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attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by chicane,1 what they think the only advantage worth living for. This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth; and this from a great variety of powerful causes, which, to understand the true temper of their minds, and the direction which this spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely.
First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, sir, is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; 2 and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are, therefore, not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favorite point which, by way of eminence, becomes the criterion of their happiness.
It happened, you know, sir, that the great contests
1 chicane. See Webster. 2 The colonists emigrated.. predominant. What was the feeling as to liberty when the New England colonists emigrated? Burke himself wrote in 1775: "The American freeholders at present are nearly, in point of condition, what the English yeomen were of old, when they rendered us formidable to all
Europe, and our name celebrated throughout the world. The former, from many obvious circumstances, are more enthusiastical lovers of liberty than even our yeomen were."
8 inheres in some sensible object, is found only in concrete form.
4 criterion, test, standard.
for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing. Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates, or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was otherwise. On this point of taxes, the ablest pens and most eloquent tongues have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered.
In order to give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the English Constitution to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry point of fact, and to prove that the right has been acknowledged, in ancient parchments2 and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called a House of Commons. They went much farther: they attempted to prove, and they succeeded, that in theory it ought to be so, from the particular nature of a House of Commons, as an immediate representative of the people; whether the old records had delivered this oracle, or not. They took infinite pains to inculcate, as a fundamental principle, that in all monarchies the people must in effect themselves, mediately or immediately,5 possess the power of grant
1 the ancient commonweal which specially?
2 ancient parchments, as Magna Charta, or the Great Charter obtained from King John in 1215.
8 delivered this oracle. Explain.
4 inculcate. See Webster.
5 mediately or immediately. Discriminate in meaning.
ing their own money, or no shadow of liberty could
The Colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe, or might be endangered, in twenty other particulars, without their being much pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and, as they found that beat, they thought themselves sick or sound.
I do not say whether they were right or wrong in applying your general arguments to their own case. It is not easy, indeed, to make a monopoly of theorems and corollaries. The fact is that they did thus apply those general arguments; and your mode of governing them, whether through lenity or indolence, through wisdom or mistake, confirmed them in the imagination that they, as well as you, had an interest in these common principles.
They were further confirmed in this pleasing error2 by the form of their provincial legislative assemblies. Their governments are popular in a high degree; some are merely popular; in all, the popular representative is the most weighty; and this share of the people in their ordinary government never fails to inspire them with lofty sentiments, and with a strong
1 a monopoly..
corollaries:|lar. Explain "popular governi.e., a monopoly of general prin- ment." Name some of the colonies ciples. that were "merely [i.e., entirely] 2 pleasing error. Point out the popular;" others that were under sly nature of this phrase. proprietors; others that were royal
8 Their governments are popu- provinces.
aversion from 1 whatever tends to deprive them of their chief importance.
Permit me, sir, to add another circumstance in our Colonies which contributes no mean part2 towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country, perhaps, in the world, is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful, and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to the Congress were lawyers. But all who read (and most do read) endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous,5 prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance: here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.7
The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the Colonies is hardly less powerful than the rest, as it is not
1 aversion from. We now use | authors and conductors of the "to." present sedition."
2 no mean part. Change from the negative to the positive form of expression.
4 the Congress: that is, the First Colonial Congress, which met in New York City, Oct. 7, 1765.
3 In no country general a study. The history of the Revolution is full of proof of this. "The lawyers of this place," wrote the loyal lieutenant-govern
5 acute, inquisitive, dexterous. Define and discriminate these terms.
6 mercurial. See Glossary.
▾ snuff... breeze. What is the
or of New York in 1765, “are the | figure of speech?
merely moral, but laid deep in the natural constitution. of things. Three thousand miles of ocean lie between you and them. No contrivance can prevent the effect of this distance in weakening government. Seas roll, and months pass,1 between the order and the execution; and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat a whole system.
You have, indeed, winged ministers 2 of vengeance, who carry your bolts in their pounces to the remotest verge of the sea. But there a power steps in, that limits the arrogance of raging passions and furious elements, and says, "So far shalt thou go, and no farther." 4 Who are you, that you should fret and rage, and bite the chains of Nature? Nothing worse happens to you than does to all nations who have extensive empire; and it happens in all the forms into which empire can be thrown.
In large bodies, the circulation of power must be less vigorous at the extremities. Nature has said it. The Turk can not govern Egypt, and Arabia, and Curdistan as he governs Thrace; nor has he the same dominion in Crimea and Algiers which he has at Brusa and Smyrna. Despotism itself is obliged to truck and huckster.5 The sultan gets such obedience as he can. He governs with a loose rein, that he may govern at all; and the
1 Seas roll, and months pass. | in the talons ("pounces") of the Note the vividness of the expres- eagle, the bird of Jove.
4 So far, etc. Whence is the 2 winged ministers. The war- quotation drawn? Is it entirely ships of England. correct in form?
3 bolts in their pounces. In allusion to the thunderbolts figured
5 truck and huckster. Explain.