


This is true liberty, when free born men,

Having to advise the public, may speak fre,

Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise;

Who neither can nor will may hold his peace;

What can be juster in a state than this? (Euripid. Hicetid.)

THEY, who to states and governors of the commonwealth direct their speech, high court of parliament! or wanting such access in a private condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good; I suppose them, as at the beginning of no mean endeavor, not a little altered and mov’d inwardly in their minds: Some with doubt of what will be success, others with fear of what will be the cinsure; some with hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps each of these dispositions, as the subject was whereon I entered, may have at other times variously affected; and likely might these foremost expressions, now also disclose which of them sway’d most, but that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more welcome than incidental to a preface. Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if it be not other, than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who wish and promote their country’s liberty; whereof this whole discourse proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For this is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the commonwealth, that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reform’d, then is the utmost bound of civl liberty attain’d that wise men look for. To which I now manifest, by the very sound of this which I shall utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our principles, as was beyond the manhood of Roman recovery, it will be attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God, our deliverer; next, to your faithful guidance and undaunted widsom, lords and commons of England! Neither is it in God’s esteem, the diminution of his glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men, and worthy magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a progress of your laudable deeds, and such a long obligement upon the whole realm to your indefatigable virtues, I might be justly reckon’d among the tardiest, and the unwillingest that praise ye.

Nevertheless there being three principal things, without which all praising is but courtship and flattery, first, when that only is praised which is solidly worth praise; next, when greatest liklihoods are brought, that such things, are truly and really in those persons, to whom they ascribed; the other, when he who praises, by shewing that such his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he flatters not: the fomer two of these I have heretofore endeavorured, rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits, with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter as belonging chiefly to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath been reserv’d opportunely to this occasion. For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest advice is a kind of praising: for though I should affirm and hold argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning, and the commonwealth, if one of your publish’d orders which I should name, were called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are hereby animated to think ye better pleased with publick advice, than other statists have been delighted therefore with public flattery. And men will then see what difference there is between the magnanimityof a triennial parliament, and that jealous haughtiness of prelates and cabin counsellors that usurp’d of late, whenas they shall observe ye in the midst of your victories and successes more gently brooking written exceptions against a voted order, than other courts, which had produced nothing worth memory but the weak ostentation of wealth, would have endured the least signified dislike at any sudden proclamation. If I should thus far presume upon the meek demanour of your civil and gentle greatness, lords and commons! as what your publish’d order hath directly said, that to gainsay, I might defend myself with ease, if any should accuse me of being new or insolent, did they but know how much better I find ye esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of Greece, than the barbaric pride of a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness. And out of those ages, to whose polite wisdom and letters we owe that we are not yet Goths and Jutlanders, I could name him who from his private house wrote that discourse to the parliament of Athens, that persuades them to change the form of Democraty which was then established. Such honour was done in those days to men who professed the study of wisdom and eloquence, not only in their own country, but in other lands, that cities and signiories heard them gladly, and with great respect, if they had aught in public to admonish the state. Thus did Dion Prusaeus, a stranger, and a private orator, counsel the Rhodians against a former edict: and I abound with other like examples, which to set here would be superfluous. But if from the industry of a life wholly dedicated to studious labours, and those natural endowments haply not the worst for two and fifty degrees of northern latitude, so much must be derogated, as to count me not equal to any of those who had this privilege, I would obtain to be thought not so inferior, as yourselves are superior to the most of them who receiv’d their counsel; and how far you excel them, be assured, lords and commons! there can no greater testimony appear, than when your prudent spirit acknowledges and obeys the voice of reason, from what quarter soever it be heard speaking; and render ye as willing to repeal any act of your own setting forth, as any set forth by your predecessors. . . .



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Filed under 1750's, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Printing

Item of the Day: History of California (1759)

Full Title: A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing An accurate Description of that Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants, Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living, before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by the missionary Jesuits. Together with Accounts of Several Voyages and Attempts made for settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that Country, its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. Illustrated with a Map of the Country and the adjacent Seas. Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, published in Madrid in 1758. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher at the Oxford Theatre, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1759.



Of the temper and manners of the Californians;

and of their government in peace and war.

To those who have seen any of the American nations, and observed their genius and disposition, it would be sufficient to say in general, that the ancient inhabitants of California did not in the least differ from them; except those of the two empires of Mexico and Peru, in which, as there was a greater union and intercourse, so the fruits of it were seen in the cultivation of their reason, in their laws, policy and military conduct, and in the other branches of government, as well as in the reciprocal and friendly dependencies on on one another. But all the other American nations differ very little, either in capacity, disposition, or customs. The characteristicks of the Californians, as well as of all the other Indians, are stupidity and insensibility; want of knowledge and reflections; inconstancy, impetuosity, and blindness of appetite; an excessive sloth and abhorrence of all labour and fatigue; an incessant love of pleasure and amusement of every kind, however trifling or brutal; pusillanimity and relaxity: and in fine, a most wretched want of every thing which constitutes the real man, and renders him rational, inventive, tractable, and useful to himself and society. It is not easy for Europeans, who never were out of their own country, to conceive an adequate idea of these people, for even in the least frequented corners of the globe, there is not a nation so stupid, of such contracted ideas, and so weak both in body and mind, as the unhappy Californians. Their understanding comprehends little more than what they see: abstract ideas, and much less a chain of reason, being far beyond their power; so that they scarce ever improve their first ideas; and these are in general false, or at least inadequate. It is in vain to represent to them any future advantages, which will result to them, by doing or abstaining from this or that particular immediately present; the relation of means and ends being beyond the stretch of their faculties. Nor have they the least notion of pursuing such intentions as will procure themselves some future good, or guard them against evils. Their insensibility, with regard to corporeal objects which lie before them, being so great, that it may easily be conceived, what sentiments they can have with regard to rewards and punishments in a future life. They have only a few faint glimmerings of the moral virtues and vices; so that some things appear good and others evil, without any reflection: and though they enjoyed the light of natural reason, and that divine grace which is given to all without distinction, yet the one was so weak, and the other so little attended to, that, without any regard to decency, pleasure and profit were the motives and end of all their actions. . . .


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Filed under 1750's, American Indians, California, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1804)

Full Title: Memoirs of M. Wollstonecraft Godwin, Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Philadelphia: Printed by Samuel Ackerman, No. 159, Race-Street, 1804.






IT has always appeared to me, that to give to the public some account of the life of a person of eminent merit deceased, is a duty incumbent on survivors. It seldom happens that such a person passes through life without being the subject of thoughtless calumay, or malignant misrepresentation. It cannot happen that the public at large should be on a footing with their intimate acquaintance, and be the observer of those virtues which discover themselves principally in personal intercourse. Every benefactor of mankind is more or less influenced by a liberal passion for fame; and survivors only pay a debt due to these benefactors, when they assert and establish on their part, the honour they loved. The justice which is thus done to the illustrious dead, converts into the fairest source of animation and ecnouragement to those who would follow them in the same career. The human species at large is interested in this justice, as it teaches them to place their respect and affection, upon those qualities which deserve to be esteemed and loved. I cannot easily prevail on myself to doubt, that the more fully we are presented with the picture and story of such persons as are the subject of the following narrative, the more generally shall we feel in ourselves an attachment to their fate, and a sympathy in the excellencies. There are not many individuals with whose character the public welfare and improvement are more intimately connected, than the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The facts detailed in the following pages, are principally taken from the mouth of the person to whom they relate; and the veracity and ingenousness of her habits, perhaps no one that was ever acquainted with her, entertains a doubt. The writer of this narrative, when he has met with persons that in any degree created to themselves an interest and attachment in his mind, has always felt a curiosity to be acquainted with the scenes through which they had passed, and the incidents that had contributed to form their understandings and character. Impelled by this sentiment, he repeatedly led the conversation of Mary to topics of this sort; and, once or twice, he made notes in her presence, of a few dates calculated to arrange the circumstances in his mind. To the materials thus collected, he has added an industrious enquiry among the persons most intimately acquainted with her at the different periods of her life.

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Filed under 1800's, Biography, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Wollstonecraft, Women

Item of the Day: The Trial of John Peter Zenger — Andrew Hamilton’s Summation (1765)

Full Title:  THE TRIAL OF JOHN PETER ZENGER, Of New-York, Printer: Who was charged with having printed and published a Libel against the Government; and acquitted with A NARRATIVE OF HIS CASE To which is now added, being never printed before, THE TRIAL of Mr. WILLIAM OWEN, Bookseller, near Temple-Bar, Who was also Charged with the Publication of a Libel against the Government; of which he was honourably acquitted by a Jury of Free-born Englishmen, Citizens of London.  London:  Printed for J. Almon, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly. MDCCLXV.

Mr. Hamilton.  If a libel is understood in the large and unlimitted sense urged by Mr. Attorney, there is scarce a writing I know that may not be called a libel, or scarce any person safe from being called to an account as a libeller:  For Moses, meek as he was, libelled Cain; and who is it that has not libelled the devil? For, according to Mr. Attorney, it is no justification to say one has a bad name.  Echard has libelled our good king William: Burnet has libelled, among many others, king Charles and king James; and Rapin has libelled them all.  How must a man speak or write, or what must he hear, read or sing, or when must he laugh, so as to be secure from being taken up as a libeller?  I sincerely believe, that were some persons to go thro’ the streets of new-York now-a-days, and read a part of the Bible, if it was not know to be such, Mr. Attorney, with the help of his innuendoes, would easily turn it into a libel .  As, for instance, If. ix 16. ” The leaders of the people cause them to err, and they that are led by them are destroyed.” 

. . .

Gentlemen, the danger is great, in proportion to the mischief that may happen, through our too great credulity.  A proper confidence in a court is commendable:  but as the verdict (whatever it is) will be yours, you ought to refer no part of your duty to the discretion of other persons.  If you should be of opinion, that there is no falsehood in Mr. Zenger’s papers, you will, nay (pardon me for the expression) you ought to say so; because you do not know, whether others (I mean the court) may be of that opinion.  It is your right to do so, and there is much depending upon your resolution, as well as upon your integrity.

The loss of liberty to a generous mind, is worse than death; and yet we know there have been those, in all ages, who, for the sake of preferment, or some imaginary honour, have freely lent a helping hand, to oppress, nay to destroy, their country.  This brings to my mind that saying of the immortal Brutus, when he looked upon the creatures of Caesar, who were very great men, but by no means good men.  “You, Romans,” said Brutus, “if yet I may call you so, consider what you are doing; remember you are assisting Caesar to forge those very chains, which one day he will make yourselves wear.”  This is what every man (who values freedom) ought to consider:  he should act by judgment, and not by affection or self-interest; for, where these prevail, no ties of either country or kindred are regarded:  as, on the other hand, the man, who loves his country, prefers its liberty to all other considerations; well knowing that, without liberty, life is a misery. . . .

Power may justly be compared to a great river, which, kept within due bounds, is both beautiful and useful; but when it overflows its banks, it is then too impetuous to be stemmed; it bears down all before it, and brings destruction and desolation wherever it comes.  If then this is the nature of power, let us at least do our duty, and like wise men (who value freedom) use our utmost care to support liberty, the only bulwark against lawless power, which in all ages has sacrificed to its wild lust and boundless ambition, the blood of the best men that ever lived.

I hope to be pardoned, Sir, for my zeal upon this occasion:  it is an old and wise caution, that when our neighbour’s house is on fire, we ought to take care of our own.  For though, blessed be God, I live in a government where liberty is well understood, and freely enjoyed; yet experience has shewn us all (I am sure it has to me) that a bad precedent in one government is soon set up for an authority in another; and therefore I cannot but think it mine, and every honest man’s duty, that (while we pay all due obedience to men in authority) we ought at the same time to be upon our guard against power, whenever we apprehend it may injuriously affect ourselves or our fellow-subjects.

I am truly very unequal to such an undertaking, on many accounts.  And you see I labour under the weight of many years , and am borne down with great infirmities of body; yet old and weak as I am, I should think it my duty, if required, to go to the utmost part of the land, where my service could be of any use in assisting to quench the flame of prosecutions upon informations, set on foot by the government, to deprive a people of the right of remonstrating, and complaining of, the arbitrary attempts of men in power.  Men who injure and oppress the people under their administration, provoke them to cry out and complain; and then make that very complaint the foundation for new oppressions and prosecutions.  I wish I could say there were no instances of this kind.  But to conclude, the question before the court and you, gentlemen of the jury is not of small or private concern; it is not the cause of a poor printer, nor of New-York alone, which you are now trying:  no! it may, in its consequence, affect every freeman that lives under a British government on the main of America.  It is the best cause:  it is the cause of liberty! and I make no doubt but your upright conduct, this day, will not only entitle you to the love and esteem of your fellow citizens; but every man who prefers freedom to the life of slavery, will bless and honour you, as men who have basseted the attempt of tyranny, and who, by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict, have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors, That, to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right, — the liberty — both of exposing and opposing arbitrary power (in these parts of the world at least) by speaking and writing truth.

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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Great Britain, Legal, Newspapers, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: The Trial of John Peter Zenger (1765)

Full Title:  THE TRIAL OF JOHN PETER ZENGER, Of New-York, Printer: Who was charged with having printed and published a Libel against the Government; and acquitted with A NARRATIVE OF HIS CASE To which is now added, being never printed before, THE TRIAL of Mr. WILLIAM OWEN, Bookseller, near Temple-Bar, Who was also Charged with the Publication of a Libel against the Government; of which he was honourably acquitted by a Jury of Free-born Englishmen, Citizens of London.  London:  Printed for J. Almon, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly. MDCCLXV.

The TRIAL of JOHN PETER ZENGER, August 4, 1735.

At a Supreme court of judicature held for the Province of New-York,


The Hon. James De Lancey, Esq; chief justice.

The Hon. Frederick Philipse, Esq; second justice

The court being seated, Zenger was brought in.

. . .

Mr. Attorney-general opened the information, which was as follows:

“New-York, Supreme court.

Of the term of January, in the eighth year of the reign of our sovereign lord king George IId, &c. New-York

Be it remembered, that Richard Bradley, esq; attorney-general of our sovereign lord the king, for the province of New-York, who for our said lord the king in this part prosecutes, in his own proper person comes here into the court of our said lord the king, and for our said lord the king gives the court here to understand and be informed, — that John Peter Zenger, late of the city of New-York, Printer, (being a seditious person, and a frequent printer and publisher of false news and seditious libels, and wickedly and maliciously devising the government of our said lord the king of this his majesty’s province of New-York, under the administration of his excellency William Cosby, Esq; captain-general and governor in chief of the said province, to traduce, scandalize and vilify; and his excellency the said governor, and the ministers and officers of our said lord the king of and for the said province to bring into suspicion and the ill opinion of the subjects of our said lord the king residing within the said province) the twenty-eighth day of January, in the seventh year of the reign of our sovereign lord George the Second, by the grace of God of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, king, defender of the faith, &c. at the city of New-York, did falsely, seditiously and scandalously print and publish, and cause to be printed and published, a certain false malicious seditious, scandalous libel, intituled, the New-York Weekly Journal, containing the freshest advices foreign and domestic; in which libel (of and concerning his excellency the said governor, and the ministers and officers of our said lord the king, of and for the said province) among other things therein contained, are these words:     ‘ Your appearance in print at last gives a pleasure to many, tho’ most with you had come fairly into the open field, and not appeared behind retrenchments made of the supposed laws against libelling, and of what other men have said and done before; these retrenchements, gentlemen, may soon be shewn to you and all men to be weak, and to have neither law nor reason for their foundation, so cannot long stand you in stead:  therefore, you had much better as yet leave them, and come to what the people of this city and province (the city and province of New-York meaning) think are the points in question (to wit) They (the people of the city and province of New-York meaning) think, as matters now stand, that their LIBERTIES and PROPERTIES are precarious, and that SLAVERY is like to be intailed on them and their posterity, if some past things be not amended, and this they collect from many past proceedings. ‘   Meaning many of the past proceedings of his excellency the said governor and of the ministers and officers of our said lord the king, of and for the said province.)  And the said attorney-general of our said lord the king, for our said lord the king, likewise gives the court here to understand and be informed, That the said John Peter Zenger afterwards (to wit) the eighth day of April in the seventh year of the reign of our said lord the king, at the city of New-York aforesaid, did falsely, seditiously and scandalously print and publish, and cause to be printed and published, another false, malicious, seditious, and scandalous libel, intituled, The New-York Weekly Journal, containing the freshest advices foreign and domestic.  In which libel, (of and concerning the government of the province of New-York, and of and concerning his excellency the said governor, and the ministers and officers of our said lord the king, of and for the said province) among other things therein contained, are these words,           ‘ One of our neighbours (one of the inhabitants of New-Jersey meaning) being in company, observing the strangers (some of the inhabitants of New-York meaning) full of complaints, endeavoured to persuade them to remove into Jersey; to which it was replied, that would be leaping out of the frying-pan into the fire; for, says he, we both are under the same governor, (his excellency the said governor meaning) and your assembly have shewn with a witness what is to be expected from them: one that was then moving to Pensilvania, (meaning one that was then removing from New-York, with intent to reside at Pensilvania) to which place several considerable men are removing (from New-York meaning) expressed, in terms very moving, much concern for the circumstances of New-York, (the bad circumstances of the province and the people of New-York meaning) seemed to think them very much owing to the influence that some men (whom he called tools) had in the administration, (meaning the administration of government of the said province of New-York) said he was now going from them, and was not to be hurt by any measures they should take, but could not help having some concern for the welfare of his countrymen, and should be glad to hear that the assembly (meaning the general assembly of the province of New-York) would exert themselves as became them, by shewing that they have the interest of their country more at heart, than the gratification of any private view of any of their members, or being at all affected by the smiles or frowns of a governor, (his excellency the said governor meaning) both which ought equally to be despised, when the interest of their country is at stake.  You, says, he, complain of the lawyers, but I think the law itself is at an end, WE (the people of the province of New-York meaning) See men’s deeds destroyed, judges arbitrarily displaced, New courts erected without consent of the legislature (with the province of New-York meaning) by which it seems to me, trials by juries are taken away when a governor pleases, (His excellency the said governor meaning) Men of known estates denied their votes, contrary to the received practice, the best expositor of any law: Who is then in that province (meaning the province of New-York) that call (can call meaning) any thing he own, or enjoy any liberty (liberty meaning) longer than those in the administration (meaning the administration of government of the said province of New-York) will condescend to let them do it, for which reason I have left it, (the province of New-York meaning) as I believe more will.”  To the great disturbance of the peace of the said province of New-York, to the great scandal of our said lord the king, of his excellency the said governor, and of all others concerned in the administration of the government of the said province, and against the peace of our sovereign lord the king, his crown and dignity, &c.  Whereupon the said attorney-general of our said lord the king, for our said lord the king, prays the advisement of the court here, in the premises, and the due process of the law, against him the said John Peter Zenger, in this part to be done, to answer to our said lord the king of and in the premises, &c.

R. Bradley, attorney-general.”

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Filed under 1730's, Great Britain, Legal, Newspapers, Posted by Rebecca Dresser