Category Archives: Posted by Matthew Williams

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.   

 

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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.

  

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

Item of the Day: Trial of Sykes for Bribery (1776)

Full Title: The Trial of the Cause on the Action Brought by Hans Winthrop Mortimer, Esq; Member for the Borough of Shaftesbury, Against Francis Sykes, Esq; for Bribery Committed at Shaftesbury, Previous to the General Election, in October, 1774.  Tried by a Special Jury, on Saturday the 27th of July, 1776.  At the Assize held at Dorchester for the County of Dorset, Before the Honourable Sir James Eyre, One of the Barons of His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer.  Printed in the Year M.DCC.LXXVI.

[…]  The Declaration, &c. were opened by Mr. Buller.

Mr. Dunning.

May it please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury, I am likewise council for Mr. Mortimer, who brings this action, by which he claims of the defendant no less a sum than 13000 l. which is the amount of 26 penalties incurred by Mr. Sykes, by those practices which he is now charged to have used at the late election for Shaftesbury.–The fame of the Shaftesbury election, which has been very much spread throughout this kingdom, must have brought you to a general knowledge of the sort of practices to distinguish that borough from other boroughs at the late election.  The flagrancy, notoriety, and openness in which this business was conducted at Shaftesbury, has rendered, and will continue to render that borough infamous, unless others are induced to follow the same example by the impunity with which these escape the consequences they have incurred by that sort of conduct.–Gentlemen, it now remains with you, whether that encouragement shall be afforded to other boroughs, or upon the contrary you will set such example, as will contribute to deter other places and persons from finding themselves in that predicament in which this borough stands, and in which the object of this prosecution, Mr. Sykes, stands personally.

Gentlemen, Mr. Sykes was originally a stranger to this country;–he found out a way to come into it by a purchase which he made in the neighborhood of Shaftesbury some years ago.–From the situation of that purchase, and from the reputation which Mr. Sykes’s fortune spread throughout that country, it is natural to suppose that if Mr. Sykes had been content to wait for the not very tardy operation of those circumstances, his object might, without much difficulty, have been obtained from Shaftesbury.  But whether it was an oriental idea that requires the same thing to be done at once, which in a plainer and simpler manner would be done in a little time, no great time however, or whether the object was more desirable from that manner of obtaining it, I don’t know; but you will find he was hardly possessed of this property in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury.

Gentlemen, Mr. Sykes represented Mr. Shaftesbury in the last parliament; but it seems that it was not then permitted to him to name his colleague.–He signified his displeasure, and the resolution he had formed in his mind, which he would carry into execution the first opportunity, as will be expressly proved to you by the witnesses present with him at the time he intimated his then resolution and determination; which was to appropriate the whole representation of Shaftesbury to himself and colleague; and that he would do if it were to cost him that manor, which had cost him 40,000 l. or would add that, if necessary, twice as much more.–You will presently see the consequence of those sort of speeches, though they seemed to be rather unguarded.–A little attention to the manners of that country from which Mr. Sykes imported those ideas, will easily convince you of his ability with respect to fortune.–These things will appear very clearly in evidence, if found necessary to lay them before you.–As occasions presented themselves, there was repetitions of these declarations, and a variety of acts indicating his intention to pursue those measures and they grew more and more frequent, preparatory to the last election: and there was a great deal of manoeuvre made use of, which is unnecessary to be explained in the present stage of this business.–As the election drew near, the necessary engine for the purpose of accomplishing those designs was provided, which was a large sum of money.–We shall prove the manner it was collected, conveyed, and distributed.–I shall at present state the evidence that we be given in a future stage of the cause.–It is unnecessary for me to trouble you with observations upon this sort of case, knowing you will be beforehand in all those observations;–for it is impossible such a case can be stated and proved to an intelligent jury, that would not incite in their minds all those things which are necessary for them to consider.   

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Filed under 1770's, Great Britain, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Pitt’s Political Debates

Full Title:

Political Debates.  [Featuring William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham]  “Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my opinion.  It is, that the Stamp Act be REPEALED ABSOLUTELY, TOTALLY, andIMMEDIATELY.” The Great Commoner.  A Paris, Chez J. W. Imprimeur, Rue du Colombier Fauxbourg St. Germain, a l’Hotel de Saxe. M DCC LXVI. [Prix 30 Sous.] Avec Approbation, & Privilege

It is necessary to inform the reader, that some time before the meeting of parliament, a report had been artfully propogated, that the ministry had changed their minds with regard to the Stamp-Act, and, instead of repealing, were resolved to enforce it.  If it could be proved, that this report did not come originally from the favourites of a certain northern nobleman, yet it was certainly much indebted to them for its progress, which was so great as to affect the stocks.

The king’s speech to the parliament on the 14th of January, 1766, gave some colour to the suggestion; but when the gentleman had spoke who moved for the address, and who seconded it, nothing could be clearer, than that the ministry persisted in their intention to promote the repeal.  The friends of the late ministry applauded the king’s speech, and approved of the proposed address, which, as usual, only recapitulated the speech.

The opposition took great offence at the tenderness of the expression, that the first gentlemen had made use of concerning America.  Mr. Nugent particularly insisted, “That the HONOR and dignity of the kingdom obliged us to compel the execution of the Stamp-Act, except the right was acknowledged, and the repeal solicited as a favour.  He computed the expence of the troops now employed in America for their defence, as he called it, to amount to nine-pence in the pound of our land-tax; while the produce of the Stamp-Act would not raise a shilling a head on the inhabitants of America; but that a pepper-corn, in acknowledgement of the right. was of more value than millions without.  He expatriated on the extreme ingratitude of the colonies; and concluded, with charging the ministry with encouraging petitions to parliament, and instructions to members from the trading and manufacturing towns, against the Act.”

Mr. Pitt was the next speaker.  Every friend of his country rejoiced to see him again in that house, and more so, in such perfect health.  As he always begins very low, and as every body was in agitation at his first rising, his introduction was not heard, ’till he said, “I came to town today; I was a stranger to the tenor of his majesty’s speech, and the proposed address, ’till I heard them read in this house.  Unconnected and unconsulted, I have not the means of information; I am fearful of offending through mistake, and therefore beg to be indulged with a second reading of the proposed address.”  The address being read, Mr. Pitt went on:–“He commended the king’s speech, approved of the address in answer, as it decided nothing, every gentleman being left at perfect liberty to take such  a part concerning America, as he might afterwards see fit.  One word only he could not approve of, and EARLY, is a word that does not belong to the notice the ministry have given to parliament of the troubles in America.  In a matter of such importance, the communication ought to have been immediate:  I speak not with respect to parties; I stand up in this place single and unconnected.  As to the late ministry, (turning himself to Mr. G—-lle, who sat within one of him) every capital measure they have taken, has been entirely wrong!”

 

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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, George III, Government, Posted by Matthew Williams, Stamp Act

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.

 

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

Item of the Day: Abingdon’s Thoughts on Burke’s Letter (1777)

Full Title:

Thoughts on the Letter of Edmund Burke, Esq; to the Sheriffs of Bristol, on the Affairs of America.  By the Earl of Abingdon.  Oxford: Printed for W. Jackson: Sold by J. Almon, in Piccadilly, and J. Bew, in Peternastor-Row, London; and by the Booksellers of Bristol, Bath, and Cambridge. [Price One Shilling] 1777.

Having seen Mr. Burke’s late Publication on the affairs of America, I was led to read it with all that attention which every performance of his must necessarily deserve.  I sympathise most cordially with him in those feelings of humanity, which mark, in language so expressive, the abhorrence of his nature with the effusion of Human Blood.  I agree with him in idea, that the War with America is “fruitless, hopeless, and unnatural”; and I will add, on the part of Great-Britain, cruel and unjust.  I join hand in hand with him in all his propositions for Peace; and I look with longing eyes for the event.  I participate with him in the happiness of those friendships and connexions, which are the subjects, so deservedly, of his panegyric.  The name of Rockingham is a sacred deposit in my bosom.  I have found him disinterested, I know him to be honest.  Before I quit him therefore, I will first abandon human nature.

So far then are Mr. Burke and I agreed.  I am sorry that we should disagree in anything.  But finding that we have differed, on a late occasion, in our parliamentary conduct; and that I cannot concur with him in opinion on a matter, as I think, of great national importance: it is therefore not in the zeal of party, but in the spirit of patriotism, not to confute, but to be convinced, not to point out error, but to arrive at truth, that I now venture to submit my thoughts to the Public.  I feel the weight of the undertaking, and I wish it in abler hands.  I am not insensible to my own incapacity, and I know how much I stand in need of excuse: but as public good is my object, public candor, I trust, will be my best apologist.

Mr. Burke commences hi Letter with the mention of “the two last Acts which have been passed with regard to the Troubles in America.”  The first is, “for the Letter of Marque,” the second, “for a partial suspension of Habeus Corpus.”  Of the former, he says littler, as not worthy of much notice.  Of the latter, his distinctions are nice, his strictures many, his objections unanswerable; and yet, although so well apprised of the dangers and mischiefs of the Act, he says, “I have not debated against this Bill in its progress through the House, because it would have been vain to oppose, and impossible to correct ti.”  But this is a matter of inquiry.  As I thought differently, I acted differently.  Being in the country, this Bill was in its way through the House of Lords before I knew any thing of it.  Upon my coming accidentally to town, and hearing of its malignity, I went down to the House, opposed it, and entered my solemn protest in the Journals against it.  It is true, I stood single and alone in this business; but I do not therefore take shame to myself.  Rectitude of intention will even sanctify error.  But Mr. Burke says, “During its progress through the House of Commons, it has been amended, so as to express more distinctly than at first it did, the avowed sentiments of those who framed it.”  Now if the Bill was amended in its progress through the House of Commons, Mr. Burke’s reason “for not debating against the Bill” cannot be well founded; for his reason is, “that it would have been vain to oppose, and impossible to correct it:” but to amend a thing is to correct it; and therefore it the Bill was amended, it was not impossible to correct it

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Great Britain, Letters, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Rush on Bloodletting (1789)

Full Title:

Medical Inquiries and Observations.  To which is added an Appendix, containing Observations on the Duties of a Physician, and the Methods of improving Medicine.  By Benjamin Ruch, M. D. Professor of Chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania.  The Second Edition.  Philadelphia, printed.  London, reprinted for C. Dilly, in the Poultry, MDCCLXXXIX.

An Account of the Effects of Blisters and Bleeding, In the Cure of Obstinate Intermitting Fevers.

The efficacy of these remedies will probably be disputed by every regular-bred physician, who has been a witness of their utility in the above disorder; but it becomes such physicians, before they decide upon this subject, to remember, that many things are true in medicine, as well as other branches of philosophy, which are very improbable. 

In all those cases of autumnal intermittents, whether quotidian, tertian, or quartan, in which the bark did not succeed after three or four days trial, I have seldom found it fail after the application of blisters to the wrists.

But in those cases where blisters had been neglected, or applied without effect, and where the disease had been protracted into the wintermonths, I have generally cured it by means of one or two moderate bleedings. 

The pulse in those cases is generally full, and sometimes a little hard, and the blood when drawn for the most part appears sizy. 

The bark is seldom necessary to prevent the return of the disorder.  It is always ineffectual, where bloodletting is indicated.  I have known several instances where pounds of this medicine have been taken without effect, in which the loss of ten or twelve ounces of blood has immediately cured the disorder.

How shall we reconcile the practice of bleeding in intermittents, with our modern theories of fever?

May not the long continuance of an intermittent, by debilitating the system, produce such an irritability in the arteries, as to dispose them to the species of inflammatory diathesis which is founded on indirect debility?  Or,

May not such congestions be formed in the viscera, as to produce the same species of inflammatory diathesis which occurs in several other inflammatory diseases?

Doctor Cullen has taught us, in his account of chronic hepatitis, that there may be topical affection and inflammatory diathesis, without much pain or fever; and had I not witnessed several cases of this kind, I should have been forced to have believed it possible, not only in this disorder, but in many others, from the facts which were communicated to me by Doctor Michaelis in his visit to Philadelphia in the year 1783.

I once intended to have added to this account of the efficacy of blisters and bleeding in curing obstinate intermittents, testimonies from a number of medical gentlemen, of the success with which they have used them; but these vouchers have become so numerous, that they would swell this essay far beyond the limits I wish to prescribe to it.   

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Filed under 1780's, Medicine, Posted by Matthew Williams, United States

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse (1775)

Full Title:

Mr. Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse.  A Discourse Preached December 15th 1774.  Being the Day Recommended by the Provincial Congress; and Afterwards at the Boston Lecture.  By William Gordon.  Pastor of the Third Church of Roxbury.  Boston:  Printed for, and sold by Thomas Leverett, in Corn-Hill.  1775.

From Lam. III. 22.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his companions fail not.

The pulpit is devoted, in general, to more important purposes, than the fate of kingdoms, or the civil rights of human nature; being intended, to recover men from the slavery of sin and satan–to point out their escape from future misery, through faith in a crucified Jesus–and to assist them in their preparations for eternal blessedness:  But still, there are special times and seasons when it may treat of politics.  And surely, if it is allowable for some who occupy it, by preaching up the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, to vilify the principles, and to sap the foundations of that glorious revolution, that exalted the house of Hanover to the British throne; it ought to be no transgression in others, nor be construed into a want of loyalty, to speak consistently with those approved tenets, that have made George the third, the first of European sovereigns, who otherwise, with all his personal virtues, might have lived an obscure Elector. 

Having then, the past morning of this provincial thanksgiving, accommodated the text to the case of individuals, I shall now dedicate it, according to its original intention, to the service of the public, the situation of whose affairs, is, both distressing and alarming.

The capital of the colony is barbarously treated, pretendedly for a crime, but actually, for the noble stand she has made in favor of liberty, against the partisans of slavery.  She has distinguished herself by an animated opposition to arbitrary and unconstitutional proceedings; and therefore has been markt out, by ministerial vengeance, to be made an example of, whereby to terrify other American cities into a tame submission.  She is an example–and, thanks to heaven! an example of patience and fortitude, to the no small mortification of her enemies, whose own base feelings led them to imagine, that she would immediately become an abject supplicant for royal favour, tho’ at the expence of natural and charter’d rights.  May some future historian, the friend of mankind and citizen of the world, have to record in his faithful and ever-living page, that she never truckled, though British sailors and soldiers, contrary to their natural affection for the cause of liberty, were basely employed to intimidate her; but perseveringly held out, through the fiery trial, ’till a revolution of men and measures brought on her deliverance!

But it is not the capital alone that suffers.  The late venal Parliament, in compliance with the directions of administration, have, under the false colour of regulating the government of the colony, mutilated its charter, and conveyed dangerous power to individuals, for the enforcing and maintaining those encroachments, that they have ventured, in defiance of common equity, to make upon the rights of a free people.–And had not the calmness and prudence of others supplied their lack of wisdom, the country might by this time have become an Aceldama.

Upon the principles, which the British legislature have adopted in their late extraordinary proceedings, I see not, how we can be certain of any one privilege–nor what hinders our being really in a state of slavery to an aggregate of masters, whose tyranny may be worse than that of a single despot–nor that a man can with propriety say, his soul’s his own, and not the spring to move his bodily machine, in the performance of whatever drudgery his lords may appoint–nor that the public have a permanent and valuable constitution.  If the British legislature is the constitution, or superior to the constitution, Magna Charta, the bill of rights, and the protestant succession, these boasts of Britons, are the toys to please the vulgar, and not solid securities[…]

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Revolution, Sermons, United States

Item of the Day: Akenside’s Poems (1772)

Full Title:

The Poems of Mark Akenside, M. D.  London, Printed by W. Bowyer and J Nichols: And Sold by J. Dodsley, In Pall Mall.  MDCCLXXII.

The Pleasures of the Imagination: Book the Second.

Introduction to this more difficult part of the subject.  Of truth and its three classes, matter of fact, experimental or scientifical truth, (contradistinguished from opinion) and universal truth: which last is either metaphysical or geometrical, either purely intellectual or purely abstracted.  On the power of discerning truth depends that of acting with the view of an end; a cicumstance essential to virtue.  Of virtue, considered in the divine mind as a perpetual and universal beneficence.  Of human virtue, considered as a system of particular sentiments and actions, suitable to the design of providence and the condition of man; to whom it constitutes the chief good and the first beauty.  Of vice and its origin.  Of ridicule: its general nature and first cause.  Of the passions; particularly of those which relate to evil natural or moral, and which are generally accounted painful, though not always unattended with pleasure.   

Thus far of beauty and the pleasing forms

Which man’s untutor’d fancy, from the scenes

Imperfect of this ever-changing world,

Creates; and views, inamor’d. Now my song

Severer themes demand: mysterious truth;

And virtue, sovran good: the spells, the trains,

The progeny of error: the dread sway

Of passion; and whatever hidden stores

From her own lofty deeds and from herself

The mind acquires.  Severer argument:

Not less attractive; nor deserving less

A constant ear.  For what are all the forms

Educ’d by fancy from corporeal things,

Greatness, or pomp, or symmetry of parts?

Not tending to the heart, soon feeble grows,

As the blunt arrow ’gainst the knotty trunk,

Their impulse on the sense: while the pall’d eye

Expects in vain its tribute; asks in vain,

Where are the ornaments it once admir’d?

Not so the moral species, nor the powers

Of passion and of thought.  The ambitious mind

With objects boundless as her own desires

Can there converse: by these unfading forms

Touch’d and awaken’d still, with eager act

She bends each nerve, and meditates well-pleas’d

Her gifts, her godlike fortune.  Such the scenes

Now opening round us.  May the destin’d verse

Maintain its equal tenor, though in tracts

Obscure and arduous.  May the source of light

All-present, all sufficient, guide our steps

Through every maze: and whom in childish years

From the loud throng, the beaten paths of wealth

And power, thou did’st apart send forth to speak

In tuneful words concerning highest things,

Him still do thou, o father, at those hours

Of pensive freedom, when the human soul

Shuts out the rumour of the world, him still

Touch thou with secret lessons: call thou back

Each erring thought; and let the yielding strains

From his full bosom, like a welcome rill

Spontaneous from its healthy fountain, flow […]

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Filed under 1770's, Eighteenth century, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Franklin on the Slave Trade (1790/1836)

Full Title:

The Works of Benjamin Franklin; Containing Several Political and Historical Tracts Not Included in Any Former Edition, And Many Letters Official and Private Not Hitherto Published; with Notes and A Life of the Author.  By Jared Sparks.  Volume II [of 9].  Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company. 

On The Slave Trade.

To the Editor of the Federal Gazette. 

March 23rd, 1790.

Sir,

Reading last night in your excellent paper the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress against their meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of the slaves, it put me in mind of a similar one made about one hundred years since by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin’s Account of his Consulship, anno 1687.  It was against granting the petition of the sect called Erika, or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery as being unjust.  Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it.  If, therefore, some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only show that men’s interests and intellects operate and are operated on with surprising similarity in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances.  The African’s speech, as translated, is as follows.

Allah Bismallah, &c.  God is great, and Mahomet is his Prophet.

“Have these Erika considered the consequences of granting this petition?  If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us?  If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who in this hot climate are to cultivate our lands?  Who are to perform the common labors of our city, and in our families?  Must we not then be our own slaves?  And is there not more compassion and more favor due to us as Mussulmen, than to these Christian dogs?  We have now above fifty thousand slaves in and near Algiers.  This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated.  If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half; and the revenue of government arising from its share of prizes be totally destroyed!  And for what?  To gratify the whims of a whimsical sect, who would have us, not only forbear making more slaves, but even manumit those we have. 

“But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss?  Will the state do it?  Is our treasury sufficient?  Will the Erika do it?  Can they do it?  Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners?  And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them?  Few of them will return to their countries; they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to; they will not embrace our holy religion; they will not adopt our manners; our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them.  Must we maintain them as beggars in our streets, or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage?  For men accustomed to slavery will not work for a livelihood when not compelled.  And what is there so pitiable in their present condition?  Were they not slaves in their own countries?

“Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception?  Even England treats its sailors as slaves; for they are, whenever the government pleases, seized, and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight, for small wages, or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us.  Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands?  No; they have only exchanged one slavery for another, and I may say a better; for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls.  Those who remain at home have not that happiness.  Sending the slaves home then would be sending them out of the light and into darkness.

“I repeat the question, What is to be done with them?  I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labor without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them.  While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing, and they are treated with humanity.  The laborers in their own country are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged, and clothed.  The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no further improvement.  Here their lives are in safety.  They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s Christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries.  If some of the religious mad bigots, who now tease us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity, that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burden of a load of sins, and a hope, from the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation.

“How grossly are they mistaken to suppose slavery to be disallowed by the Alcoran!  Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, ‘Masters, treat your slaves with kindness; Slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity,’ clear proofs to the contrary?  Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world, and all it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they conquer it.  Let us then hear not more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of Christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government and producing general confusion.  I have therefore no doubt, but this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition.”      

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to the resolution; “The doctrine, that plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, is as best problematical; but that it is in the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear; therefore let the petition be rejected.”

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the Parliament of England for abolishing the slave-trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion?  I am, Sir, your constant reader and humble servant,

HISTORICUS.

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Filed under 1790's, 1830's, Early Republic, Eighteenth century, Foreign Relations, Government, Islam, Koran, Letters, Newspapers, Posted by Matthew Williams, Slavery