Category Archives: Liberty

Item of the Day: An Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1775)

Full Title: An Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the present Important Crisis of Affairs. By Catharine Macaulay. Printed by R. Cruttwell, in Bath, for Edward and Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, London, MDCCLXXV. [1775]

 

AN

ADDRESS, &C.

THE advantage of a second opportunity to correct a mistake, when the first has been neglected, is a happiness which few individuals, or bodies of men, experience; and a blessing which, if it oftener occurred in the affairs of life, would enable most of us to avoid the greater part of the misery which at present appears inseparable to the human state.

The Electors of this kingdom, however, have shewn themselves incorrigible, by recently abusing what the author of The Patriot justly calls a high dignity, and important trust; and this after a ruinous experience of the effects of a former ill-placed confidence.

It is not to be supposed, that either the beauty of justice, the interests of liberty, or the welfare of individuals, as united to the common good, can have any avail with men, who, at this important crisis of British affairs, could reject the wise example set them by the city of London, in requiring a test from those they elected in to the representative office; a test which, had it been generally taken, and religiously observed, would have dispersed the dark cloud which hangs over the empire, restored the former spendor of the nation, and given a renewed strength, vigour, and purity, to the British consitution.

Among the Electors, however, there are undoubtedly many who, by the most cruel of undue influences, –that influence which the opulent exert over the needy, have in a manner been constrained to act contrary to judgment and inclination; while there are others who have been misled by their ignorance, and the sophistry of men of better understanding. –To these, and that large body of my countrymen who are unjustly debarred the privilege of election, and, except by petition and remonstrance, have no legal means of opposing the measures of government, I address myself on the present momentous occasion.

It can be no secret to you, my friends and fellow citizens, that the minstry, after having exhausted all those ample sources of corruption which your own tameness under oppressive taxes have afforded, either fearing the unbiassed judgment of the people, or impation at the flow, but steady progress of despotism, have attempted to wrest  from our American Colonists every privilege necessary to freemen; –privileges which they hold from the authority of their charters, and the principles of the constitution.

With an entire supineness, England, Scotland, and Ireland, have seen the Americans, year by year, stripped of the most valuable of their rights; and, to the eternal shame of this country, the stamp act, by which they were to be taxed in an arbitrary manner, met with no opposition, except from those who are particularly concerned, that the commercial intercouse between Great-Britain and her Colonies should meet wih no interruption.

With the same guilty acquiescence, my countrymen, you have seen the last Parliament finish their venal course, with passing two acts for shutting up the Port of Boston, for indemnifying the murderers of the inhabitants of Massachusets-Bay, and changing their chartered constitution of government: And to shew that none of the fundamental principles of our boasted constitution are held sacred by the government or the people, the same Parliament, without any interruption either by petition or remonstrance, passed another act for changing the government of Quebec; in which the Popish religion, instead of being tolerated as stipulated by the treaty of peace, is established; in which the Canadians are deprived of the right to an assembly, and of trial by jury; in which the English laws in civil cases are abolished, the French laws established, and the crown empowered to erect arbitrary courts of judicature; and in which, for the purpose of enlarging the bound where despotism is to have is full sway, the limits of that province are extended so as to comprehend those vast regions that lie adjoining to the northerly and westerly bounds of our colonies. . . .

 

 

 

Leave a comment

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

Item of the Day: Hamilton’s Full Vindication… (1774)

Full Title: A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, From the Calumnies of their Enemies; In Answer to a Letter, Under the Signature of A. W. Farmer.  Whereby his Sophistry is exposed, his Cavils confuted, his Artifices detected, and his Wit ridiculed; In a General Address to the Inhabitants of America, And a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New-York.  [By Alexander Hamilton.]  New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774.

Friends and Countrymen,

It was hardly to be expected that any man could be so presumptuous, as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures, adopted by the congress; an assembly truly respectable on every account!–Whether we consider the characters of the men, who composed it; the number, and dignity of their constituents, or the important ends for which they were appointed.  But, however improbable such a degree of presumption might have seemed, we find there are some, in whom it exists.  Attempts are daily making to diminish the influence of their decisions, and prevent the salutary effects, intended by them.–The impotence of such insidious efforts is evident from the general indignation they are treated with; so that no material ill-consequences can be dreaded from them.  But lest they should have a tendency to mislead, and prejudice the minds of a few; it cannot be deemed altogether useless to bestow some notice upon them.

And first, let me ask these restless spirits, whence arises that violent antipathy they seem to entertain, not only to the natural rights of mankind; but to common sense and common modesty.  That they are enemies to the natural rights of mankind is manifest, because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another.  That they have an invincible aversion to common sense is apparant in many respects: They endeavour to persuade us, that the absolute sovereignty of parliament does not imply our absolute slavery; that it is a Christian duty to submit to be plundered of all we have, merely because some of our fellow-subjects are wicked enough to require it of us, that slavery, so far from being a great evil, is a great blessing; and even, that our contest with Britain is founded entirely upon the petty duty of 3 pence per pound of East India tea; wheras the whole world knows, it is built upon this interesting question, whether the inhabitants of Great-Britain have a right to dispose of the lives and property of the inhabitants of America or not?  And lastly, that these men have discarded all pretension to common modesty, is clear from hence, first because they, in the plainest terms, call an august body of men, famed for their patriotism and abilities, fools or knaves, and of course the people whom they repsented cannot be exempt from the same opprobrious appellations: and secondly, because they set themselves up as standards of wisdom and probity, by contradicting and censuring the public voice in favour of those men…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, Colonial America, Congress, Eighteenth century, Liberty, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, United States

Item of the Day: Oration… to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy (1775)

Full Title: An Oration Delivered March 6, 1775, At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston; To Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770.  By Dr. Joseph Warren.  Newport, Rhode Island: Reprinted and Sold by S. Southwick, in Queen Steet, 1775.

My Ever Honored Fellow-Citizens,

It is not without the most humiliating conviction of my want of ability that I now appear before you: But the sense I have of the obligation I am under to obey the calls of my country at all times, together with an animating recollection of your indulgence exhibited upon so many occasions, has induced me once more, undeserving as I am, to throw myself upon that candour which looks with kindness on the feeblest efforts of an honest mind.

You will not now expect elegance, the learning, the fire, the enrapturing strains of eloquence which charmed you when a Lovell, a Church, or a Hancock spake; but you will permit me to stay that with a sincerity, equal to their’s [sic], I mourn over my bleeding country: With them I weep at her distress, and with them deeply resent the many injuries she has received from the hands of cruel and unreasonable men.

That personal freedom is the natural right of every man; and that property or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labor, necessarily arising therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction.  And no man or body of men can, without being guilty of flagrant injustice, claim a right to dispose of the persons or acquisitions of any other man, or body of men, unless it can be proved that such a right has arisen from some compact between the parties in which it has been explicitly and freely granted.

If I may be indulged in taking a retrospective view of the first settlement of our country, it will be easy to determine with what degree of justice the late parliament of Great-Britain have assumed the powers of giving away that property  which the Americans have earned by their labor. 

Our fathers, having nobly resolved never to wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the European world, through indolence and cowardice, falling a prey to tyranny; bravely threw themselves upon the bosom of the ocean; determined to find a place in which they might enjoy the freedom, or perish in the glorious attempt.  Approving Heaven beheld the favourite ark dancing upon the waves, and graciously preserved it until the chosen families were brought in safety to these western regions.  They found the land swarming with savages, who threatened death with every kind of torture.  But savages, and death with torture, were far less terrible than slavery:—Nothing was so much the object of their abhorrence as a tyrant’s power:—They knew that it was more safe to dwell with man in his more unpolished state than in a country where arbitrary power prevails.  Even anarchy itself, that bugbear held up by the tools of power (though truly to be deprecated) is infinitely less dangerous to mankind than arbitrary governmentAnarchy can be but of short duration; for when men are at liberty to pursue that course which is most conducive to their own happiness, they will soon come into it, and from the rudest state of nature, order and good government must soon arise.  But tyranny, when once established, entails its curse on a nation to the latest period of time; unless some daring genius, inspired by Heaven, shall unappalled by danger, bravely form and execute the arduous design of restoring liberty and life to his enslaved, murdered country.

The tools of power in every age have racked their inventions to justify the FEW in sporting with the happiness of the MANY; and having found their sophistry too weak, to hold mankind in bondage, have impiously dared to force religion, the daughter of the king of Heaven, to become a prostitute in the service of Hell.  They taught that princes, honored with the name of christian, might bid defiance to the founder of their faith, might pillage pagan countries and deluge them with blood, only because they boasted themselves to be the disciples of that teacher who strictly charged his followers to do to others as they would that others should do unto them.   

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Liberty, Oratory, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Revolution

Item of the Day: Declaration by Representatives of the United Colonies (1775)

Full Title:

The Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North America, Now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting forth the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms.  The Letter of the Twelve United Colonies by their Delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, Their Humble Petition to his Majesty, and their Address to the People of Ireland.  Collected together for the Use of Serious Thinking Men, By Lovers of Peace.  [John Dickinson].  Read with Candour:  Judge with Impartiality.  London: Printed in the Year, MDCCLXXV.

The following is a Declaration […] taking up Arms.

If it was possible for Men, who exercise their Reason, to believe that the Divine Author of our Existence intended a part of the human Race to hold an absolute Property in, and an unbounded Power over others, marked out by his infinite Goodness and Wisdom, as the Objects of legal Domination, never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the Inhabitants of these Colonies might at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some Evidence that this dreadful Authority over them has been granted to that Body.  But a Reverence for our Great Creator, Principles of Humanity, and the Dictates of Common Sense, must convince those who reflect upon the Subject, that Government was instituted to promote the Welfare of Mankind, and ought to be administered for the Attainment of that End.  The Legislature of Great Britain, however stimulated by an inordinate Passion for a Power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very Constitution of that Kingdom, and desperate of success in any Mode of Contest, where Regard should be had to Truth, Law, or Right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic Purpose of enslaving these Colonies by Violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last Appeal, from Reason to Arms.–Yet, however blinded that Assembly may be, by their intemperate Rage for unlimited Domination, so to slight Justice and the Opinion of Mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by the Obligations of Respect to the rest of the World, to make known the Justice of our Cause.

Our Forefathers, Inhabitants of the Island of Great Britain, left their Native Land, to seek on these Shores a Residence for Civil and Religious Freedom.  At the Expence of their Blood, at the Hazard of their Fortunes, without the least Charge to the Country from which they removed, by unceasing Labour, and an unconquerable Spirit, they effected Settlements in the distant and inhospitable Wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike Nations of Barbarians.  Societies or Governments, vested with perfect Legislatures, were formed under Charters from the Crown, and an harmonious Intercourse was established between the Colonies and the Kingdom from which they derived their Origin.  The mutual Benefits of this Union became in a short Time so extraordinary, as to excite Astonishment.  It is universally confessed, that the amazing Increase of Wealth, Strength, and Navigation of the Realm, arose from this Source; and the Minister who so wisely and successful directed the Measures of Great Britain in the late War, publickly declared, that these Colonies enabled her to triumph over her enemies.–Towards the Conclusion of that War it pleased our Sovereign to make a Change in his Counsels.–From that fatal Moment the Affairs of the British Empire began to fall into Confusion, and gradually sliding from the Summit of glorious Prosperity, to which they had been advanced by the Virtues and Abilities of on Man, are at length distracted by the Convulsions that now Shake it to its deepest Foundations.  The new Ministry finding the brave Foes of Britain, tho’ frequently defeated, yet still contending, took up the unfortunate Idea of granting them a hasty Peace, and of then subduing her faithful Friends.

  

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, George III, Liberty, Posted by Matthew Williams, United States

Item of the Day: Proceedings… Abolition Societies (1797)

Full Title:

Minutes of the Proceedings of the Fourth Convention of Delegates from the Abolition Societies Established in different Parts of the United States, Assembled at Philadelphia, on the Third Day of May, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Seven, and Continued, By Adjournments, Until the Ninth Day of the Same Month, Inclusive.  Philadelphia: Printed by Zachariah Poulson, Junior, Number Eighty, Chesnutt-Street. 1797. 

May fifth, 1797. 

The committee appointed at the last meeting to take into consideration the reports from the different Abolition Societies, and to report to the Convention the measures necessary to be taken in consequence of those communications, as well as the objects proper for the attention of the Convention, and the most suitable means for their attainment, report,

I. That they have carefully attended to the communications, from several Societies, made to the Convention for the past and present years, and compared with them the recommendations and requirements of the Convention of 1796.  By the annexed table, the Convention will perceive what these requisitions and recommendations were, and how far each society has complied therewith.

II. The committee recommend it to the Convention, to address a letter or memorial to the Secretary of State of the United States, recapitulating the evidence which the records of the District Court of the United States, for the Pennsylvania District afford, of attempts made by citizens of the United States, to evade the law prohibiting our citizens from supplying foreign countries with slaves, by clandestinely using the Danish flag and registers, and praying such aid and interference of the government of the United States, with the court of Denmark, or with other governments under whose authority such practices now obtain, as may consist with propriety, for the prevention of the use of their flag or registers, by the citizens of the United States, under any pretence whatever, for the purpose of pursuing the trade in men. 

III. It appearing from the report of the Alexandria Society, that the law of the United States, entitled, “An act to prohibit the carrying of the slave-trade from the United States to any foreign place or country,” is defective, in that it does not prevent the shipment of slaves (for sale in the West Indies and elsewhere) on board vessels, not specially fitted out for that purpose–an act being thereby evaded.

The committee recommend it to the Convention, to present a memorial or petition to Congress, praying such an ammendment of the act above referred to, as may oblige the master or owner of any vessel or vessels before clearing out, to declare on oath or affirmation, that no slaves are received or taken on board said vessel or vessels, for sale in any foreign port; and as may further oblige him to enter into a recognizance or bond, with a sufficient penalty to be put in suit, and the penalty recovered, in case a sale of any slave so put on board should take place. 

IV. It appears from the papers from North Carolina, that, by a law of that state, passed in 1777, certain negroes and others, who had been previously emancipated by their proprietors, citizens of that state, were taken up, and again reduced to slavery; and this, not only where the persons so emancipated had continued in the state, but also where the emancipation had been effected in other states, and the freed-man had returned into North Carolina, to reside there: in both cases, tin direct violation of the constitution of the state.  But the committee would recommend it to the Convention to obtain the opinion of the most eminent counsel in this city, whether an action for damages, by a person emancipated in another state before the passing of the act in 1777, and who was again reduced to slavery on returning to North Carolina, could not be maintained against the purchaser or holder of such person in the Courts of the United States; or whether any, and what legal remedy may be had for persons under these circumstances, and where they were made slaves, without having quitted the state.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Early Republic, Liberty, Posted by Matthew Williams, Slavery

Item of the Day: The Law of Liberty (1775)

Full Title: The Law of Liberty. A Sermon on American Affairs, Preached at the Opening of the Provincial Congress of Georgia. Addressed to the Right Honourable The Earl of Dartmouth. With an Appendix, Giving a Concise Account of the Struggles of Swisserland [sic] to Recover their Liberty. By John J. Zubly. Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by Henry Miller, 1775. . . .

To the Right Honourable

WILLIAM HENRY,

Earl of DARTMOUTH.

My Lord,

YOUR Lordship’s appointment to be Secretary of State for the American department, by numbers that respected your Lordship’s religious character, was looked upon as a very providential and happy event. Your patronizing of religious undertakings, confirmed the general opinion, and we were happy in the expectations of your Lordship’s conscientious regard to justice and equity, as well as to the civil and religious liberties of this great Continent; we expected the cause of liberty and religion would meet with the strongest support under your administration, and in your Lordship would ever find a cosntant and successful advocate with your royal master.

Unhappily during your administration, measures have been pursued very contrary to American hopes, and we easily conceive your Lordship may think it not less strange that many friends of religion in America should be so uneasy under laws which had your Lordship’s concurrence and approbation.

It is to the Man and to the Christian I wish to be permitted to address myself: Your Lordship ranks among the highest subjects, and has a large share in all public measures, but anxiety for what may distress, and zeal for the welfare of the empire, can be no crime even in the meanest; and when a house is once in flames, every man is inexcusable, or must at least be so in his own breast, that does not contibute whatever he may think in his power to their being extinguished. The effects of the present measures are visible, and it requires no sagacity to foresee what may be the consequence, should they be continued. Your Lordship may do much towards restoring and perpetuating the tranquility of a great empire; persons of my station have nothing to offer but hints and wishes, should these be beneath your notice, or stand in need of forgiveness, my sincere wish to contibute any thing towards a just, happy and perpetual connexion between a parent state and an infant country growing apace to the most astonishing importance, must be my only apology. Pulchrum est bene facere reipublicae, sed & bene dicere non est absurdum.

The question, My Lord, which now agitates Great-Britain and America, and in which your Lordship has taken such an active part, is, whether the Parliament of Great Britain has a right to lay taxes on the Americans, who are not, and cannot, there be represented, and whether the Parliament has a right to bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever? Whatever may be said, or whatever the good people in Great-Britain may believe, this is the whole subject of the dispute. All the severities hitherto exercised upon the Americans professedly have no other view than to enforce such a dependance, and nothing less than a claim destructive of all natural and national liberty, could possibly have united all Ameria in a general opposition, or have aroused them to join all like one man in their common defence. Let a declaratory bill be passed, that any law and usage to the contrary notwithstanding, America is entitled to all the common rights of mankind and all the blessings of the British constitution, that the sword shall never be drawn to abridge, but to confirm, her birthright, and the storm instantly becomes a calm, and every American thinks himself happy to contribute to the necessities, defence and glory of Great-Britain to the utmost of his strength and power.

To bind them in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER, my Lord, the Americans look upon this as the language of despotism in its utmost perfection. What can, say they, an Emperor of Morocco pretend more of his slaves than to bind them in all cases whatsoever. Were it meant to make the Americans hewers of wood and drawers of water, were it meant to oblige them to make bricks without straw, were it meant to deprive them of the enjoyment of their religion, and to establish a hierarchy over them similar to that of the church of Rome in Canada? it would, say they, be no more than a natural consequence of the right of binding them (unseen, unheard, unrepresented) in all cases whatsoever.

My Lord, the Americans are no ideots [sic], and they appear determined not to be slaves. Oppression will make wise men mad, but oppressors in the end frequently find that they were not wise men: there may be resources even in despair sufficient to render any set of men strong enough not to be bound in all cases whatsoever. . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons

Item of the Day: The Spirit of Despotism (1795)

Full Title: The Spirit of Despotism. London: Printed in the Year 1795; Philadelphia: Re-printed by Lang and Ustick, for selves and Mathew Carey, Nov. 28, MDCCXCV. [1795]

PREFACE.

THE heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it? As far as I know my own, it feels an anxious desire to serve my fellow-creatures, during the short period of my continuance among them, by stopping the effusion of human blood, by diminishing or softening the miseries which man creates for himself, by promoting peace and by endeavoring to secure and extend civil liberty.

I attribute war, and most of the artificial evils of life, to the Spirit of Despotism, a rank poisonous weed, which grows and flourishes even in the soil of liberty, when over-run with corruption. I have attempted to eradicate it, that the salutary and pleasant plants may have room to strike root and expand their foliage.

There is one circumstance which induces me to think that, in this instance, my heart does not deceive me. I am certain, that in attempting to promote the general happiness of man, without serving any party, or paying court to any individual, I am not studying my own interest. On the contrary, I am well aware that my very subject must give offence [sic] to those who are possessed of power and patronage. I have no personal enmities, and therefore am truly concerned that I could not treat the Spirit of Despotism, without advancing opinions that must displease the nominal great. I certainly sacrifice all view of personal advance to what appears to me the public good, and flatter myself that this alone evinces the purity of my motive.

Men of feeling and good minds, whose hearts, as the phrase is, lie in the right place, will, I think, agree with me in most points; especially when a little time, and the events, now taking place, shall have dissipated the mist of passion and prejudice. Hard-hearted, proud wordlings, who love themselves only, and know no good but money and pageantry, will scarcely agree with me in any. They will be angry; but, consistently with their general haughtiness, affect contempt to hide their choler.

I pretend not to aspire at the honor of martyrdom; yet some inconveniences I am ready to bear patiently, in promoting a cause which deeply concerns the whole of the present race, and ages yet unborn. I am ready to bear patiently the proud man’s contumely, the insult of rude ignorance, the sarcasm of malice, the hired censure of the sycophantic critic, (whose preferment depends on the prostitution both of knowledge and conscience,) and the virulence of the venal newspaper. It would be a disgrace to an honest man not to incur the abuse of those who have sold their integrity and abilities to the enemies of their country and the human race. Strike, but bear, said a noble ancient. Truth will ultimately prevail, even though he who uttered it should be destroyed. Columbus was despised, rejected, persecuted; but America was discovered. Men very inconsiderable in the eye of pride, have had the honor to discover, divulge, and disseminate doctrines that have promoted the liberty and happiness of the human race. All that was rich and great, in the common acceptation of that epithet, combined against Luther; yet when pontiffs, kings, and lords had displayed an impotent rage, and sunk into that oblivion which their personal insignificance naturally led to, Luther prevailed, and his glory is immortal. He broke the chain of superstition, and weakened the bonds of despotism.

I have frequently, and from the first commencement of our present unfortunate and disgraceful hostilities, lifted up my voice–a feeble one indeed–against war, that great promoter of despotism; and while I have liberty to write, I will write for liberty. I plead weakly, indeed, but sincerely, the cause of mankind; and on them, under God, I rely for protection against that merciless SPIRIT which I attempt to explode.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Eighteenth century, Government, Liberty, Political Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Proceedings on the Trial against John Stockdale (1790)

Full Title: The Whole Proceedings on the Trial of an Information Exhibited Ex Officio, by the King’s Attorney General, against John Stockdale; for a Libel on the House of Commons, Tried in the Court of King’s-Bench Westminster, on Wednesday, the Ninth of December, 1789, before the Right Hon. Lloyed Lord Kenyon, Chief Justice of England. Tanken in Short Hand by Joseph Gurney. To which is subjoined, An Argument in Support of the Rights of Juries. London: Printed for John Stockdale, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M,DCC,XC.

 

PREFACE.

The Pamphlet which gave rise to the following Trial, was written by the Reverend Mr. Logan, some time one of the ministers of Leith, near Edinburgh; — “A gentleman formed to be the ornament and instructor of the age in which he lived: All his writings are distinguished by the segacity of their reasonings, the brilliancy of their imaginations, and the depth of their philosophical principles. Though cut off in the flower of his age, while the prosecution against his publisher was depending, he left behind himseveral respectable productions, and particularly Elements of Lectures upon the Philosophy of Ancient History; which, though imperfect, and unfinished, will afford to the discerning, sufficient reason to regret that his talents did not remain to be matured by age, and expanded by the fostering breath of public applause.”

Such is the character, given of Mr. Logan in the last New Annual Register; but as his Review of the Charges against Mr. Hastings has made so much noise in the world, it may not be uninteresting to state by what means, he became so intimately acquainted, with the politics of India.

For some time previous to his decease, Mr. Logan was the principal author of that part of the English Review, which gives the general state of foreign and domestic politics. The enquiries in the House of Commons, which led to the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, formed very naturally the most material part of that Review for a considerable time; and his Strictures upon the arguments, and the decision on the Benares and the Begum charges, are written with great force and elegance; and contain reflections infinitely more pointed, than any of those which Mr. Fox objected to in his pamphlet.

Having qualified himself by the information that he had acquired, from intense application, to give the world what he conceived to be a fair and impartial account of the administration of Mr. Hastings, he sat down voluntarily, without a wish or prospect of personal advantage, to examine those articles which had been presented to the House of Commons by the Managers, then a Committee of Secresy, and which now form the articles before the Lords. When he had compleated his pamphlet, he submitted it in manuscript to the perusal of a gentleman, who is intimately connected with Mr. Hastings. That gentleman was certainly very ill qualified to advise him, as a lawyer; it never having entered into his imagination, that after the torrent of abuse that had been poured out upon Mr. Hastings, for years, any thing said in reply could be deemed libellous, and therefore he merely examined whether Mr. Logan was correct in his statement of facts, and communicated to him every particular relative to the last thirteen articles. Not satisfied with this communication, Mr. Logan examined the votes and the speeches, as printed and circulated throughout Great Britain. After an accurate investigation, he thought himself justified in inserting in his pamphlet, what a member had said in the House, that the Commons had voted thirteen out of twenty articles, without reading them.

The booksellar to whom Mr. Logan originally presented him pahmphet, offered a sum for it, which he conceived so inadequate to its importance, that he carried it to Mr. Stockdale, to whom he gave it; taking for himself a few copies only, which were sent in his name to men of the first eminence in letters, both in London and Edinburgh.

After it had been some time in circulation, and read with great avidity, it was publicly complained of by Mr. Fox. That gentleman quoted what he conceived to be the libellous passages. The following day he moved an address to his Majesty, to direct his Attorney General to prosecute the authors and publishers, and the motion was carried nemine contradicente; but owing to the sickness of the principal witness, the trial was deferred for nearly two years. This prosecution which has been attended with a very heavy expence to Mr. Stockdale, and has been nearly two years depending, hath excited universal attention.

The acknowledged accuraacy of Mr. Gurney, is too well known to require any particular praise on this occasion; but it never was more remarkable than in the present instance; yet the eloquent and excellent speech of Mr. Erskine, will appear to great disadvantage to those who had the good fortune to hear it, so much, even the best speeches depend upon the power of delivery. It was spoke in as croweded a Court, as ever appeared in the King’s-Bench. The exertions of that gentleman in support of his clients are too well known, to acquire new force from any thing that can be said of him here; but on no occasion, and at no period, did he display those wonderful abilities that he possesses in a higher degree, and Mr. Erskine will be quoted as the steady friend, and supporter of the Constitutional Rights of the people of Great-Britain, as long as the sacred flame of Liberty shall animate the breast of an Englishman.

The result of this Trial proves how dangerous to public liberty it would be, were any body of men, parties and judges in their own cause. No good subject will call into question unnecessarily, any of the privileges claimed by the House of Commons; but if in the instance before us, the House, consulting former prededents, had taken upon itself to state the crime, and to pronounce judgment, a British subject might have been seized and imprisoned some months, probably to the ruin of himself and his family, without the possibility of reparation. It may therefore with the greatest truth be observed, that the exertions of Mr. Erskine, and by the decision of this prosecution, the Freedom of the Press, and the Liberty of the Subject, are fully secured.

January 13th, 1790.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, England, Legal, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Press, Printing, Trials

Item of the Day: Beccaria’s Crimes and Punishments (1788)

Full Title:

An Essay on Crimes and Punishments The Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected.

Written by Cesare Beccaria. Printed in Edinburgh by James Donaldson, 1788.

Chap. VIII.

Of the Division of Crimes.

We have proved, then, that crimes are to be estimated by the injury done to society. This is one of those palpable truths, which, though evident to the meanest capacity, yet, by a combination of circumstances, are only known to a few thinking men in every nation, and in every age. But opinions, worthy of the despotism of Asia, and passions armed with power and authority, have, generally by insensible and sometimes violent impressions on the timid credulity of men, effaced those simple ideas which perhaps constituted the first philosophy of infant society. Happily the philosophy of the present enlightened age seems again to conduct us to the same principles, and with that degree of certainty which is obtained by a rational examination and repeated experience.

A scrupulous adherence to order would require, that we should now examine and distinguish the different species of crimes, and the modes of punishment; but they are so variable in their nature, from the different circumstances of ages and countries, that the detail will be tiresome and endless. It will be sufficient for my purpose to point out the more general principles, and the most common and dangerous errors, in order to undeceive, as well those who, from a mistaken zeal for liberty, would introduce anarchy and confusion, as those who pretend to reduce society in general to the regularity of a convent.

Some crimes are immediately destructive of society, or its representative; others attack the private security of the life, property, or honour of individuals; and a third class consists of such actions as are contrary to the laws which relate to the general good of the community.

The first, which are of the highest degree, as they are most destructive to society, are called crimes of Leze-majesty*. Tyranny and ignorance, which have confounded the clearest terms and ideas, have given this appellation to crimes of a different nature, and consequently have established the same punishment for each; and on this occasion, as on a thousand others, men have been sacrificed victims to a word. Every crime, even of the most private nature, injures society; but every crime does not threaten its immediate destruction. Moral, as well as physical actions, have their sphere of activity differently circumscribed, like all the movements of nature, by time and space; it is therefore a sophistical interpretation, the common philosophy of slaves, that would confound the limits of things established by eternal truth.

To these succeed crimes which are destructive to the security of individuals. This security being the principle end of all society, and to which every citizen hath an undoubted right, it becomes indispensibly necessary, that to these crimes the greatest of punishments should be assigned.

The opinion, that every member of society has a right to do anything that is not contrary to the laws, without fearing any other inconveniencies than those which are the natural consequences of the action itself, is a political dogma, which should be defended by the laws, inculcated by the magistrates, and believed by the people; a sacred dogma, without which there can be no lawful society; a just recompence for our sacrifice of that universal liberty of action, common to all sensible beings, and only limited by our natural powers. By this principle, our minds become free, active, and vigorous; by this alone we are inspired with that virtue which knows no fear, so different from that pliant prudence, worthy of those only who can bear a precarious existence.

Attempts, therefore, against the life and liberty of a citizen, are crimes of the highest nature. Under this head we comprehend not only assassinations and robberies committed by the populace, but by grandees and magistrates; whose example acts with more force, and at a greater distance, destroying the ideas of justice and duty among the subjects, and substituting that of the right of the strongest, equally dangerous to those who exercise it, and to those who suffer. 

* High-treason.  

Leave a comment

Filed under 1780's, Legal, Liberty, Political Commentary, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Full Title: Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness. By William Godwin. First American from the Second London Edition Corrected. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Printed by Bioren and Madan. 1796.

 An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. Book I. Of the Powers of Man Considered in his Social Capacity.

Chapter II. History of Political Society.

The extent of the influence of political systems will be forcibly illustrated to us in a concise recollection of the records of political society.

It is an old observation, that the history of mankind is little else than a record of crimes. Society comes recommended to us by its tendency to supply our wants and promote our well being. If we consider that human species, as they were found previously to the existence of political society, it is difficult not to be impressed with emotions of melancholy. But, though the chief purpose of society is to defend us from want and inconvenience, it effects this purpose in a very imperfect degree. We are still liable to casualties, disease, infirmity and death. Famine destroys its thousands, pestilence its myriads. Anguish visits us under every variety of form, and day after day is spent in languor and dissatisfaction. Exquisite pleasure is a guest of very rare approach and not less than short continuance.

But, though the evils that arise to us from the structure of the material universe are neither trivial nor few, yet the history of political society sufficiently shows that man is of all other beings the most formidable enemy to man. Among the various schemes that he has formed to destroy and plague his kind, war is the most terrible. Satiated with petty mischief and the nauseous details of crimes, he rises in this instance to a project that lays nations waste, and thins the population of the world. Man directs the murderous engine against the life of his brother; he invents with indefatigable care refinements in destruction; he proceeds in the midst of gaiety and pomp to the execution of his horrid purpose: whole ranks of sensitive beings endowed with the most admirable faculties are mowed down in an instant; they perish by inches in the midst of agony and neglect, lacerated with every variety of method that can give torture to the frame.

This is indeed a tremendous scene! Are we permitted to console ourselves under the spectacle of its evils, by the rareness with which it occurs, and the forcible reasons that compel men to have recourse to this last appeal of human society? Let us consider it under each of these heads.

War has hitherto been considered as the inseparable ally of political institution. The earliest records of time are the annals of conquerors and heroes, a Bachus, a Sesostris, a Semiramis, and a Cyrus.  These princes led millions of men under their standard, and ravaged innumerable provinces. A small number only of their forces ever returned to their native homes, the rest having perished of diseases, hardships and misery. The evils they inflicted, and the mortality introduced in the countries against which their expeditions were directed, were certainly not less severe than those which their countrymen suffered.

No sooner does history become more precise, than we are presented with the four great monarchies, that is, with four successful projects, by means of bloodshed, violence, and murder, of enslaving mankind. The expeditions of Cambyses against Egypt, of Darius against the Scythians, and of Xerxes against the Greeks, seem almost to set credibility at defiance by the fatal consequences with which they were attended. The conquests of Alexander cost innumerable lives, and the immortality of Caesar is computed to have been purchased by the death of one million two hundred thousand men.

Indeed the Romans, by the long duration of their wars, and their inflexible adherence to their purpose, are to be ranked among the foremost destroyers of the human species. Their wars in Italy continued for more than four hundred years, and their contest for supremacy with the Carthaginians, two hundred. The Mithridatic war began with a massacre of one hundred and fifty thousand Romans, and in three single actions five hundred thousand men were lost by the Eastern monarch. Sylla, his ferocious conqueror, next turned his arms against his country, and the struggle between him and Marius was attended with proscriptions, butcheries, and murders that that knew no restraint from humanity or shame. The Romans, at length suffered the penalty of their iniquitous deeds; and the world was vexed for three hundred years by the irruptions of Goths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Huns, and innumerable hordes of barbarians.

I forbear to detail the victorious progress of Mahomet and the pious expeditions of Charlemagne. I will not enumerate the crusades against the infidels, the exploits of Aurungzebe, Gengiskan and Tamerlane, or the extensive murders of the Spaniards in the new world. Let us examine Europe, the most civilized and favoured quarter of the world, or even those countries of Europe which are thought most enlightened.

France was wasted by successive battles during a whole century, for the question of salic law, and the claim of the Plantagenets. Scarcely was this contest terminated, before the religious wars broke out, some idea of which we may form from the siege of Rochelle, where of fifteen thousand persons shut up eleven thousand perished of hunger and misery; and from the malice of Saint Bartholomew, in which the numbers assassinated were forty thousand. This quarrel was appeased by Henry the fourth, and succeeded by the thirty years war in Germany for superiority with the house of Austria, and afterwards by the military transactions of Louis the fourteenth.

In England…

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Government, History, Liberty, Political Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams