The Shot Heard Around the World

As we remember April 19th and the Shot Heard Around the World concerning the Battles at Lexington and Concord; it is imperative to consider the Message from my friend and Harvard classmate Samuel Langdon.

Consider the full truth of that which he preached in remembrance of April 19th, 1775:


by Samuel Langdon

And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.  — ISAIAH 1:26

Shall we rejoice, my fathers and brethren, or shall we weep together, on the return of this anniversary, which from the first settlement of this colony has been sacred to liberty, to perpetuate that invaluable privilege of choosing, from among ourselves, wise men, fearing God, and hating covetousness, to be honorable counselors, to constitute one essential branch of that happy government which was established on the faith of royal charters?

On this day, the people have from year to year assembled, from all our towns, in a vast congregation, with gladness and festivity, with every ensign of joy displayed in our metropolis, which now, alas!  is made a garrison of mercenary troops, the stronghold of despotism.  But how shall I now address you from this desk, remote from the capital (This sermon was preached at Watertown, Mass.), and remind you of the important business which distinguished this day in our calendar, without spreading a gloom over this assembly, by exhibiting the melancholy change made in the face of our public affairs?

We have lived to see the time when British liberty is just ready to expire; when that constitution of government which has so long been the glory and strength of the English nation, is deeply undermined and ready to tumble into ruins–when America is threatened with cruel oppression, and the arm of power is stretched out against New England, and especially against this colony, to compel us to submit to the arbitrary acts of legislators who are not our representatives, and who will not themselves bear the least part of the burdens which, without mercy, they are laying upon us.   The most formal and solemn grants of kings to our ancestors are deemed by our oppressors as of little value, and they have mutilated the charter of this colony in the most essential parts, upon false representations, and new invented maxims of policy, without the least regard to any legal process.  We are no longer permitted to fix our eyes on the faithful of the land, and trust in the wisdom of their counsels, and the equity of their judgment; but men in whom we can have no confidence, whose principles are subversive of our liberties, whose aim is to exercise lordship over us, and share among themselves the public wealth; men who are ready to serve any master, and execute the most unrighteous decrees for high wages, whose faces we never saw before, and whose interests and connections may be far divided from us by the wide Atlantic, are to be set over us as counselors and judges, at the pleasure of those who have the riches and power of the nation in their hands, and whose noblest plan is to subjugate the colonies first, and then the whole nation to their will.

That we might not have it in our power to refuse the most absolute submission to their unlimited claims of authority, they have not only endeavored to terrify us with fleets and armies sent to our capital, and distressed and put an end to our trade, particularly that important branch of it, the fishery, but at length attempted, by a sudden march of a body of troops in the night, to seize and destroy one of our magazines, formed by the people merely for their own security; if, as after such formidable military preparation on the other side, matters should not be pushed to an extremity.  By this, as might well be expected, a skirmish was brought on; and it is most evident, from a variety of concurring circumstances, as well as numerous depositions, both of the prisoners taken by us at that time, and our men then on the spot only as spectators, that the fire began first on the side of the king’s troops.  At least five or six of our inhabitants were murderously killed by the regulars at Lexington, before any man attempted to return the fire, and when they were actually complying with the command to disperse; and two more of our brethren were likewise killed at Concord Bridge by a fire from the king’s soldiers, before the engagement began on our side.   But whatever credit falsehoods transmitted to Great Britain from the other side may gain, the matter may be rested entirely on this–that he that arms himself to commit a robbery, and demands the traveler’s purse, by the terror of instant death, is the first aggressor, though the other should take the advantage of discharging his pistol first and killing the robber.

The alarm was sudden; but in a very short time spread far and wide; the nearest neighbors in haste ran together to assist their brethren, and save their country.  Not more than three or four hundred met in season, and bravely attacked and repulsed the enemies of liberty, who retreated with great precipitation.

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That ever-memorable day, the nineteenth of April, is the date of an unhappy war openly begun, by the ministers of the king of Great Britain, against his good subjects in this colony, and implicitly against all the colonies.   But for what?  Because they have made a noble stand for their natural and constitutional rights, in opposition to the machinations of wicked men, who are betraying their royal master, establishing Popery in the British dominions, and aiming to enslave and ruin the whole nation, that they may enrich themselves and their vile dependents with the public treasures, and the spoils of America.

We have used our utmost endeavors, by repeated humble petitions and remonstrances–by a series of unanswerable reasonings published from the press, in which the dispute has been fairly stated, and the justice of our opposition clearly demonstrated–and by the mediation of some of the noblest and most faithful friends of the British constitution, who have powerfully pleaded our cause in Parliament–to prevent such measures as may soon reduce the body politic to a miserable, dismembered, dying trunk, though lately the terror of all Europe.  But our king, as if impelled by some strange fatality, is resolved to reason with us only by the roar of his cannon, and the pointed arguments of muskets and bayonets.  Because we refuse submission to the despotic power of a ministerial Parliament, our own sovereign, to whom we have been always ready to swear true allegiance–whose authority we never meant to cast off–who might have continued happy in cheerful obedience, as faithful subjects as any in his dominions–has given us up to the rage of his ministers, to be seized at sea by the rapacious commanders of every little sloop of war and piratical cutter, and to be plundered and massacred by land by mercenary troops, who know no distinction betwixt an enemy and a brother, between right and wrong; but only, like brutal pursuers, to hunt and seize the prey pointed out by their masters.

We must keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the ETERNAL KING, as directing all events, setting up or pulling down the kings of the earth at His pleasure, suffering the best forms of human government to degenerate and go to ruin by corruption; or restoring the decayed constitutions of kingdoms and states, by reviving public virtue and religion, and granting the favorable interpositions of His providence.  To this our text leads us; and though I hope to be excused on this occasion from a formal discourse on the words in a doctrinal way, yet I must not wholly pass over the religious instruction contained in them.

Let us consider–that for the sins of a people God may suffer the best government to be corrupted, or entirely dissolved; and that nothing but a general reformation can give ground to hope that the public happiness will be restored, by the recovery of the strength and perfection of the state, and that Divine Providence will interpose to fill every department with wise and good men.

Isaiah prophesied about the time of the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel, and about a century before the captivity of Judah.  The kingdom of Israel was brought to destruction, because its iniquities were full; its counselors and judges were wholly taken away, because there remained no hope of reformation.  But the scepter did not entirely depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till the Messiah came; yet greater and greater changes took place in their political affairs; their government degenerated in proportion as their vices increased, till few faithful men were left in any public offices; and, at length, when they were delivered up for seventy years into the hands of the king of Babylon, scarcely any remains of their original excellent civil polity appeared among them.

The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic.  The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counselors and judges.  They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed the public affairs according to the general voice.  Counselors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government, for there was no such thing as legislative authority belonging to it, their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses.  And let them who cry up the divine right of kings consider, that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment, was so far from including the idea of a king, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were thus gratified,it was rather as a just punishment of their folly, that they might feel the burdens of court pageantry, of which they were warned by a very striking description, than as a divine recommendation of kingly authority.

Every nation, when able and agreed, has a right to set up over itself any form of government which to it may appear most conducive to its common welfare.  The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model, allowing for some peculiarities; at least some principal laws and orders of it may be copied, to great advantage, in more modern establishments.

When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of the state; virtue prevails–every thing is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy.  But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this gradually tends to corrupt the constitution, and in time bring on its dissolution.  This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment of heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessing of religion and liberty, and is guilty of undervaluing them; and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.

In this chapter the prophet describes the very corrupt state of Judah in his day, both as to religion and common morality; and looks forward to that increase of wickedness which would bring on their desolation and captivity.  They were a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that were corrupters, who had forsaken the Lord; and provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.  The whole body of the nation, from head to foot, was full of moral and political disorders, without any remaining soundness.  Their religion was all mere ceremony and hypocrisy; and even the laws of common justice and humanity were disregarded in their public courts.  They had counselors and judges, but very different from those at the beginning of the commonwealth.  Their princes were rebellious against God, and the constitution of their country, and companions of thieves, giving countenance to every artifice for seizing the property of the subjects in their own hands, and robbing the public treasury.   Every one loved gifts, and followed after rewards; they regarded the perquisites more than the duties of their office; the general aim was at profitable places and pensions; they were influenced in every thing by bribery; and their avarice and luxury were never satisfied, but hurried them on to all kinds of oppression and violence, so that they even justified and encouraged the murder of innocent persons to support their lawless power, and increase their wealth.  And God, in righteous judgment, left them to run into all this excess of vice to their own destruction, because they had forsaken Him, and were guilty of willful inattention to the most essential parts of that religion which had been given them by a well-attested revelation from heaven.

The Jewish nation could  not but see and feel the unhappy consequences of so great a corruption of the state.  Doubtless, they complained much of men in power, and very heartily and liberally reproached them for their notorious misconduct.  The public greatly suffered, and the people groaned, and wished for better rulers and better management.  But in vain they hoped for a change of men and measures and better times, when the spirit of religion was gone, and the infection of vice was become universal.  The whole body being so corrupted, there could be no rational prospect of any great reformation in the state, but rather of its ruin; which accordingly came on in Jeremiah’s time.  Yet if a general reformation of religion and morals had taken place, and they had turned to God from all their sins–if they had again recovered the true spirit of their religion, God, by the gracious interpositions of His providence, would soon have found out methods to restore the former virtue of the state, and again have given them men of wisdom and integrity, according to their utmost wish, to be counselors and judges.  This was verified in fact, after the nation had been purged by a long captivity, and returned to their own land humbled, and filled with zeal for God and His law.

By all this we may be led to consider the true cause of the present remarkable troubles which are come upon Great Britain and these colonies; and the only effectual remedy.

We have rebelled against God.  We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it.   We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy commands and institutions.  The worship of many is but mere compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from Him.  By many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism.   And after all the pretended refinements of moderns in the theory of Christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood foremost in the profession of the gospel.  In a general view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said: There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, their wickedness breaks out; and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered.  As they have increased, so have they sinned, therefore God is changing their glory into shame.   The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.

The excellency of the constitution has been the boast of Great Britain, and the envy of neighboring nations.  In former times the great departments of the state, and the various places of trust and authority, were filled with men of wisdom, honesty and religion, who employed all their powers, and were ready to risk their fortunes and their lives for the public good.  They were faithful counselors to kings; directed their authority and majesty to the happiness of the nation; and opposed every step by which despotism endeavored to advance.  They were fathers of the people, and sought the welfare and prosperity of the whole body.  They did not exhaust the national wealth by luxury and bribery, or convert it to their own private benefit, or the maintenance of idle useless officers and dependents; but improved it faithfully for the proper purposes, for the necessary support of government, and defense of the kingdom.  Their laws were dictated by wisdom and equity; and justice was administered with impartiality.  Religion discovered its general influence among all ranks, and kept out great corruptions from places of power.

But in what does the British nation now glory?   In a mere shadow of its ancient political system?  In titles of dignity without virtue?  In vast public treasures continually lavished in corruption, till every fund is exhausted, notwithstanding the mighty streams perpetually flowing in?   In the many artifices to stretch the prerogatives of the crown beyond all constitutional bounds, and make the king an absolute monarch, while the people are deluded with a mere phantom of liberty?  What idea must we entertain of that government, if such an one can be found, which pretends to have made an exact counterbalance of power between the sovereign, the nobles, and the commons, so that the three branches shall be an effectual check upon each other, and the united wisdom of the whole shall conspire to promote the national felicity; but which in reality is reduced to such a situation that it may be managed at the sole will of one court favorite?  What difference is there betwixt one man’s choosing, at his own pleasure, by his single vote, the majority of those who are to represent the people; and his purchasing in such a majority, according to his own nomination, with money out of the public treasury, or other effectual methods of influencing elections?  And what shall we say, if in the same manner, by places, pensions, and other bribes, a minister of state can at any time gain over a nobler majority likewise, to be entirely subservient to his purposes, and moreover persuade his royal master to resign himself up wholly to the direction of his counsels?   If this should be the case of any nation from one seven years’ end to another, the bargain and sale being made sure for such a period, would they still have reason to boast of their excellent constitution?  Ought they not rather to think it high time to restore the corrupted dying state to its original perfection?  I will apply this to the Roman senate under Julius Caesar, which retained all its ancient formalities, but voted always only as Caesar dictated.  If the decrees of such a senate were urged on the Romans as fraught with all the blessings of Roman liberty, we must suppose them strangely deluded, if they were persuaded to believe it.

The pretense for taxing America has been that the nation contracted an immense debt for the defense of the American colonies; and that as they are now able to contribute some proportion toward the discharge of this debt, and must be considered as part of the nation, it is reasonable they should be taxed; and the Parliament has a right to tax and govern them in all cases whatever by its own supreme authority.  Enough has been already published on this grand controversy, which now threatens a final separation of the colonies from Great Britain.  But can the amazing national debt be paid by a little trifling sum squeezed from year to year out of America, which is continually drained of all its cash by a restricted trade with the parent country, and which in this way is taxed to the government of Britain in a very large proportion?  Would it not be much superior wisdom and sounder policy for a distressed kingdom to retrench the vast unnecessary expenses continually incurred by its enormous vices?  To stop the prodigious sums paid in pensions, and to numberless officers, without the least advantage to the public?  To reduce the number of devouring servants in the great family?  To turn their minds from the pursuit of pleasure and the boundless luxuries of life, to the important interests of their country and the salvation of the commonwealth?  Would not a reverend regard to the authority of divine revelation, a hearty belief of the gospel of the grace of God, and a general reformation of all those vices which bring misery and ruin upon individuals, families, and kingdoms, and which have provoked heaven to bring the nation into such perplexed and dangerous circumstances, be the surest way to recover the sinking state, and make it again rich and flourishing?  Millions might annually be saved, if the kingdom were generally and thoroughly reformed; and the public debt, great as it is, might in a few years be cancelled by a growing revenue, which now amounts to full ten millions per annum, without laying additional burdens on any of the subjects.  But the demands of corruption are constantly increasing, and will forever exceed all the resources of wealth which the wit of man can invent or tyranny impose.

Into what fatal policy has the nation been impelled by its public vices?  To wage a cruel war with its own children in these colonies, only to gratify the lust of power, and the demands of extravagance?  May God in His mercy recover Great Britain from this fatal infatuation; show them their errors, and give them a spirit of reformation, before it is too late to avert impending destruction.  May the eyes of the king be opened to see the ruinous tendency of the measures into which he has been led, and his heart inclined to treat his American subjects with justice and clemency, instead of forcing them still farther to the last extremities!   God grant some method may be found out to effect a happy reconciliation, so that the colonies may again enjoy the protection of their sovereign, with perfect security of all their natural rights, and civil and religious liberties.

But, alas!  have not the sins of America, and of New England in particular, had a hand in bringing down upon us the righteous judgments of Heaven?  Wherefore is all this evil come upon us?  Is it not because we have forsaken the Lord?  Can we say we are innocent of crimes against God?  No, surely; it becomes us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt us in due time.  However unjustly and cruelly we have been treated by man, we certainly deserve, at the hand of God, all the calamities in which we are now involved.  Have we not lost much of that spirit of genuine Christianity which so remarkably appeared in our ancestors, for which God distinguished them with the signal favors of providence, when they fled from tyranny and persecution into this western desert?  Have we not departed from their virtues?  Though I hope and am confident that as much true religion, agreeable to the purity and simplicity of the gospel, remains among us as among any people in the world, yet in the midst of the present great apostasy of the nations professing Christianity, have not we likewise been guilty of departing from the living God?  Have we not made light of the gospel of salvation, and too much affected the cold, formal, fashionable religion of countries grown old in vice and overspread with infidelity?  Do not our follies and iniquities testify against us?  Have we not, especially in our seaports, gone much too far into the pride and luxuries of life?   Is it not a fact open to common observation, that profaneness, intemperance, unchastity, the love of pleasure, fraud, avarice, and other vices, are increasing among us from year to year?  And have not even these young governments been in some measure infected with the corruptions of European courts?  Has there been no flattery, no bribery, no artifices practiced, to get into places of honor and profit, or carry a vote to serve a particular interest, without regard to right or wrong?  Have our statesmen always acted with integrity?  and every judge with impartiality, in the fear of God?

In short, have all ranks of men showed regard to the divine commands, and joined to promote the Redeemer’s kingdom and the public welfare?    I wish we could more fully justify ourselves in all these respects.  If such sins have not been so notorious among us as in older countries, we must, nevertheless, remember, that the sins of a people who have been remarkable for the profession of godliness, are more aggravated by all the advantages and favors they have enjoyed, and will receive more speedy and signal punishment; as God says of Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.”

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Let me address you in the words of the prophet–“O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.”  My brethren, let us repent and implore the Divine mercy.   Let us amend our ways and our doings; reform every thing which has been provoking to the Most High, and thus endeavor to obtain the gracious interpositions of Providence for our deliverance.

If true religion is revived by means of these public calamities, and again prevails among us; if it appears in our religious assemblies, in the conduct of our civil affairs, in our armies, in our families, in all our business and conversation, we may hope for the direction and blessing of the Most High, while we are using our best endeavors to preserve and restore the civil government of this colony, and defend America from slavery.

Our late happy government is changed into the terrors of military execution.  Our firm opposition to the establishment of an arbitrary system is called rebellion, and we are to expect no mercy but by yielding property and life at discretion.  This we are resolved at all events not to do; and therefore, we have taken arms in our own defense, and all the colonies are united in the great cause of liberty.

But how shall we live while civil government is dissolved?  What shall we do without counselors and judges?  A state of absolute anarchy is dreadful.  Submission to the tyranny of hundreds of imperious masters, firmly embodied against us, and united in the same cruel design of disposing of our substance and lives at their pleasure, and making their own will our law in all cases whatever, is the vilest slavery, and worse than death.

Thanks be to God, that He has given us, as men, natural rights, independent of all human laws whatever; and these rights are recognized by the grand charter of British liberties.  By the law of nature any body of people, destitute of order and government, may form themselves into a civil society according to their best prudence, and so provide for their common safety and advantage.   When one form is found, by the majority, not to answer the grand purpose in any tolerable degree, they may by common consent put an end to it, and set up another; only as all such great changes are attended with difficulty, and danger of confusion, they ought not to be attempted without urgent necessity, which will be determined always by the general voice of the wisest and best members of the community.  If the great servants of the public forget their duty, betray their trust and sell their country, or make war against the most valuable rights and privileges of the people; reason and justice require that they should be discarded, and others appointed in their room, without any regard to formal resignations of their forfeited power.

It must be ascribed to some supernatural influence on the minds of the main body of the people through this extensive continent, that they have so universally adopted the method of managing the important matters necessary to preserve among them a free government, by corresponding committees and congresses, consisting of the wisest and most disinterested patriots in America, chosen by the unbiased suffrages of the people assembled for that purpose, in their several towns, counties, and provinces.   So general agreement, through so many provinces of so large a country, in one mode of self-preservation, is unexampled in any history; and the effect has exceeded our most sanguine expectations.  Universal tumults, and all the irregularities and violence of mobbish factions, naturally arise when legal authority ceases.  But how little of this has appeared in the midst of the late obstructions of civil government!  Nothing more than what has often happened in Great Britain and Ireland, in the face of the civil powers in all their strength–nothing more than what is frequently seen in the midst of the perfect regulations of the great city of London; and, may I not add, nothing more than has been absolutely necessary to carry into execution the spirited resolutions of a people too sensible to deliver themselves up to oppression and slavery.  The judgment and advice of the continental assembly of delegates have been as readily obeyed as if they were authentic acts of a long-established Parliament.  And in every colony the votes of a congress have had equal effect with the laws of great and general courts.

It is now ten months since Massachusetts has been deprived of the benefit of that government which was so long enjoyed by charter.  They have had no general assembly for matters of legislation and the public revenue.  The courts of justice have been shut up; and almost the whole executive power has ceased to act.   Yet order among the people has been remarkably preserved; few crimes have been committed punishable by the judge; even former contentions between one neighbor and another have ceased; [….]

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A Congress succeeded to the honors of a General Assembly as soon as the latter was crushed by the hand of power.  It gained all the confidence of the people.  Wisdom and prudence secured all that the laws of the former constitution could have given.  And we now observe, with astonishment, an army of many thousands of well-disciplined troops suddenly assembled, and abundantly furnished with all the necessary supplies, in defense of the liberties of America.

But is it proper or safe for the colony to continue much longer in such imperfect order?  Must it not appear rational and necessary, to every man that understands the various movements requisite to good government, that the many parts should be properly settled, and every branch of the legislative and executive authority restored to that order and vigor on which the life and health of the body politic depend?  To the honorable gentlemen, now met in this new congress as the fathers of the people, this weighty matter must be referred.  Who knows but in the midst of all the distresses of the present war to defeat the attempts of arbitrary power, God may in mercy restore to us our judges as at first, and our counselors as at the beginning.

On your wisdom, religion, and public spirit, honored gentlemen, we depend, to determine what may be done as to the important matter of reviving the form of government, and settling all the necessary affairs relating to it in the present critical state of things, that we may again have law and justice, and avoid the danger of anarchy and confusion.  May GOD be with you, and by the influences of His Spirit direct all your counsels and resolutions for the glory of His name, and the safety and happiness of this colony.  We have great reason to acknowledge with thankfulness the evident tokens of the Divine presence with the former congress; that they were led to foresee present exigencies, and make such effectual provision for them.  It is our earnest prayer to the Father of lights, that He would irradiate your minds, make all your way plain, and grant you may be happy instruments of many and great blessings to the people by whom you are constituted, to New England, and all the united colonies.

Let us praise our God for the advantages already given us over the enemies of liberty; particularly, that they have been so dispirited by repeated experience of the efficiency of our arms; and that in the late action at Chelsea, [***] when several hundreds of our soldiery, the greater part open to the fire of so many cannon, swivels, and muskets from a battery advantageously situated, from two armed cutters, and many barges full of marines, and from ships of the line in the harbor, not one man on our side was killed, and but two or three wounded; when, by the best intelligence, a great number were killed and wounded on the other side, and one of their cutters was taken and burned, the other narrowly escaping with great damage.

If God be for us, who can be against us?  The enemy has reproached us for calling on His name, and professing our trust in Him.  They have made a mock of our solemn fasts, and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land.   On this account, by way of contempt, they call us saints; and, that they themselves may keep at the greatest distance from this character, their mouths are full of horrid blasphemies, cursing and bitterness, and vent all the rage of malice, and barbarity.   And may we not be confident that the Most High, who regards these things, will vindicate His own honor, and plead our righteous cause against such enemies to His government, as well as our liberties.  Oh, may our camp be free from every accursed thing!  May our land be purged from all its sins!  May we be truly a holy people, and all our towns, cities of righteousness!  Then the Lord will be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; and we shall have no reason to be afraid though thousands of enemies set themselves against us round about, though all nature should be thrown into tumults and convulsions.  He can command the stars in their courses to fight His battles, and all the elements to wage war with His enemies.  He can destroy them with innumerable plagues, or send faintness into their hearts, so that the men of might shall not find their hands.  In a variety of methods He can work salvation for us, as He did for His people in ancient days, and according to the many remarkable deliverances granted in former times to Great Britain and New England, when popish machinations threatened both countries with civil and ecclesiastical tyranny.   [***]

May the Lord hear us in this day of trouble, and the name of the God of Jacob defend us; send us help from His sanctuary; and strengthen us out of Zion.   We will rejoice in His salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners; let us look to Him to fulfill all our petitions.

Federal Despotism of the Presidency

It was clearly understood by those who were called Anti-federalist that at some point in time when designing and immoral persons would take the seat of president that a ‘despotism’ would be ready to exercise via the modality of the 1787 Constitution.

What was predict here that rings to your ears and reality in this present day?  Hear the Federal Farmer from his 18th Article in the Poughkeepsie Country Journal.


January 25, 1788.

Dear sir,
I am persuaded, a federal head never was formed, that possessed half the powers which it could carry into full effect, altogether independently of the state or local governments, as the one, the convention has proposed, will possess. (more…)

Sam Adams Modern Programing Archived

There is a mean of communication in modern times that allows the voiced of history to become present and relative to immediate occasions.  ‘Samuel Adams Returns – The Anti-federalists Got It Right’ is a program on “Liberty Works Radio Network.”  The Archives for this program are available to be heard when the Citizen has moments to accommodate the speaker at Radio Program Archives.

Independence Twenty Years Later

The joy of seeing all the notable men of the Colonies rising to sign a Declaration that would fulfill twenty years of labor was beyond all that I could hope for.  We as a people have experienced the continues abuses of those who were expected to be the protectors of our Liberties.

Now after all these years, the energy that was given through the preaching in the nation that caused a Great Awakening such that true Liberty was clearly understood and the Foundations of our Fathers returned to a Reformation Faith that initially settled America.

To elaborate on my true feelings of this day I suggest that you take the time to read what I spoke on August 1st, 1776.  American Independence 8-1-1776 v2

Sixty-five Years Later

The nation was formed through great effort of ministerial sermons and the blood of Patriots.  The fist Constitution being the Articles of Confederation were needing moderation to address issues amongst the now Thirteen Independent Republics.  Some had a grander vision for a more consolidated federal system while those like myself preferred stronger confederation with the States holding the greater authority in governance.  In the end, those pressing for a completely new form of national government won the day yet, Wisdom prevailed in attempting to bind the beast that could subsume our independent Republics with despotism and tyranny through the incorporation of a Bill of Rights.

Then in the 1830’s a young Frenchman spent time looking at the complex workings of America.  He investigated not only the national system of government but was taken by what self-governance entailed all the way to the family.  He then wrote extensively about the American experiment in self-governance through a Republic and published his works in in 1840.

In Book IV Chapter VI he comments; “… I do not however deny that a constitution of this kind appears to me to be infinitely preferable to one, which, after having concentrated all the powers of government, should vest them in the hands of an irresponsible person or body of persons. Of all the forms which democratic despotism could assume, the latter would assuredly be the worst. When the sovereign is elective, or narrowly watched by a legislature which is really elective and independent, the oppression which he exercises over individuals is sometimes greater, but it is always less degrading; because every man, when he is oppressed and disarmed, may still imagine, that whilst he yields obedience it is to himself he yields it, and that it is to one of his own inclinations that all the rest give way. In like manner I can understand that when the sovereign represents the nation, and is dependent upon the people, the rights and the power of which every citizen is deprived, not only serve the head of the State, but the State itself; and that private persons derive some return from the sacrifice of their independence which they have made to the public. To create a representation of the people in every centralized country, is therefore, to diminish the evil which extreme centralization may produce, but not to get rid of it. I admit that by this means room is left for the intervention of individuals in the more important affairs; but it is not the less suppressed in the smaller and more private ones. It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day, and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience, which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions, only exhibits servitude at certain intervals, and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity. *b I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations which have introduced freedom into their political constitution, at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution, have been led into strange paradoxes. To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted—the people are held to be unequal to the task, but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the playthings of their ruler, and his masters—more than kings, and less than men. After having exhausted all the different modes of election, without finding one to suit their purpose, they are still amazed, and still bent on seeking further; as if the evil they remark did not originate in the constitution of the country far more than in that of the electoral body. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people. A constitution, which should be republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts, has ever appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions, or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.”

De Tocquiville continues in the next chapter, “… Something analogous may be said of the judicial power. It is a part of the essence of judicial power to attend to private interests, and to fix itself with predilection on minute objects submitted to its observation; another essential quality of judicial power is never to volunteer its assistance to the oppressed, but always to be at the disposal of the humblest of those who solicit it; their complaint, however feeble they may themselves be, will force itself upon the ear of justice and claim redress, for this is inherent in the very constitution of the courts of justice. A power of this kind is therefore peculiarly adapted to the wants of freedom, at a time when the eye and finger of the government are constantly intruding into the minutest details of human actions, and when private persons are at once too weak to protect themselves, and too much isolated for them to reckon upon the assistance of their fellows. The strength of the courts of law has ever been the greatest security which can be offered to personal independence; but this is more especially the case in democratic ages: private rights and interests are in constant danger, if the judicial power does not grow more extensive and more strong to keep pace with the growing equality of conditions.  

And “

Equality awakens in men several propensities extremely dangerous to freedom, to which the attention of the legislator ought constantly to be directed. I shall only remind the reader of the most important amongst them. Men living in democratic ages do not readily comprehend the utility of forms: they feel an instinctive contempt for them—I have elsewhere shown for what reasons. Forms excite their contempt and often their hatred; as they commonly aspire to none but easy and present gratifications, they rush onwards to the object of their desires, and the slightest delay exasperates them. This same temper, carried with them into political life, renders them hostile to forms, which perpetually retard or arrest them in some of their projects. Yet this objection which the men of democracies make to forms is the very thing which renders forms so useful to freedom; for their chief merit is to serve as a barrier between the strong and the weak, the ruler and the people, to retard the one, and give the other time to look about him. Forms become more necessary in proportion as the government becomes more active and more powerful, whilst private persons are becoming more indolent and more feeble. Thus democratic nations naturally stand more in need of forms than other nations, and they naturally respect them less. This deserves most serious attention. Nothing is more pitiful than the arrogant disdain of most of our contemporaries for questions of form; for the smallest questions of form have acquired in our time an importance which they never had before: many of the greatest interests of mankind depend upon them. I think that if the statesmen of aristocratic ages could sometimes contemn forms with impunity, and frequently rise above them, the statesmen to whom the government of nations is now confided ought to treat the very least among them with respect, and not neglect them without imperious necessity. In aristocracies the observance of forms was superstitious; amongst us they ought to be kept with a deliberate and enlightened deference.

Another tendency, which is extremely natural to democratic nations and extremely dangerous, is that which leads them to despise and undervalue the rights of private persons. The attachment which men feel to a right, and the respect which they display for it, is generally proportioned to its importance, or to the length of time during which they have enjoyed it. The rights of private persons amongst democratic nations are commonly of small importance, of recent growth, and extremely precarious—the consequence is that they are often sacrificed without regret, and almost always violated without remorse. But it happens that at the same period and amongst the same nations in which men conceive a natural contempt for the rights of private persons, the rights of society at large are naturally extended and consolidated: in other words, men become less attached to private rights at the very time at which it would be most necessary to retain and to defend what little remains of them. It is therefore most especially in the present democratic ages, that the true friends of the liberty and the greatness of man ought constantly to be on the alert to prevent the power of government from lightly sacrificing the private rights of individuals to the general execution of its designs. At such times no citizen is so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed—no private rights are so unimportant that they can be surrendered with impunity to the caprices of a government. The reason is plain:—if the private right of an individual is violated at a time when the human mind is fully impressed with the importance and the sanctity of such rights, the injury done is confined to the individual whose right is infringed; but to violate such a right, at the present day, is deeply to corrupt the manners of the nation and to put the whole community in jeopardy, because the very notion of this kind of right constantly tends amongst us to be impaired and lost.”

Learn from the history that you may remain Free, Independent and Secure in your God Given Rights.

Published in: on June 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oh, For the Preaching of Hitchcock Today!

Gad Hitchcock

Boston, 1774

An Election-Sermon


When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

This is the observation of a wise ruler, relative to civil government; and the different effects of administration, according as it is placed in good or bad hands—and it having been preserved in the sacred oracles, not without providential direction, equally for the advantage of succeeding rulers, and other men of every class in society; it will not be thought improper by any, who have a veneration for revelation, and the instruction of princes, to make it the subject of our present consideration—Especially as our civil rulers, in acknowledgment of a superintending Providence, have invited us into the temple this morning, to ask counsel of God in respect to the great affairs of this anniversary, and the general conduct of government.

Accordingly, I shall take occasion from it—to make a few general remarks on the nature and end of civil government—point out some of the qualifications of rulers—and then apply the subject to the design of our assembling at this time.

First, I shall make a few remarks on the nature and end of civil government.


Thanksgiving Proclamation – as Governor


OCTOBER 14, 1795.

[Independent Chronicle, October 19, 1795.]

Published by Authority [Seal] Commonwealth of Massachusetts,



FORASMUCH as the occasional meeting of a People for the exercise of Piety and Devotion towards God, more especially of those who enjoy the Light of Divine Revelation, has a strong tendency to impress their minds with a sense of Dependence upon HIM and their Obligations to HIM.

I have thought fit, according to the ancient and laudable Practice of our renowned ancestors, to appoint a day of Public Thanksgiving to God, for the great benefits which HE has been pleased to bestow upon us, in the Year past. And I do by advice and consent of the Council, appoint THURSDAY the Nineteenth day of November next, to be observed as a DAY of PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAISE throughout this Commonwealth: Calling upon the Ministers of the Gospel of all Denominations, with their respective Congregations to assemble on that Day to offer to God, their unfained Gratitude, for his great Goodness to the People of the United States in general, and of this Commonwealth in particular.

More especially in that he hath in his Good Providence united the several States under a National Compact formed by themselves, whereby they may defend themselves against external Enemies, and maintain Peace and Harmony with each other.

That internal tranquillity has been continued within this Commonwealth; and that the voice of Health is so generally heard in the habitations of the People.

That the Earth has yielded her increase, so that the labours of our industrious Husbandmen have been abundantly crowned with Plenty.

That our Fisheries have been so far prospered.  Our Trade notwithstanding obstructions it has met with, has yet been profitable to us, and the works of our Hands have been established.

That while other nations have been involved in War, attended with an uncommon profusion of Human Blood, we in the course of Divine Providence, have been preserved from so grievous a Calamity, and have enjoyed so great a measure of the Blessing of Peace.

And I do recommend that together with our Thanksgiving, humble Prayer may be offered to God, that we may be enabled, by the subsequent obedience of our Hearts and Manners, to testify the sincerity of our professions of Gratitude, in the sight of God and Man; and thus be prepared for the Reception of future Divine Blessings.

That GOD would be pleased to Guide and Direct the Administration of the Federal Government, and those of the several States, in Union, so that the whole People may continue to be safe and happy in the Constitutional enjoyment of their Rights, Liberties and Privileges, and our Governments be greatly respected at Home and Abroad.

And while we rejoice in the Blessing of Health bestowed upon us, we would sympathize with those of our Sister States, who are visited with a Contagious and Mortal Disease; and fervently supplicate the FATHER of Mercies that they may speedily be restored to a state of Health and Prosperity.

That HE would in HIS abundant Mercy regard our fellow Citizens and others, who are groaning under abject Slavery, in Algiers, and direct the most effectual measures for their speedy Relief.

That HE would graciously be pleased to put an end to all Tyranny and Usurpation, that the People who are under the Yoke of Oppression, may be made free; and that the Nations who are contending for freedom may still be secured by HIS Almighty Aid, and enabled under His influence to complete wise systems of Civil Government, founded in the equal Rights of Men and calculated to establish their permanent Security and Welfare.

And Finally, that the Peaceful and Glorious Reign of our Divine

Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole Family of


And I do recommend to the People of this Commonwealth, to abstain from all such Labour and Recreation, as may not be consistent with the Solemnity of the said Day.

Given at the Council-Chamber, in Boston, the fourteenth Day of October in the Year of our LORD, One Thousand seven Hundred and Ninety-five, and in the Twentieth Year of the Independence of the United States of America.



True Copy–Attest,

JOHN AVERY, jun. Sec’ry.

God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

My Hopes for Congress Then and Now!

This letter was to my Dear Friend Elbridge Gerry.  He was serving in the Confederated Congress when I wrote this letter to him.  My concerns for Congress hold true not only for that day in September in 1783 but would hold my beliefs more so after the new Constitution came into being.

I wrote on September 9th Saying:

This is the first letter I have been able to write since I had the pleasure of seeing you, excepting a short one to our delegates, informing them that the general court had appointed a committee to correspond with them. Mr. Appleton and Mr. Rowe are my colleagues in this business. The correspondence is to be very extensive. “Any other important matter which relates to the being and welfare of the United States!” My bodily illness has prevented my engaging in it. I wish the delegates would begin. The welfare, and perhaps the being of the United States, in my opinion, depends much upon congress possessing the confidence of the people at large; that upon the administration of public affairs being manifestly grounded upon principles of equality and justice, or upon the people being assured that congress merit their confidence. The war is now over, and the people turn their eyes to the disposition of their money, a subject, which I hope congress will always have so clear a knowledge of, as to be able at any time to satisfy the rational enquiries of the people. To prevent groundless jealousies, it seems necessary not only that the principal in that department should himself be immaculate, but that care should be taken that no persons be admitted to his confidence but such as have the entire confidence of the people. Should a suspicion prevail that our high treasurer suffers men of bad principles or of no principles to be about him and employed by him, the fidelity of congress itself would be suspected, and a total loss of confidence would follow. I am much concerned for the reputation of congress, and have laboured to support it because that body is and must be the cement of the union of the states. I hope, therefore, they will always make it evident to reasonable men that their administration merits the public applause. Will they be able to do this, if they should cease to be very watchful over men whom they trust in great departments, especially those who have the disposition of the public moneys? Power will follow the possession of money, even when it is known that it is not the possessor’s property. So fascinating are riches in the eyes of mankind! Were our financier, I was going to say, even an angel from heaven, I hope he will never have so much influence as to gain the ascendency over congress, which the first lord of the treasury has long had over the parliament of Britain; long enough to effect the ruin of that nation. These are the fears which I expressed in congress when the department was first instituted. I was told, that the breath of congress could annihilate the financier; but I replied, that the time might come, and if they were not careful it certainly would, when even congress would not dare to blow that breath. Whether these fears are the mere creatures of the imagination you will judge.
My regards to Dr. Holten and Mr. Higgenson, if he is still in Congress.

Pray write to me often.

Have not modern times played out the concerns that I had?  Are not those that control the treasury of the Union and even of the States more in control then the Representatives of the People?  The People are to blame for not maintaining the watchful eye over those that have been elected and worse, the elected not holding accountable those appointed to the various departments.

Mr. Gerry and I are for Limited government!  That must be the cry of the people!  To demand a full accountability for the Peoples money and to regard it with the same principles of good conduct as one would within their own household.

For those in the present age, it is critical that you understand the Tale of Two Constitutions and hear this told at your events and meetings.

Don’t Let the Few Determine the Outcome… GET OUT and VOTE!!!

Boston Gazette, April 2, 1781

Extract of a Letter from the Southward.

“As we have a Constitution (Articles of Confederation were adopted March of 1781) which is admired for its genuine Principles, I have been solicitous (def: eager or anxious) to know, whether our Countrymen at large partook of the Spirit of those who formed it. I have conceived strong Hopes, that in organizing their Government and electing Persons to fill the important Places of Trust, no Consideration would avail, to govern their Suffrages in Favour of any Candidate, unless he was possessed of those Qualities which are necessary, to enable him to perform the Duties of the Office to be filled, to the Advantage of the Publick. I have flattered my self, that both the Governors and the Governed would have lain aside the gawdy Trappings of Monarchy, and put on that Simplicity which is the Ornament and Strength of a free Republick. HOW far it has been done, I am not able to judge at this Distance. It is a great Satisfaction to me to be informed, that some of the best Men in the Commonwealth have been elected into the Principal Departments of Government. Men, who will dignify the Character of our Country—who will revive and disseminate those Principles, moral and political, to propagate which, our Ancestors transplanted themselves into this new World—Men who by the Wisdom of their Councils and their exemplary Manners, will establish the public Liberty on the Foundation of a Rock.—These Men will secure to themselves more of the Esteem of their virtuous, and even of their vicious Fellow-Citizens, than they could by a thousand courtly Addresses which are commonly the Breath of Vanity and Adulation.—There is a charm in Virtue to force Esteem.—If Men of a different Character have by any Means been advanced to those hallow’d Seats, who have even sollicited public Employments to give a Scope to Views of Ambition and Avarice, Passions which have in all Ages been the Bane of human Society; or, to gratify the raging Thirst for popular Applause, a Disease with which little minds are usually tormented, it is our Happiness that the Constitution requires annual Elections, and such Mistakes may be corrected at the next.

I was sorry to hear, that the Number of Votes returned, the last Time, did not amount to a Quarter of the Number of qualified Electors in the Commonwealth. The Choice of Legislators, Magistrates and Governors, is surely a Business of the greatest Moment, and claims the Attention of every Citizen. The Framers of our Constitution, while they gave due Attention to Political were not forgetful of Civil Liberty—that personal Freedom and those Rights of Property, which the meanest Citizen is intitled to, and the Security of which is the great End of political Society. It was not indeed their Province to make particular Laws for these Purposes. To do this, and to provide for the equal and impartial Execution of such Laws, agreeable to the Constitution, is the Duty of the Legislature. Hence every Citizen will see, and I hope will be deeply impressed with a Sense of it, how exceedingly important it is to himself, and how intimately the welfare of his Children is connected with it, that those who are to have a Share in making as well as in judging and executing the Laws should be Men of singular Wisdom and Integrity. Such as are conscious that they are deficient in either of these Qualities, should even TREMBLE at being named as Candidates! I hope the great Business of Elections will never be left by the Many, to be done by the Few; for before we are aware of it, that few may become the Engine of Corruption—the Tool of a Junto.—Heaven forbid! that our Countrymen should ever be byass’d in their Choice, by unreasonable Predilections for any man, or that an Attachment to the Constitution, as has been the Case in other Countries, should be lost in Devotion to Persons. The Effect of this would soon be, to change the Love of Liberty into the Spirit of Faction. Let each Citizen remember, at the Moment he is offering his Vote, that he is not making a Present or a Compliment to please an Individual, or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn Trusts in human Society, for which he is accountable to GOD and his Country.

“When the great Body of the People are determined not to be imposed upon by a false Glare of Virtues held before their Eyes, but, making up their own Minds, shall impartially give in their Suffrages, after their best Enquiries into the Characters of Candidates, for those whom they judge to be the fittest Persons, there will be no Danger that the generous Enthusiasm of Freedom, so characteristic of the People of Massachusetts, will ever sink into the Violence and Rage of Party, which has often proved fatal to free Republicks.”

[a draft is in the Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library. Endorsed by Adams: “The foregoing was sent to Mr Edes by the Post March 13, 1781.”]

Anti-Federalis Paper: Brutus VI

I appreciated Mr. Yates of New York addressing the potential dangers of the unamended constitution as submitted to the States for ratification.  Being a strong proponent of Liberty since my Masters Thesis in 1742 I too have many issues regarding this consolidation of government.  Hear the arguments of Mr. Yates relating to taxation, growth of government, lack of definition of the “general welfare” and virtually establishing a future despotic plan for posterity, IF moral and virtuous people are not holding the seats that would be the national government.  The fallen nature of man with this constitution as submitted by the 1787 convention, leaves open the opportunities for a future tyranny over the people.

I bolded and underlined that which I found very thought provoking and which could come to fruition for future generations.

S. Adams

Brutus  VI


 27 December 1787   

It is an important question, whether the general government of the United States should be so framed, as to absorb and swallow up the state governments? or whether, on the contrary, the former ought not to be confined to certain defined national objects, while the latter should retain all the powers which concern the internal police of the states?

I have, in my former papers, offered a variety of arguments to prove, that a simple free government could not be exercised over this whole continent, and that therefore we must either give up our liberties and submit to an arbitrary one, or frame a constitution on the plan of confederation.  Further reasons might be urged to prove this point — but it seems unnecessary, because the principal advocates of the new constitution admit of the position.  The question therefore between us, this being admitted, is, whether or not this system is so formed as either directly to annihilate the state governments, or that in its operation it will certainly effect it.  If this is answered in the affirmative, then the system ought not to be adopted, without such amendments as will avoid this consequence.  If on the contrary it can be shewn, that the state governments are secured in their rights to manage the internal police of the respective states, we must confine ourselves in our enquiries to the organization of the government and the guards and provisions it contains to prevent a misuse or abuse of power.  To determine this question, it is requisite, that we fully investigate the nature, and the extent of the powers intended to be granted by this constitution to the rulers.

In my last number I called your attention to this subject, and proved, as I think, uncontrovertibly, that the powers given the legislature under the 8th section of the 1st article, had no other limitation than the discretion of the Congress.  It was shewn, that even if the most favorable construction was given to this paragraph, that the advocates for the new constitution could wish, it will convey a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, duties, and excises, according to the discretion of the legislature, and to make all laws which they shall judge proper and necessary to carry this power into execution. This I shewed would totally destroy all the power of the state governments.  To confirm this, it is worth while to trace the operation of the government in some particular instances.

The general government is to be vested with authority to levy and collect taxes, duties, and excises; the separate states have also power to impose taxes, duties, and excises, except that they cannot lay duties on exports and imports without the consent of Congress.  Here then the two governments have concurrent jurisdiction; both may lay impositions of this kind.  But then the general government have supperadded to this power, authority to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying the foregoing power into execution.   Suppose then that both governments should lay taxes, duties, and excises, and it should fall so heavy on the people that they would be unable, or be so burdensome that they would refuse to pay them both — would it not be necessary that the general legislature should suspend the collection of the state tax?  It certainly would.  For, if the people could not, or would not pay both, they must be discharged from the tax to the state, or the tax to the general government could not be collected. — The conclusion therefore is inevitable, that the respective state governments will not have the power to raise one shilling in any way, but by the permission of the Congress.  I presume no one will pretend, that the states can exercise legislative authority, or administer justice among their citizens for any length of time, without being able to raise a sufficiency to pay those who administer their governments.

 If this be true, and if the states can raise money only by permission of the general government, it follows that the state governments will be dependent on the will of the general government for their existence.

What will render this power in Congress effectual and sure in its operation is, that the government will have complete judicial and executive authority to carry all their laws into effect, which will be paramount to the judicial and executive authority of the individual states: in vain therefore will be all interference of the legislatures, courts, or magistrates of any of the   states on the subject; for they will be subordinate to the general government, and engaged by oath to support it, and will be constitutionally bound to submit to their decisions.

The general legislature will be empowered to lay any tax they chuse, to annex any penalties they please to the breach of their revenue laws; and to appoint as many officers as they may think proper to collect the taxes.  They will have authority to farm the revenues and to vest the farmer general, with his subalterns (an officer in the army below the rank of captain, esp. a second lieutenant.), with plenary (absolute) powers to collect them, in any way which to them may appear eligible.  And the courts of law, which they will be authorized to institute, will have cognizance of every case arising under the revenue laws, the conduct of all the officers employed in collecting them; and the officers of these courts will execute their judgments.  There is no way, therefore, of avoiding the destruction of the state governments, whenever the Congress please to do it, unless the people rise up, and, with a strong hand, resist and prevent the execution of constitutional laws.  The fear of this, will, it is presumed, restrain the general government, for some time, within proper bounds; but it will not be many years before they will have a revenue, and force, at their command, which will place them   above any apprehensions on that score.

How far the power to lay and collect duties and excises, may operate to dissolve the state governments, and oppress the people, it is impossible to say.  It would assist us much in forming a just opinion on this head, to consider the various objects to which this kind of taxes extend, in European nations, and the infinity of laws they have passed respecting them.  Perhaps, if leisure will permit, this may be essayed in some future paper.

 It was observed in my last number, that the power to lay and collect duties and excises, would invest the Congress with authority to impose a duty and excise on every necessary and convenience of life.  As the principal object of the government, in laying a duty or excise, will be, to raise money, it is obvious, that they will fix on such articles as are of the most general use and consumption; because, unless great quantities of the article, on which the duty is laid, is used, the revenue cannot be considerable.  We may therefore presume, that the articles which will be the object of this species of taxes will be either the real necessaries of life; or if not these, such as from custom and habit are esteemed so.  I will single out a few of the productions of our own country, which may, and probably will, be of the number.  

Cider (distilled alcohols and wines) is an article that most probably will be one of those on which an excise will be laid, because it is one, which this country produces in great abundance, which is in very general use, is consumed in great quantities, and which may be said too not to be a real necessary of life.  An excise on this would raise a large sum of money in the United States.  How would the power, to lay and collect an excise on cider, and to pass all laws proper and necessary to carry it into execution, operate in its exercise?  It might be necessary, in order to collect the excise on cider, to grant to one man, in each county, an exclusive right of building and keeping cider-mills, and oblige him to give bonds and security for payment of the excise; or, if this was not done, it might be necessary to license the mills, which are to make this liquor, and to take from them security, to account for the excise; or, if otherwise, a great number of officers must be employed, to take account of the cider made, and to collect the duties on it.   

Porter, ale, and all kinds of malt-liquors, are articles that would probably be subject also to an excise.  It would be necessary, in order to collect such an excise, to regulate the manufactory of these, that the quantity made might be ascertained or otherwise security could not be had for the payment of the excise.  Every brewery must then be licensed, and officers appointed, to take account of its product, and to secure the payment of the duty, or excise, before it is sold.  Many other articles might be named, which would be objects of this species of taxation, but I refrain from enumerating them.  It will probably be said, by those who advocate this system, that the observations already made on this head, are calculated only to inflame the minds of the people, with the apprehension of dangers merely imaginary.  That there is not the least reason to apprehend, the general legislature will exercise their power in this manner.  To this I would only say, that these kinds of taxes exist in Great Britain, and are severely felt.  The excise on cider and perry (an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of pears.), was imposed in that nation a few years ago, and it is in the memory of every one, who read the history of the transaction, what great tumults it occasioned.

This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every comer of the city, and country — It will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States.  To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be   GIVE! GIVE!

A power that has such latitude, which reaches every person in the community in every conceivable circumstance, and lays hold of every species of property they possess, and which has no bounds set to it, but the discretion of those who exercise it[,] I say, such a power must necessarily, from its very nature, swallow up all the power of the state governments.

I shall add but one other observation on this head, which is this — It appears to me a solecism (a breach of good manners; a piece of incorrect behavior.), for two men, or bodies of men, to have unlimited power respecting the same object.  It contradicts the scripture maxim, which saith, “no man can serve two masters,” the one power or the other must prevail, or else they will destroy each other, and neither of them effect their purpose.  It may be compared to two mechanic powers, acting upon the same body in opposite directions, the consequence would be, if the powers were equal, the body would remain in a state of rest, or if the force of the one was superior to that of the other, the stronger would prevail, and overcome the resistance of the weaker.

But it is said, by some of the advocates of this system, “That the idea that Congress can levy taxes at pleasure, is false, and the suggestion wholly unsupported: that the preamble to the constitution is declaratory of the   purposes of the union, and the assumption of any power not necessary to establish justice, &c. to provide for the common defence, &c. will be   unconstitutional.  Besides, in the very clause which gives the power of levying duties and taxes, the purposes to which the money shall be appropriated, are specified, viz. to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare.”[1] I would ask those, who reason thus, to define what ideas are included under the terms, to provide for the common defence and general welfare?  Are these terms definite, and will they be understood in the same manner, and to apply to the same cases by every one?  No one will pretend they will.  It will then be matter of opinion, what tends to the general welfare; and the Congress will be the only judges in the matter.  To provide for the general welfare, is an abstract proposition, which mankind differ in the explanation of, as much as they do on any political or moral proposition that can be proposed; the most opposite measures may be pursued by different parties, and both may profess, that   they have in view the general welfare; and both sides may be honest in their professions, or both may have sinister views.  Those who advocate this new constitution declare, they are influenced by a regard to the general welfare; those who oppose it, declare they are moved by the same principle; and I have no doubt but a number on both sides are honest in their professions; and yet nothing is more certain than this, that to adopt this constitution, and not to adopt it, cannot both of them be promotive of the general welfare.

It is as absurd to say, that the power of Congress is limited by these general expressions, “to provide for the common safety, and general welfare,” as it would be to say, that it would be limited, had the constitution said they should have power to lay taxes, &c. at will and pleasure.  Were this authority given, it might be said, that under it the legislature could not do injustice, or pursue any measures, but such as were calculated to promote the public good, and happiness.  For every man, rulers as well as others, are bound by the immutable laws of God and reason, always to will what is right.  It is certainly right and fit, that the governors of every people should provide for the common defence and general welfare; every government, therefore, in the world, even the greatest despot, is limited in the exercise of his power.  But however just this reasoning may be, it would be found, in practice, a most pitiful restriction.  The government would always say, their measures were designed and calculated to promote the public good; and there being no judge between them and the people, the rulers themselves must, and would always, judge for themselves.

There are others of the favourers of this system, who admit, that the power of the Congress under it, with respect to revenue, will exist without limitation, and contend, that so it ought to be.

It is said, “The power to raise armies, to build and equip fleets, and to provide for their support, ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee, or to define, the extent and variety of national exigencies (the exigencies of the war: need, demand, requirement, necessity.), or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them.[“]

This, it is said, “is one of those truths which, to correct and unprejudiced minds, carries its own evidence along with it.  It rests upon axioms as simple as they are universal: the means ought to be proportioned to the end; the person, from whose agency the attainment of any end is expected, ought to possess the means by which it is to be attained.”[2]

This same writer insinuates, that the opponents to the plan promulgated by the convention (the constitution), manifests a want of candor, in objecting to the extent of the powers proposed to be vested in this government; because he asserts, with an air of confidence, that the powers ought to be unlimited as to the object to which they extend; and that this position, if not self-evident, is at least clearly demonstrated by the foregoing mode of reasoning.  But with submission to this author’s better judgment, I humbly conceive his reasoning will appear, upon examination, more specious (superficially plausible, but actually wrong) than solid.  The means, says the gentleman, ought to be proportioned to the end: admit the proposition to be true it is then necessary to enquire, what is the end of the government of the United States, in order to draw any just conclusions from it.  Is this end simply to preserve the general government, and to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the union only? certainly not: for beside this, the state governments are to be supported, and provision made for the managing such of their internal concerns as are allotted to them. It is admitted, “that the circumstances of our country are such, as to demand a compound, instead of a simple, a confederate, instead of a sole government,” that the objects of each ought to be pointed out, and that each ought to possess ample authority to execute the powers committed to them. The government then, being complex in its nature, the end it has in view is so also; and it is as necessary, that the state governments should possess the means to attain the ends expected from them, as for the general government.  Neither the general government, nor the state governments, ought to be vested with all the powers proper to be exercised for promoting the ends of government.  The powers are divided between them — certain ends are to be attained by the one, and other certain ends by the other; and these, taken together, include all the ends of good government.  This being the case, the conclusion follows, that each should be furnished with the means, to attain the ends, to which they are designed.

To apply this reasoning to the case of revenue; the general government is charged with the care of providing for the payment of the debts of the United States; supporting the general government, and providing for the defence of the union.  To obtain these ends, they should be furnished with means.  But does it thence follow, that they should command all the revenues   of the United States!  Most certainly it does not.  For if so, it will follow, that no means will be left to attain other ends, as necessary to the happiness of the country, as those committed to their care.  The individual states have debts to discharge; their legislatures and executives are to be supported, and provision is to be made for the administration of justice in the respective states.  For these objects the general government has no authority to provide; nor is it proper it should. It is clear then.  That the states should have the command of such revenues, as to answer the ends they have to obtain.  To say, “that the circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite,” and from hence to infer, that all the sources of revenue in the states should be yielded to the general government, is not conclusive reasoning: for the Congress are authorized only to controul in general concerns, and not regulate local and internal ones; and these are as essentially requisite to be provided for as those.  The peace and happiness of a community is as intimately connected with the prudent direction of their domestic affairs, and the due administration of justice among themselves, as with a competent provision for their defence against foreign invaders, and indeed more so.

Upon the whole, I conceive, that there cannot be a clearer position than this, that the state governments ought to have an uncontroulable power to raise a revenue, adequate to the exigencies of their governments; and, I presume, no such power is left them by this constitution.                                                   



1. Vide an examination into the leading principles of the federal constitution, printed in Philadelphia, Page 34.

 2. Vide the Federalist, No. 23. 

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