Daily Archives: January 11, 2008

Item of the Day: Considerations on the Nature and the Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament (1774)

Full Title: Considerations on the Nature and the Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by William and Thomas Bradford, at the London Coffee-House, M.DCC.LXXIV. [1774]


THE following sheets were written during the late Non-Importation Agreement: But that Agreement being dissolved before they were ready for the Press, it was then judged unseasonable to publish them. Many will, perhaps. be surprised to see the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament over the Colonies denied in every instance. Those the writer informs, that, when he began this piece, he would probably have been surprised at such an opinion of himself; for, that it was the result, and not the occasion, of his disquisitions. He entered upon them with a view and expectation of being able to trace some constitutional Line between those cases, in which we ought, and those in which we ought not, to acknowledge the power of Parliament over us. In the prosecution of his enquiries, he became fully convinced, that such a Line does not exist; and that there can be no medium between acknowledging and denying that power in all cases. Which of these two alternatives is most consistent with the principles of Liberty, and with the happiness of the Colonies, let the public determine. To them the writer submits his sentiments, with that respectful deference to their judgment, which, in all questions affecting them, every individual should pay.

August 17, 1774.


No question can be more important to Great-Britain, and to the Colonies, than this — Does the legislative authority of the British Parliament extend over them?

On the resolution of this question, and on the measures which a resolution of it will direct, will depend, whether the Parent Country, like a happy Mother, shall behold her Children flourishing around her, and receive the most grateful returns for her protection and love; or whether, like step-dame, rendered miserable by her own unkind conduct, she shall see their affections alienated, and herself deprived of those advanges [sic], which a milder treatment would have ensured to her.

The British nation are generous: They love to enjoy freedom: They love to behold it: Slavery is their greatest abhorrence: Is it possible then, that they would wish themselves the authors of it? No. Oppression is not a plant of the British soil; and the late severe proceedings against the Colonies must have arisen from the detestable schemes of interested Ministers, who have misinformed and misled the people. A regard for that nation, from whom we have sprung, and from whom we boast to have derived the spirit, which prompts us to oppose their unfriendly measures, must lead us to put this construction on what we have lately seen and experienced. When therefore, they shall know and consider the justice of our claim–that we insist only upon being treated as Freemen, and as the Descendants of those British ancestors, whose memory we will not dishonour by our degeneracy, it is reasonable to hope, that they will approve of our conduct, and bestow their loudest applauses on our congenial ardour for Liberty.

But if these reasonable and joyful hopes should fatally be disappointed, it will afford us at least some satisfaction to know, that the principles on which we have founded our opposition to the late Acts of Parliament, are the principles;es of justice and freedom, and the British constitution. If our righteous struggle shall be attended with misfortunes, we will reflect with exultation on the noble cause of them; and while suffering unmerited distress, think ourselves superior to the proudest slaves. On the contrary, if we shall be re-instated in the enjoyment of those rights, to which were are entitled by the supreme and controulable [sic] laws of nature, and the fundamental principles of the British constitution, we shall reap the glorious fruit of our labours; and we shall, at the same time, give to the world, and to posterity, and instructive example, that the cause of liberty ought not to be despaired of, and that a generous contention in that cause is not always unattended with success. . . .



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Filed under 1770's, Colonial America, Government, Great Britain, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs