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The Colonel Dismounted by Richard Bland

THE

COLONEL DISMOUNTED: OR THE RECTOR VINDICATED. IN A LETTER ADDRESSED TO HIS REVERENCE: CONTAINING A DISSERTATION UPON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE COLONY. BY COMMON SENSE.

QUODCUNQUE OSTENDIS MIHI SIC, INCREDULUS ODI. Hor.

WILLIAMSBURG:

PRINTED BY JOSEPH ROYLE, MDCCLXIV.


I think it necessary to advertise the readers that this letter was drawn up above eight months ago, purely for amusement. But from a motive which has prevailed with me, I now make it public. To distinguish His Reverence’s elegant and polite language, the quotations from his inimitable works are printed in italic characters.


To the Reverend John Camm, Rector of York-Hampton

It must be confessed, may it please Your Reverence, that you have erected two noble works, outlasting monumental brass, in honor of your victory over the patrons of ignorance and irreligion. The dignity of sentiment that shines with so peculiar a luster in your Single and Distinct View and in your Observations, the elegant language devoid of sophistry and diversified with the most agreeable tropes that give ornament and strength to those excellent performances, must excite the admiration of the present age and transmit your name, with distinguished éclat, to posterity.

Wonderful genius! who with infinite wit and humor can transform the unripe crab, the mouth-distorting persimmon, the most arrant trash into delicious fruit, nay wring-jaw cider into palatable liquor. Presumptuous tithe-pig Colonel! Infatuated syllogistical Colonel! What humiliating disgrace have they brought upon themselves! But they deserve it. Why did they inflame your resentment? Did they not know Your Reverence has honesty to represent facts truly, learning to write accurately, and wit to make your lampoons, though loaded with rancor and abuse, agreeable and entertaining? Did they not know that besides these excellent accomplishments you possess in an eminent degree that cardinal virtue with whose assistance very moderate abilities are capable of making a great figure? What arrogance was it then, even in the boreas of the Northern Neck, in the violentus auster,2 to enter the lists against such a gladiatorian penman? Could these pygmies expect to triumph over such a redoubted colossus? And in defense too of a cause that was not defensible? In defense of some particular Assemblies that had been impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors before the Lords of Trade and Plantations, when Your Reverence was agent for the WHOLE body of the Virginia clergy in England? These high crimes and misdemeanors, it is certain, are accumulated in the impeachment to a surprising degree; but what then? The impeachment may be true, notwithstanding; nay, it is true: Your Reverence has said it is true and that is enough. Indeed the colonels with their hurly-burly vociferous verbosity dispute your veracity and pretend that in your representation of the General Assembly’s conduct you indulge a language injurious to the truth, that you encourage party contentions, that you break in upon the respect owing to the legislature of the colony, that you construe the worthiest and best intentions into criminal designs against the royal authority, that you prefer the support of your own cause before the truth and the service of the public, and that by a low kind of wit and satire you expect to prevail against reason and argument. But they, you know, deal in false facts, ill-adapted maxims, confident assertions, imaginary impossible cases, inconsistent notions, sneaking chicanery, and voluminous nonsense, and therefore are not worthy of credit.

May it please Your Reverence, I was pronouncing the other day a sublime miscellaneous oration before a numerous audience, and proving that Your Reverence does not deserve these reflections. But before I proceed I must explain what I mean by a miscellaneous oration, not that I intend this explanation for Your Reverence’s information; this would be presumption, since you have proved indisputably, by your own incomparable writings, that you are a perfect master of the miscellaneous manner. But as this letter may fall into the hands of readers less learned than Your Reverence, I think it necessary for their information. A miscellaneous oration then is exactly like that kind of miscellaneous writing in which, according to a noble author, the most confused head, if fraught with a little commonplace book learning, may exert itself to as much advantage as the most orderly and settled judgment.

An orator in this way draws together shreds of learning and fragments of wit, and tacks them in any fantastic form he thinks proper; but connection, coherence, design, and meaning are against his purpose, and destroy the very spirit and genius of his oration. In short, may it please Your Reverence, it is just like the miscellaneous remarks in your Single and Distinct View.

I say, may it please Your Reverence, I was holding forth to a numerous audience in support of your charge against the General Assembly, when the hot and violent demagogue, rushing through the crowd in an attitude that would have frightened the renowned knight of La Manca himself, advanced upon me with hasty strides and brawled out, Thou dealer in general topics, thou confounder of justice with injustice, I will prove this charge to be contrary to the truth in every instance.

I had given half a crown, may it please Your Reverence, for your Single and Distinct View; and as a subscriber to the Virginia Gazette I became possessed of your Observations, and another witty paper remarkable for an elegant and polite description of a certain odoriferous knight who has the honor of being distinguished by one of the titles properly belonging to Your Reverence. But Ned the barber, a shrewd inquisitive fellow, while shaving me the other day, cast his eye upon that facetious paper, which I held in my hand, and asked me whether the progenitors of the sweet-scented knight received the honor of knighthood from the monarch who advanced the loin of beef to that dignity or not. I told him I believed this honor must have been conferred by the British Solomon, because as history tells us he was very intimate with His Reverence’s ancestors, making them the constant companions of his sports and divertisements; and it was probable he created them baronets when he instituted that order, but of this I could not be positive. Well then, said Ned, pray Sir ask the Rector of York-Hampton; he knows all things, all secrets, no prattling gossip,

Who with an hundred pair of wings
News from the furthest quarters brings,
Sees, hears, and tells, untold before,
All that she knows, and ten times more,

knows so much as this Reverend Rector does; and as nothing can be hid from him, no person is so capable of resolving this question. To oblige Ned the barber, this digression has obtruded itself; and he waits with impatience for your determination. May it please Your Reverence, as you had declared the hectoring bullies were more considerable for fierce language than true spirit, I was under no difficulty about the manner of my defense; for, thought I, if Your Reverence obliged two bullies to part with their strongholds, surely the same weapons, though perhaps not managed when in my hands with the same dexterity as when under Your Reverence’s conduct, will dispel the fog which one Cromwellian preacher endeavors to diffuse over the face of truth. Then by a motion of my left hand, which I was obliged to use upon this occasion, similar to that of a soldier when he is commanded to handle his cartridge, I drew your Single and Distinct View from my right pocket, and opposing it to the enemy I found myself more invincible than if armed with Mambrino’s celebrated helmet, or the more celebrated shield, forged with Vulcanian art for the son of Thetis. It was, may it please Your Reverence, altogether impenetrable to the enemy’s great guns; and as for his small arms, they made not the least impression upon it. Having this advantage, I advanced, in my turn, upon my antagonist, drove him off the field, and took possession of several posts the strength of which he had magnified, until they fell into my hands. He then shifted his ground, and by a sudden maneuver which I really did not expect, entrenched himself in new entrenchments. These I instantly stormed; but as I could not carry them I was at a loss how to conduct my attack until reflecting on the astonishing virtues of your Single and Distinct View, I resolved to try if trumpeting it out would not have the effect upon these entrenchments as the sound of the ram’s horn had upon the walls of Jericho; and I assure you I had great expectations at first, for the entrenchments were shocked several times, especially upon the repetition of your fine criticisms, and I verily thought they would have been leveled with the ground by the sound of the words justice, learning, religion, liberty, property, public good, which compose part of your character, in the panegyric Your Reverence so justly bestows upon yourself.

But as the severest shocks from this tremendous battery did not destroy the entrenchments, though they were frequently severe enough to shock my senses, I applied to your Observations, and thundering out with a vociferous contempt these words of your other encomium upon yourself, I write for liberty and property, for the rights of commerce, for an established church, for the validity of the King’s authority, pro aris et focis,3 immediately the enemy beat the chamade and demanded a conference, which I granted him. As this conference relates to Your Reverence, I think it proper to transmit you a particular detail of it, which I choose to do through Mr. Royle’s press, that I may be certain of its coming safe to hand.

The Colonel opened the conference as followeth:

I make no doubt, Sir, said he, but that you have entered into this controversy from an opinion that everything the Rector has advanced with respect to the General Assemblies, and those whom he distinguishes by the name of his adversaries, is true. I replied, My motive for espousing His Reverence proceeds from my opinion of his veracity. Then, Sir, said the Colonel, I will convince you that the Rector has neither truth or ingenuity. Neither truth or ingenuity in His Reverence’s works! replied I, hastily. What do you mean, Colonel? Have you not experienced the wonderful effects of his Single and Distinct View? And would you not have felt, perhaps, more fatal effects from his Observations had you not implored this conference? I acknowledge, said the Colonel, the Rector’s works, like those deep-throated engines Milton makes the apostate angels oppose to the celestial army,

. . . belched out smoke,
And with outrageous noise the air
And all her entrails tore; disgorging foul
Their devilish glut . . .

but smoke and noise are not evidences of truth. Colonel, said I, interrupting him, I expect you will not treat His Reverence with scurrility. I will endeavor to avoid it, answered the Colonel, for I am by no means fond of copying the Rector’s style or saintlike phrases; it is by reason and argument, not by blows and insults, that I expect to convince you of the truth. The Colonel went on: I had determined not to give myself any further trouble about the Rector of York-Hampton. I know it was a Sisyphean labor to engage in a dispute with this man, for, as Pope says,

Destroy his fib, or sophistry, in vain,
The creature’s at his dirty work again.

I thought too I should be very indifferently employed to reply in form, as Lord Shaftesbury calls it, to his Single and Distinct View, which in my opinion carries with it its own ridicule; neither could I be persuaded that so sorry a performance, which perverts the meaning of my most simple expressions, mutilates sentences, and makes me speak words I never uttered would be looked upon by men of sense as a refutation of my Letter to the Clergy. And as for his tinsel wit, if it can be worthy of such an epithet, I despised it. But that I may convince you of this writer’s sophistry, of his misrepresentation of the plainest facts, and of the constitutional proceedings of the General Assembly, I will examine his legerdemain performances; and I hope irksome as the talk is I shall have the strength to go through with it.

In the apology this Rector makes for his impudence or rudeness (these are his own words) he says that in this war which his adversaries began, the manner of his defense has been directed by the conduct of the attack, for he found it too great a difficulty for him to let the merit of their example be entirely thrown away; so that lex talionis is the rule of retribution with this peacemaking Rector. However, let that be as it will, let us see whether this eminent divine is a man of truth and ingenuity. My adversaries began the war, says this faithful recorder of events. But is he sure of this? Or is it a false fact, a confident assertion invented to persuade men out of their senses, according to his own elegant expressions? I affirm it is a false fact, a confident assertion, which, if I prove, will, I presume, make the scourge he intended for others reverberate with double force upon himself.

At the September session of Assembly in the year 1758, the people represented to the House of Burgesses that “by reason of the short crops of tobacco made that year it would be impossible for them to discharge their public dues and taxes that were payable in tobacco, which would expose them to the vexatious and oppressive exactions of the public collectors; and they prayed that an act might pass for paying all public, county, and parish levies, and officers’ fees in money at such price as by the House should be thought reasonable.” The short crops made that year, and the impossibility of paying their public tobacco dues as the laws then stood, were the reasons given by the people for desiring, and by the General Assembly, in consequence of this representation, for passing the Two-Penny Act. But though the relief of the people from the general distress of that year could be the only possible motive with the General Assembly for passing that act, yet this discerner of spirits, this man who knows everybody’s thoughts, discovered other reasons for their conduct. Suffer me to recite them in brief from the impeachment brought against the legislative body of the colony before the Lords of Trade and Plantations in the time of the Rector’s agency in England. In that impeachment they are accused with exercising acts of supremacy inconsistent with the dignity of the Church of England and manifestly tending to draw the people of the plantations from their allegiance, with assuming to themselves a power to bind the King’s hands, with having nothing more at heart than to lessen the influence of the crown and the maintenance of the clergy, with attacking the rights of the crown and of the clergy, with depriving the King of his royal authority over the clergy, putting them under the power of the vestries and making them subject to the humors of the people, with never intending any good to the clergy, with taking possession of the patronages and wanting to be absolute masters of the maintenance of the clergy, with passing acts of Assembly on pretense that only small quantities of tobacco were made in some years that they might render the condition of the clergy most distressful, various, and uncertain after a painful and laborious performance of their functions. In short, and to sum up the whole in one word, with being traitors in the legal sense of the word.

This charge, so heavy and so injurious, occasioned my Letter to the Clergy; and I will submit it to your determination whether I had not a right, as a friend to truth, as a member of that body so grossly abused, to obviate the acrimonious invectives contained in this charge. If I had no right, then I am the aggressor; but if I had, then the Rector’s want of truth and ingenuity in a plain matter of fact is evident, as he must be the author of this controversy. To this I replied, You certainly have a right, Colonel, by all legal methods, to vindicate the conduct of the General Assembly not only as a member of it, but as an honest man, against every unjust accusation; and as this impeachment was brought in a public manner before the Lords of Trade in England, who have the direction and superintendency of the plantation affairs, I must own that your publishing your defense here does not make you the author of this war. The promoter of this impeachment is, without question, the person who BEGAN it. Well then, Sir, said the Colonel, the Rector BEGAN the war. I replied, Be not so hasty, Colonel; His Reverence is innocent. A man of his integrity, of his truth and uprightness of heart, could not invent such a malevolent groundless charge; and as you accuse a clergyman remarkable for his humility and meekness of temper as a promoter of dissension between the legislature and clergy of the colony, you deserve the censure His Reverence has thought proper to pass upon you. Why Sir, asked the Colonel, seemingly astonished, was not the Rector the author of this impeachment? If he was not the clerk that drew it, still he was the instrument; or, that I may express myself in less ambiguous terms, the informer upon whose evidence it was drawn up. Nay, does not the paper presented by him to the Lords of Trade as The Humble Representation of the Clergy of the Church of England in His Majesty’s Colony and Dominion of Virginia, which in fact composes part of this invidious libel, prove that he was the author of it? And is not this more than thinking, according to the pretty proverb so wittily applied in his Observations? Is it not good authority for charging him with being the author, the forger of the impeachment? Besides, does he not justify it in his Observations? Does he not, by a most unfair and disingenuous comment upon four acts passed by the General Assembly attempt to prove that they all agree in these peccant circumstances? Why really, Colonel, said I, how can you justify three of those acts? For by your present plan of defense, you only endeavor to prove that the General Assembly were not guilty of the crimes laid to their charge by passing one act; their passing three others, then, of the same pernicious tendency, is altogether unjustifiable. I was, may it please Your Reverence, a little graveled here, and under some apprehension of tripping if I had attempted a further justification of your truth and ingenuity. I was therefore desirous to divert the Colonel from pursuing his proofs against you as the author of the war by putting him upon his defense of the other three peccant acts. The Colonel replied, I perceive, Sir, by your attempting to divert me from the point I was upon, you are convinced the Rector BEGAN the war. The Colonel stopped. I was silent. For, may it please Your Reverence, what could I say in your vindication until I had it from yourself that you was not the informer upon whose evidence this impeachment was drawn up; but if you deny that you was the informer, and will let me know who was, I am resolved to have another bout with the Colonel. I must therefore beseech you to be very explicit in this particular when you favor the public with your next production.

It would be disgustful, even to you, Sir, his friend, resumed the Colonel, was I to take notice of all the fustian contained in his panegyrics upon his own and his brethren’s loyalty. Don’t think, gentlemen of the clergy, said the Colonel, breaking out into a rhapsody upon repeating the word brethren, don’t think that you all have the honor of being brethren to this ever-to-be-reverenced Rector. No, gentlemen, the word brethren, like the word many, is capable of being taken by two handles. Do not, therefore, flatter yourselves that the Rector of York-Hampton takes it by the same handle he takes the word all* (by which single word all has produced one of the finest pieces of true genuine original criticism that ever was invented by the wit of man). I say, gentlemen, the word brethren is not, like the word all, to be taken by the big handle, but like the word many is to be taken by the little handle; so that the Rector’s brethren are but few comparatively with the whole body of the Virginia clergy, perhaps only a quindecemvirate5 of them, of which he is the chief, who in a general convention of twenty-five carried the vote for appointing him their agent to impeach the General Assembly of their country of treason. But now I am addressing myself to the clergy, give me leave to propose a question or two to those fifty-five (for it seems there are at least eighty parochial clergymen in the colony) who did not think proper to attend the regular summons of the bishop’s commissary. Did you, gentlemen, when you sent excuses for want of your appearance send also your concurrence in the measures that were proposed in the convention? Were you acquainted with these measures before they were proposed? If you were, who made you acquainted with them? Not your late commissary. He was one of the traitors; he was not under the influence of the clergy or in their true interest, and therefore cannot be supposed to have given you the information, though he was the only person who ought to have done it; perhaps he was not let into the secret designs of the Rector and his brethren. And if you were not informed, could you send your concurrence to measures you knew nothing of? I am persuaded you could not, but that you would have attended the regular summons of the bishop’s commissary on purpose to have opposed the measures that were carried by the quindecemvirate had you been acquainted with them before the meeting of the convention. The respect I bear you, the high sentiments I entertain of your truth and ingenuity (these, gentlemen, are favorite words with the Rector), the piety, candor, and integrity so conspicuous in the lives of most of you, make me sure you would have attended on purpose to oppose measures so contrary to your real interest, so repugnant to truth, and which could only serve to destroy the harmony and concord it is your inclination as well as duty to cultivate and maintain between the legislature and the reverend body of the clergy.

The Colonel resumed his defense: Was I to trace out ALL the Rector’s boasts of his and his brethren’s adhering to and preserving the old constitution, which some particular Assemblies were endeavoring to destroy, of their sheltering themselves under the authority of the British oak, under the wings of the prerogative, under the protection of a most gracious and religious monarch, from whose allegiance the General Assemblies were attempting to draw the people of the plantations, it would carry me further than there is any need to go on this occasion. ALL his ostentatious flourishes are to be seen at large in his masterly works, which I suppose are by this time transmitted to Graham Franks, now in England, to be laid before the Board of Trade or perhaps a more honorable board, that his unparalleled loyalty may be manifested when his cause against the collector of his parish levy is carried before that high tribunal. But lest the word ALL, which I have taken occasion to use twice in this part of my defense, to wit, once when I spoke of the Rector’s boasts, and again when I spoke of his ostentatious flourishes, should fling him into labor with another criticism and make him bring forth, like the mountain in the fable, I must inform you which handle you are to take it by in these two places. Know then, Sir, that you are to take this word ALL by the big handle, and not by the little handle, which last mentioned handle I took it by when in my Letter to the Clergy I explained my sense of it as it stood in the impeachment by making it include the greater part of the members of the General Assembly; which I said must be the import of the word in that part of the impeachment I was then considering. But this explanation I suppose the Rector passed over, that he might demonstrate to the world his profundity in critical knowledge.

I will now examine the three acts the Rector cites as further instances of the General Assembly’s disloyalty.

In the year 1738 two new counties and parishes were erected upon the frontiers of the colony, far distant from navigation. That these counties might be settled and a good barrier be thereby made against the French,* several encouragements were granted to the inhabitants; one of these was that they might pay all levies and officers’ fees in money for tobacco, at the rate of three farthings per pound. Under this regulation the salary of the ministers in each of the new parishes was only £152, when the salary of the other parochial ministers was 16,640 pounds of tobacco, as settled by the act of 1727, which was then in force. The ministers of these new parishes continued to receive this salary of £152 until the year 1753, when one of them petitioned the Council for an augmentation of his salary; this petition was sent by the Council to the House of Burgesses, who immediately passed the act for the frontier parishes, as the Rector calls it, whereby the minister’s salary in each of these parishes was settled at £100 a year, according to the desire of the minister petitioning. This act, passed upon this consideration, and which was so advantageous to the ministers of these parishes, was one article in the impeachment of high crimes against the majesty of our sovereign and the dignity of the Church of England; and as the colony had no agent at that time in England to represent a true state of the case, was, from the misrepresentation of the agent appointed by fifteen of the Virginia clergy without the participation of the two ministers concerned, repealed by the royal proclamation. For this repeal the ministers of those two parishes returned the Rector their humble and hearty acknowledgments by their petition to the General Assembly for a renewal of the repealed act, without which they must starve; which petition had such an effect upon the humanity of this traitorous Assembly, who had nothing more at heart than to lessen the maintenance of the clergy and to render their condition most distressful, various, and uncertain, that regardless of the Rector’s resentment they complied with the ministers’ request.

As to the Norfolk and Princess Anne Act, I presume I need not repeat what I have said upon it in my Letter to the Clergy, where I have given a candid and honest account of the reasons which prevailed with the General Assembly to pass it; to which I can add nothing, except that the petition from the people which gave rise to it was presented to the House of Burgesses at their October session, 1754, and being referred to the next session, did not come under the consideration of the House until the 7th day of May, 1755; so that full time was given for any person to represent against it if it had not been agreeable to him. From this account of the Frontier and Norfolk acts the Rector’s want of truth and ingenuity, of decency and good manners in his remarks upon the General Assembly for passing these acts, is sufficiently evident. For him to charge the legislature with attempting to lessen the influence of the crown and the maintenance of the clergy because they gave to the ministers of the frontier parishes an increase of salary, without which they must have lived in the greatest indigence, and because they gave relief to the people in one part of the colony from laws which under their particular circumstances were extremely oppressive to them, I say for him to charge the legislature with such attempts is an instance of want of truth and an indecency of behavior which no man could be guilty of but one who was resolved to trudge, with might and main, through dirt and mire to gain his ends.

And now, Sir, may I not say with great justice of this Rector, in his own words, that he has shown more judgment in suppressing part of the Apostle’s account of charity than in giving us what he had quoted; for had he given the Apostle’s account unmutilated, the reader must have seen that charity doth not behave itself unseemly, that it rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. But as the proverbial account of truth, that it is not to be spoken at all times, seemed to be more for the Rector’s purpose, he has preferred it in his articles of impeachment.

The general act of 1755 was passed when, I confess, there was not such a pressing necessity for it as there was afterwards, in the year 1758; but their passing this act when perhaps there was no great necessity for it does not make the General Assembly guilty of the crimes contained in the Rector’s impeachment.

The legislature of this as of all other countries are fallible men, and as such may enact laws which they may think necessary and for the public good but which from experience may be found unnecessary and even destructive of that good they were intended to promote. But is this fallibility to be imputed to them as a crime? Or is their enacting a law to enable the inhabitants of the colony to discharge their tobacco debts in money, in a year, as they thought, of general dearth and scarcity, an evidence of their attempting to restrain the power of their sovereign and to destroy the dignity of the established church? And yet in such a point of view does this Rector place their conduct. Is such a representation honest? Is it such a one as ought to have come from a man who so confidently charges others with a want of truth and ingenuity? And is it decent for a clergyman to treat members of the General Assembly for offering a just defense against so aggravated a charge with a language not to be found but amongst those who have prostituted themselves to the lowest dregs and sediments of scurrility? Here I stopped the Colonel and said with some warmth, You forget your promise, Colonel, not to treat His Reverence with hard names. His scurrility, indeed, is provoked defensive scurrility; which consideration will have its due effect with the readers of every degree, who are the judge and jury and everything with His Reverence. But you, Colonel, have, unprovoked, abused His Reverence in your first defense, and in your letter to him published in a public newspaper you have charged him with a neglect of duty in his parish, which is one of the most palpable, barefaced, and impudent falsehoods that ever was invented. I thought, Sir, replied the Colonel, I had convinced you that the Rector was the aggressor, and that his abusive and unjust charge against the General Assembly had occasioned the controversy between us. As to my abuse of him in my Letter to the Clergy, you must be convinced of the contrary if you will read that letter with attention; for though the manner in which he has detached my words which seem to have any severity of expression in them from their proper places, collected them into one view, and taken them to himself, may show how easy it is for a caviler to give a new sense, or a new nonsense, to anything, yet as they are applied by me in the several parts of my Letter to the Clergy in which they stand they will appear to be nothing more than proper and just expressions relative to the treatment the General Assemblies have received from the Rector and his accomplices. It is true, in one place of my letter I have disputed the Rector’s superiority in point of learning above other men, which I acknowledge is great sauciness in me, since he has demonstrated by his fine writings that he is as excellent a critic and as learned a divine as he is a good Christian; but as I did not know so much at that time, I hope I shall be forgiven. If I have accused him with a neglect of duty in his parish, and can be convinced that this accusation is unjust, in that case I have done him an injury, and will not only ask his forgiveness of my offense, but make an atonement for it by publicly acknowledging that I have aspersed the character of a diligent pastor, attentive to and perpetually careful of the spiritual concerns of all the flock committed to his charge. But then, as I may differ from him about the precise meaning of the word duty, I must, to prevent mistakes, have the meaning of it fixed and determined; for perhaps I may understand it in a more extensive sense than the Rector doth. It is, you know Sir, according to his own definition of it, a complex term, and consequently must include something more than an excursion out of the parish where he resides to his church in York-Hampton on a Sunday when he is not confined at home by pain and sickness. I suppose the Rector calls himself a minister, a laborer, a watchman, a pastor, a steward, an ambassador, in sacred things. These different characters, then, must have different heads of duty belonging to them. I cannot therefore agree that he discharges all these duties by only attending his parish church on a Sunday; and if he does nothing more, he may be likened to a servant who having six talents committed to his management wraps five of them up in a napkin and only trades with one, or rather a small part of one of them. Whether such a servant acts justly or not is not for me to determine. But Colonel, said I, I have studied to find out what connection there could be between His Reverence’s neglect of duty in his parish and the dispute between you and him about the Two-Penny Act. Exactly as much, Sir, replied the Colonel, as there is between my officiating as a clergyman in the churches of the parish where I live and a dispute relating to the power of the General Assembly to enact laws; which is all the reply I shall make to his windmill and giant and his other quixotisms. Why Colonel, said I, do you really officiate as a clergyman in the churches of the parish where you live? I do not, answered the Colonel; but I officiate sometimes as reader in the church which I frequent in the absence of the minister, being thereto appointed by the vestry. My motive for accepting this appointment, I presume, the Rector has no right to inquire into, since it was not from a pecuniary consideration. Well Colonel, said I, as to that matter, whether right or wrong, I have no business with it; but your resentment against His Reverence for making use of the happy privilege which every British subject enjoys, of approaching the throne in an humble petition, is not to be defended. Did I express any resentment against the Rector, replied the Colonel, for making use of this happy privilege, I should be blameable because I value it as much as the Rector can, notwithstanding his pompous encomiums upon his own loyalty. But I shall always consider it as an affront to the throne, which under our present illustrious race of kings has been eminently distinguished for truth and justice, to approach it with a petition loaded with calumny and abuse against the King’s substitute and every other part of the legislature of the colony. If the Rector thought himself injured by any act of the General Assembly, he had a right to approach the throne with an humble petition against it; but then he should have approached it with truth: he should have represented facts with candor and integrity, and not have imputed such act to causes which could not possibly exist; and if he had done so, I assure you, Sir, he and I should have had no dispute. But Colonel, said I, in your account of the famous petition you have reflected with great severity upon the clergy, when I own I can see no mighty harm in that petition, provided it might stand alone, without your comment. Besides, it was the petition of one clergyman only, who did not prefer it from any imagination that there was room to expect success in it, but to evince the contrary by experiment. Your reflections therefore were very disingenuous; and though the design of the petition is a piece of secret history, a stratagem, a machination, which it seems you, with all your sagacity and insight into everybody’s affairs, have not been able to penetrate, yet your inference drawn from it that if the provision for the clergy was made better by an act they would make no complaint concerning encroachments on the authority of the King is no less ungenerous, since to make this inference good it should have appeared in the petition that the clergy wanted a better provision by an act without a suspending clause. But there is no such thing in the petition; and I believe it would be a difficult matter to prove that the clergy, though willing enough to have a better provision, would accept of it by means of an act without a suspending clause. My account of the famous petition, as the Rector calls it, replied the Colonel, is taken from the Burgesses’ Journals, where it stands as the petition of the clergy, and not as the petition of one of them. However, let it be for the present that it was owned by one clergyman only. The Rector says this clergyman designed well; and that one other clergyman was privy to the petition, who, from what he says about the secret history of it, I conclude must be himself. Now this petition declares that many clergymen who are a disgrace to the ministry find opportunities to fill the parishes; and can any expression be found in my Letter to the Clergy, torture it how you will, that reflects with such severity upon them as this declaration doth, which was made in the most public manner by one of their own body abetted by one other, and he no less a person than the pious Rector of York-Hampton? And if our parishes are filled with so many clergymen who are a disgrace to the ministry, may it not be suspected that such men would accept of a better provision by an act without a suspending clause? And that they would not be very nice in examining whether such act was worded exactly conformable to a royal instruction to the governor for his own particular conduct, especially when they were not answerable for a transgression of it? The Rector, in zeal for the royal authority, might, for aught I know, be willing to refuse a better provision under such an act; but as he has not as yet attained to that degree of supremacy as to decree by his own authority that his brethren should refuse it, it would be necessary to determine this matter in a convention. And if the clergymen, distinguished with such excellent characters by the author of the petition, who are so many, should prevail against the self-denying Rector of York-Hampton upon a question in which their temporal interest might outweigh the royal authority as in all probability they would, the Rector, by an established rule of the convention, must submit, and perhaps rather than be the occasion of a schism, would subscribe to the vote of the majority. But as his conduct in such a case cannot be known, it must remain a matter of opinion whether he would accept of a better provision or not under such an act.

But notwithstanding the changes the Rector is perpetually ringing upon an act with, and an act without a suspending clause, his loyalty will not shine forth with a meridian brightness unless he refuses to accept of a better provision under an act with a suspending clause; for the governor is not to give his assent to any act with a suspending clause that alters or repeals an act which has received the royal approbation, without first obtaining the King’s permission. So that before the Rector ought to accept of a better provision under any act of the General Assembly, the clergy should appoint him their agent a second time to approach the throne with an humble petition for the royal permission to the governor to give his assent to such act; which appointment, if I dare venture a conjecture, would be extremely pleasing to him, as he would thereby have an opportunity of soliciting a place for himself of the first ecclesiastical dignity in the colony, which I believe is at this time vacant. And let it not be thought that a convention cannot be held during the vacancy of the commissaryship for appointing him agent; for if an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette, signed by him and two or three others, was of sufficient authority, in the late commissary’s time, to convene the clergy, certainly now there is no commissary he may by his own power call a convention upon a matter of such importance to himself.

But let all this happen as it may, it is extremely obvious that the Rector’s temper inclines him to inflame his own resentment into a fixed contempt of the General Assembly; otherwise he could not have approved of the conduct of the author of this petition, if what he says of him is true, that he did not prefer the petition from any imagination that there was room to expect success in it, but to evince the contrary by experiment: so that the General Assembly may be used by designing men as instruments to carry on their deep-laid stratagems and machinations on purpose to afford matter of pleasantry to the Rector. But it may be that the Rector has tripped in his history of this clergyman’s conduct, who, I have heard, gave the gentleman on whom he prevailed to present the petition to the House of Burgesses a quite different account of his design; and that gentleman was insulted by a great intimate of the Rector’s for presenting it; which insult, I suppose, would not have been given if the author of the petition had expected no other effects from it than what the Rector says he did.

Colonel, said I, your remarks are of a sour and aggravating cast. His Reverence’s temper does not incline him to inflame his own resentment; he has suffered persecution; he has missed the president’s place at the college; he has been forbid, with others, the late governor’s house under the title of disturbers of his government; he has been recommended by the late governor in conjunction with others to the correction of the Grand Jury for being so audacious as to publish under their names an invitation to as many of their brethren as were willing to attend, for them to meet at a brother’s house before he left the country. He has been forbid the present governor’s palace, when he waited on him with the royal disallowance to several acts of Assembly. He has, I say, suffered all these persecutions, cum multis aliis quae nunc prescribere longum est; and certainly His Reverence, who has suffered so much for adhering to reason and justice, and the principles of true patriotism, is excusable for the freedoms he has used.

The Rector, replied the Colonel, gives colorings to his imagery as best suit his purpose; but remove the false appearances and his representations will not exhibit so amiable a character. The brother at whose house this meeting was appointed was not a person of that distinction or moral accomplishments as to make it necessary for the clergy to pay their compliments to him in a body upon his leaving the country. The late governor knew, the late commissary knew, as did many other gentlemen, that he was one of the cabal; and they all believed, and, if it was proper to dwell any longer on this circumstance, a very good account might be given for their belief, that this meeting was on purpose to raise disturbances in the government, to form stratagems and machinations against the administration and the legislature of the colony, which this brother was to solicit in England. And as Mr. Dinwiddie, the late governor, thought it an affront to his authority as well as to the bishop’s commissary for three or four clergymen to assume to themselves a power to call a meeting of the clergy, he resented the insult in a manner becoming his character as the King’s substitute. As to the prohibition the Rector received from appearing at the present governor’s palace, his affrontive and disrespectful behavior was the occasion of it; for, as I have been informed that contrary to his duty and the respect due to the King’s representative, he did not wait on the governor with the royal disallowance to several acts of Assembly, with which he was charged by the Lords of Trade, until several weeks after his arrival in the country, though he was in the place of the governor’s residence; and when he did wait on him he delivered the dispatch opened after he had communicated it to such of his brethren as he thought proper. So that his own modesty, if he has any, and a consideration of his own character, should, methinks, have prevented his complaining of this prohibition.

And as to his missing the president’s place at the college, his contumacious treatment of the Visitors’ authority, which is so publicly known, could not entitle him to their favors, even admitting that he was qualified in other respects.

Colonel, said I, this is all prejudice. You suffer your passion to make a fool of you. His Reverence has given the strongest proofs of true patriotism; he has delivered the constitution from the basest attempts to destroy it; he faces every attack, encounters every danger, despises every obloquy; in short, he may say, with old Siffredi in the play,

. . . I have preferred my duty,
The good and safety of my fellow subjects,
To all those views that fire the selfish race
Of men . . .

since he has with boldness, and, as he says, with truth justified his impeachment against the General Assemblies who were attempting to overturn the constitution and to restrain the royal prerogative by passing acts which interfered with acts confirmed by His Majesty, without a suspending clause. Now, Colonel, how can you exculpate the General Assemblies from this atrocious crime?

The Rector’s patriotism, answered the Colonel, is as conspicuous as his modesty and politeness; but it is really matter of pleasantry, as this Thersites said of the famous petition, to hear him haranguing about the constitution, which if he knows anything of, he does not care to make it public.

The constitution cannot be destroyed, nor the royal prerogative restrained by any act of the General Assembly. The King as sovereign possesses an inherent power in the legislature of the colony and can give his allowance or disallowance to any act passed by them; but as the Rector boasts that I am not able to answer his arguments upon this head of accusation, that I am graveled, that he hath caught my gentleman tripping lightly over marshy ground, you must give me leave to examine into the power of the General Assembly to enact laws, which I believe will put an end to the Rector’s exultations and convince you it was the contemptibleness and not the weight of his arguments that prevented my answering them in the letter I thought proper to address to him.

I do not suppose, Sir, that you look upon the present inhabitants of Virginia as a people conquered by the British arms. If indeed we are to be considered only as the savage aborigines of this part of America, we cannot pretend to the rights of English subjects; but if we are the descendants of Englishmen, who by their own consent and at the expense of their own blood and treasure undertook to settle this new region for the benefit and aggrandizement of the parent kingdom, the native privileges our progenitors enjoyed must be derived to us from them, as they could not be forfeited by their migration to America. One of the greatest lawyers and the greatest philosopher of his age* tells us, “A country gained by conquest hath no right to be governed by the English laws.” And another no less eminent lawyer says, “Where the country of a pagan or infidel is conquered, there, ipso facto, the laws of such country are abrogated.” And from hence I suppose it was that a learned and upright judge gave it as his opinion, “That Virginia is to be governed by such laws as the King pleases.” But certainly this great judge was not acquainted with Virginia; if he was he never would have given an opinion which with respect either to the original or present inhabitants of this country must be erroneous. It must be erroneous with respect to the original inhabitants because they were never fully conquered, but submitted to the English government upon terms of peace and friendship fixed and settled by treaties; and they now possess their native laws and customs, savage as they are, in as full an extent as they did before the English settled upon this continent. It must be erroneous with respect to the present inhabitants because upon a supposition that their ancestors were conquerors of this country, they could not lose their native privileges by their conquests. They were as much freemen, and had as good a right to the liberties of Englishmen after their conquest as they had before; if they had not, few of them, I believe, would have been induced by so inadequate a reward to endeavor an extension of the English dominions, and by making conquests to become slaves.

Under an English government all men are born free, are only subject to laws made with their own consent, and cannot be deprived of the benefit of these laws without a transgression of them. To assert this is sufficient; to demonstrate it to an Englishman is useless. He not only knows, but, if I may use the expression, feels it as a vital principle in the constitution, which places him in a situation without the reach of the highest executive power in the state, if he lives in an obedience to its laws.

If then the people of this colony are freeborn and have a right to the liberties and privileges of English subjects, they must necessarily have a legal constitution, that is, a legislature composed in part of the representatives of the people who may enact laws for the internal government of the colony and suitable to its various circumstances and occasions; and without such a representative, I am bold enough to say, no law can be made. By the term internal government it may be easily perceived that I exclude from the legislature of the colony all power derogatory to their dependence upon the mother kingdom; for as we cannot lose the rights of Englishmen by our removal to this continent, so neither can we withdraw our dependence without destroying the constitution. In every instance, therefore, of our external government we are and must be subject to the authority of the British Parliament, but in no others; for if the Parliament should impose laws upon us merely relative to our internal government, it deprives us, as far as those laws extend, of the most valuable part of our birthright as Englishmen, of being governed by laws made with our own consent. As all power, therefore, is excluded from the colony of withdrawing its dependence from the mother kingdom, so is all power over the colony excluded from the mother kingdom but such as respects its external government. I do not deny but that the Parliament, as the stronger power, can force any laws it shall think fit upon us; but the inquiry is not what it can do, but what constitutional right it has to do so. And if it has not any constitutional right, then any tax respecting our internal polity which may hereafter be imposed on us by act of Parliament is arbitrary, as depriving us of our rights, and may be opposed. But we have nothing of this sort to fear from those guardians of the rights and liberties of mankind.

But it may be objected that this general position excludes all the laws of England, so as that none of them are obligatory upon us in our internal government. The answer to this objection is obvious: the common law, being the common consent of the people from time immemorial, and the “birthright of every Englishman, does follow him wherever he goes,” and consequently must be the general law by which the colony is to be governed. So also the statutes of England in force at the time of our separation, having every essential in their institution to make them obligatory upon our ancestors, that is, their consent by their representatives, and having the same sanction with the common law, must have the same extensive force, and bind us in the same manner the common law does; if it was otherwise it would involve this contradiction, that of two laws made by the same power, one is coercive upon us when the other is not so, which is plainly absurd.

From these principles, which I take to be incontrovertible, as they are deduced from the nature of the English constitution, it is evident that the legislature of the colony have a right to enact ANY law they shall think necessary for their internal government. But lest these principles, plain and evident as they are, should be controverted by the Rector or some other of Sir Robert Filmer’s disciples, who perhaps may assert that the King by his prerogative can establish any form of government he pleases in the colony, I will examine the power the General Assembly derives from grants from the crown, abstracted from the original rights of the people.

King James I by his charter, under the great seal of England, granted the dominion of Virginia to the Treasurer and Company of Adventurers, and gave them full power and authority to constitute a form of government in the colony as near as might be agreeable to the government and policy of England. Pursuant to this power, the Treasurer and Company by their charter established the legislature in the governor, Council, and representatives of the people, to be called the General Assembly, with “free power to treat, consult, and conclude as well of all emergent occasions concerning the public weal of the colony and every part thereof, as also to make, ordain, and enact such general laws and orders for the behoof of the colony and the good government thereof as shall from time to time appear necessary or requisite.”

The General Assemblies have continued to exercise this legislative power from that time. King James left them in full possession of this power upon his dissolving the company; and King Charles I in the year 1634 by order in his Privy Council declared that “interests which the colony enjoyed while they were a corporation should not be impeached, but that they should enjoy the same privileges they did before the recalling the company’s patent.” And in the year 1642 under his sign manual and royal signet he “confirmed the form of government, declared that they should ever remain under the King’s immediate protection, and that the form of government should not be changed.”

After the Restoration, in the year 1675, the General Assembly sent three agents to England to solicit a new charter from King Charles II. Their petition upon this occasion was referred by the King’s order in his Privy Council the 23rd of June to his attorney and solicitor general, who reported their opinion to the Lords of the Committee for Foreign Plantations, “That it would be for His Majesty’s service and for the increase of the trade and growth of the plantation of Virginia if His Majesty shall be graciously pleased to grant and confirm, under his great seal, unto his subjects in Virginia the particulars following.” And then they recite the several heads of the General Assembly’s petition, one of which was “That the power and authority of the General Assembly, consisting of the governor, Council, and Burgesses, may be by His Majesty ratified and confirmed”; but with this proviso, “That His Majesty may, at his pleasure, revoke any law made by them; and that no law so revoked shall, AFTER such revocation and intimation thereof from hence (i.e., from England), be further used or observed.”

The Lords of the Committee for Foreign Plantations presented this report to His Majesty in his Privy Council at Whitehall on the 19th of November 1675; which His Majesty approved and confirmed, and ordered a bill to be prepared by the attorney and solicitor general for his signature in order to the passing letters patent “for the settlement and confirmation of all things according to the said report.”

A complete charter was accordingly prepared, and received the King’s signature; but before it came to the great seal stopped in the hanaper office upon receiving an account of Bacon’s insurrection.

But though the charter did not pass the great seal, King Charles II from that time, and his successors ever since, have inserted the several clauses of it relative to the power of the General Assembly in their commissions to their governors, who have “full power and authority, by and with the advice of the Council to call General Assemblies, and by and with the advice and consent of the Council and Assembly or the major part of them respectively, to make, constitute, and ordain laws, statutes, and ordinances for the public peace, welfare, and good government of the colony, and the people and inhabitants thereof.” “Which laws, statutes, and ordinances, of what nature or duration soever, are to be within three months or sooner after the making of them transmitted unto the King under the public seal of the colony for the royal approbation or disallowance. And in case all or any of them shall at any time be disallowed and not approved and so signified by the King under his sign manual or by the Privy Council unto the governor or commander-in-chief of the colony for the time being, then such and so many as shall be disallowed and not approved shall from thenceforth cease and determine and be utterly void and of no effect.”

From this short review of our constitution it may be observed that the people have an original right to a legal government, that this right has been confirmed to them by charter, which establishes the General Assembly with a general power “to make, ordain, and constitute laws, statutes, and ordinances for the public peace, welfare, and good government of the colony.” Which power, by a constant and uninterrupted usage and custom, they have continued to exercise for more than 140 years. And if what Lord Coke says in Calvin’s Case is true, that “where the King by charter or letters patent grants to a country the laws of England or a power to make laws for themselves, he nor his successors can alter or abrogate the same,” we cannot be deprived of this right, even upon the Rector’s principles of passive obedience.

But it may be asked if the King’s assent is not necessary to give sanction to the acts of the General Assembly. I answer, it is necessary. As sovereign, no law can be made without his assent, but then it is not necessary that he should be present in his royal person to give his assent; this is plainly impossible. He therefore gives power by commission under his great seal to his governor to give his assent, which, to speak in the language of the law, is in this case a teste meipso and gives life and being to the laws in the same manner as if he was present in his royal person.

The King frequently gives his assent to acts of Parliament by commission to persons appointed for that purpose; he does the same thing by his commission to the governor, who thereby becomes the King’s representative in his legislative character, so that the governor’s assent to laws here is in effect the King’s assent. But as the King cannot be informed of the nature of the laws passed by his commissioner while under the consideration of the General Assembly, he reserves to himself a power of abrogating them, notwithstanding his commissioner’s assent; and from the time of such abrogation, and not before, they are to cease and determine.

But Colonel, said I, notwithstanding you have deduced your history of the constitution from the royal grants and the established principles of the English government, His Reverence is in the right. He relies upon the King’s instructions to the governor, which ought not to be infringed, but must have the force and obligation of laws upon us. I have, replied the Colonel, a high reverence for the majesty of the King’s authority, and shall upon every occasion yield a due obedience to all its just powers and prerogatives; but submission, even to the supreme magistrate, is not the whole duty of a citizen, especially such a submission as he himself does not require. Something is likewise due to the rights of our country and to the liberties of mankind. To say that a royal instruction to a governor, for his own particular conduct, is to have the force and validity of a law, and must be obeyed without reserve, is at once to strip us of all the rights and privileges of British subjects, and to put us under the despotic power of a French or Turkish government. For what is the real difference between a French edict and an English instruction if they are both equally absolute? The royal instructions are nothing more than rules and orders laid down as guides and directions for the conduct of governors. These may and certainly ought to be laws to them, but never can be thought, consistently with the principles of the British constitution, to have the force and power of laws upon the people. Which is evident from this plain reason: promulgation is essential to the nature of laws, so that no law can bind any people before it is declared and published to them; but the King’s instructions are to be kept secret and not published to us, no not even to the Council, unless the governor thinks it for the King’s service. “You are to communicate,” says one of these instructions to the governor, “unto our Council of Virginia from time to time, such and so many of our instructions as you shall find convenient for our service.” So that from the instructions themselves it is evident the King does not intend them as laws to his people. Besides, the royal instructions are drawn up in England by ministers who from their distant situation from us cannot have so full and perfect a view of affairs in the colony as is necessary for those who are to be legislators and supreme directors of them. Sudden emergencies will arise; present occasions will be lost; and such quick and unexpected turns are perpetually happening in all sublunary affairs as require the utmost vigilance and celerity, and can never stay for such a distant guidance and command. The ministers in England see nothing with their own eyes that is passing amongst us and know nothing upon their own knowledge, and therefore are very improper legislators to give laws to the colony. The King’s instructions, then, being only intended as guides and directions to governors, and not being obligatory upon the people, the governors are only answerable for a breach of them, and not the General Assembly; and if they are answerable only, they have the only right of determining whether their passing acts upon particular emergent occasions is contrary to the spirit and true meaning of their instructions or not. In short, Sir, the Council and House of Burgesses have a right to present any act relative to the internal government of the colony to the governor for his assent without violating any instruction; and the governor has a right, as the King’s commissioner representing the royal person, to give or refuse his assent to such act as he may think it agreeable or contrary to his instructions directing his conduct in this particular. This I say, Sir, the Council and House of Burgesses may do, from the general powers with which they are invested by the constitution, without being guilty of attempts to restrain the power of the royal prerogative; which being committed to the governor, he is to determine how he is to exercise it and no other person has anything to do with it in this case. From hence then it is evident that the General Assembly may pass an act which alters or repeals an act that has received the royal approbation without destroying the old constitution or attempting to bind the King’s hands; and if such act is passed, it must have the force and obligation of a law until the King declares his royal disallowance of it.

But since the royal instructions are so much insisted on by the Rector, I will examine whether the same doctrine I have endeavored to establish may not be deduced from them. I have no copy of the instructions relating to this question, nor have I been able to procure one; but as I have formerly read them, I believe I can recite them tolerably exact. By these instructions the governor is “not to give his assent to any act that alters or repeals any other act without a suspending clause, although the act to be altered or repealed has not had the royal approbation, unless in cases of great emergency; nor is he to give his assent to any act that alters or repeals any other act which has had the royal approbation without first obtaining the King’s permission, under the penalty of being removed from his government and incurring the King’s highest displeasure.” Now I infer from these instructions that, admitting the governor should pass an act contrary to them, he subjects himself to the penalties inflicted on him for a breach of his instructions, but the act so passed by him has the obligation of a law until the King’s disallowance of it; for if such act is void, ab initio, the instructions would be absurd, because to restrain the governor from passing an act which when passed is as absolutely void as if it had never existed, is absurd and useless.

Our sovereign, therefore, knowing that from the fundamental principles of the constitution such act must have the force of a law when passed by the governor, has restrained him from giving his assent in such a case under particular personal penalties, but has left the act to its course until he thinks proper to repeal it by his disapprobation.

But this is not all; for as the governor may pass an act in a case of great emergency though contrary to the general tenor of the instructions, it would involve a greater absurdity, if possible, should an act be void ab initio which he passes by virtue of the general powers given him by his commission under the King’s great seal, and another act passed by him under the same authority have the force of a law because the governor is of opinion that the exigencies of the colony make such act necessary. Under such a construction the case is plainly this: the governor passes an act in a case of great exigency contrary to the strict letter of his instructions, which act shall have the force of a law because he thinks the circumstances of the colony require it; but if he passes such an act when he thinks the circumstances of the colony do not require it, such act shall be void ab initio. This is like the absolution in the Romish Church, which is of no effect, though proclaimed with a loud voice, unless the intention of the priest accompanies, and is too absurd to deserve any further consideration. And yet into such an absurdity must you fall, Sir, when you contend that such an act is void ab initio, from a construction of the royal instructions to the governor.

Neither will the Rector’s hearsay account* of one of the revised laws make any alteration in the case, for the land law that was altered by this revised law never received the royal assent; but the reason why this revised law laid some time dormant and unobserved was that as it affected the King’s grants of his lands, a suspending clause was added to it so that it could have no operation until the royal approbation of it was obtained. And though this approbation was obtained, it was not known to us until several years after, when Mr. Montague, our present agent, by direction from the committee of correspondence, inquiring after it found it in the Council office in England and transmitted it to us, from which time it became in force here.

But Colonel, said I, though all this may be true I am at a loss to know what good reason can be given for an order of the late Assembly to support the vestries against the appeals of the clergy, and not an order for supporting private contractors against the merchants. When, Sir, answered the Colonel, you can produce an instance of a merchant or any other person except the Rector and two or three of his brethren bringing suits to try the validity of an act of the legislature, I will give you a reason why the merchants were not included in the order of the late Assembly. I suppose from what you say you would insinuate as if the Assembly pointed the clergy out as the particular objects of their resentment; but in this you are mistaken. An action was brought in the General Court by the Rector against the collector of his parish levy on purpose to controvert the power of the General Assembly in making laws, or rather to render their power a mere cipher. It behoved them then to support their own authority and the validity of their own acts against every attempt to destroy it; and from hence it was that by an order of the late Assembly the collector of York-Hampton parish levy was to be defended in the Rector’s suit against him at the public expense.

Thus, Sir, I have endeavored to obviate the Rector’s arguments and to convince you that the General Assemblies were not setting up the standard of rebellion against the King’s authority when they passed the acts which have given this patriot Rector such great offense. The insults offered by him to the legislative body of the colony and to private characters are certainly carried to a great height; but whether this is owing to the panic he is thrown into lest the old constitution should be destroyed or to satisfy a malevolent and turbulent temper, is not worth my time to inquire. I have avoided repeating what I said formerly in my letters upon this subject, so must desire you to consider those letters as part of my present defense, since I cannot think that the Rector has given any answer to them. I know that the plainest demonstration is lost upon men who are under the influence of prejudice or an obstinate disposition of mind. Such men will never want ground for wrangling, especially if they have any by-purposes to serve. But notwithstanding the artful endeavors and invidious representations of such men, I make no doubt that you will, from a sincere desire of promoting truth and the public good, give an impartial decision in this dispute, which I shall submit to you after observing that whoever throws out reflections on the acts of the legislature as plainly tend to weaken their authority, let his profession of patriotism be otherwise ever so specious, is so far an enemy to his country.

Colonel, said I, I have not sufficiently considered this matter to form a just opinion of it; but as His Reverence is a great master of reason and acquainted with the nature and principles of government, I will communicate this conference to him, which, as soon as he has reconnoitered, I doubt not will receive a proper reply.

And thus, may it please Your Reverence, the conference broke up of which I have given you this faithful account. I shall be extremely rejoiced if you can find leisure from the laborious and painful duties of your pastoral office to send forth a reply to the Colonel’s arguments; but

Cum tot sustineas et tanta negotia solus,
. . . moribus ornes,
Legibus emendes; in publica commoda peccem,
Si longo sermone morer tua tempora . . .

I am, may it please Your Reverence, with the utmost deference and esteem, Your most obedient servant, COMMON SENSE.





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