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this intended political change, is drawn from the imperfection of the English Constitutiona Constitution, till this Utopian started up, the admiration of the world, and which, at this moment, gives birth to the only freemen in the habitable globe! It would be improper in this place to enter fully into a vindication of the mixed form of the English Constitution, and it is extraordinary, that one who has lived under it, should want any other guide than his own consciousness.
It is the language of our lawyers, that a King of England is absolute in doing good, but he has no power to do wrong. This we have seen exemplified in the history of the Stuarts, who, with as much inclination to be despotick as any Princes on earth, found the attempt fatal to their family. The same may be said of the other parts of the Constitution; and unless there is a conspiracy of the whole to subvert its liberty, it must ever remain unshaken. Why may not such a conspiracy take place in a Republick, as well as in a mixed Monarchy? The temptation is equally great, and the road to it much easier, where one body is to be brought into it, than three.
I would refer the reader to Judge Blackstones Commentaries, and shall only cite from him the following observations: Here, then, is lodged the sovereignty of the British Constitution, and lodged as beneficially as it is possible for society. For, in no other shape could we be as certain of finding the three great qualities of Government so happily united. If the supreme power were lodged in any one of the three branches, separately, we must be exposed to the inconveniences of either absolute Monarchy, Aristocracy, or Democracy, and so want two of the three principal ingredients of good policyeither virtue, wisdom, or power. But the constitutional Government of this Island is so admirably tempered and compounded, that nothing can endanger or hurt it, but destroying the equilibrium of power between one branch of the Legislature and the rest. Herein consists the true excellence of the English Constitution, that all the parts of it form a mutual check upon each other. In all tyrannical Governments, the supreme magistracy, or the right of making and enforcing laws, is vested in one and the same person; and wherever these two powers are united, there can be no publick liberty. In England, this supreme power is divided into two branches; the one legislative, to wit: the Parliament; the other executive, consisting of the King alone. The total union of them would be productive of tyranny.
When the reader has perused the book from whence these extracts are taken, he must decide for himself which of the two is of most authority, Judge Blackstone or the author of Common Sense.
What is there, either in theory or experience, that can make us in love with a Commonwealth? It will be said, that the good of the people being the object of Government, the whole administration of it should be in their hands. But this does not follow; for if the happiness of the people is better promoted by leaving but part in their hands, that mode is most eligible. For instance, if the laws which the people make will be better observed by entrusting the execution of them to a Magistrate, or Magistrates, who are not immediately accountable to, and do not stand in awe of the populace, certainly it is the wisest method. That this is the case, both reason and fact verify. Where popular opinions and prejudices interfere in the execution of laws, what Magistrate, depending on the breath of the people, would dare to adhere to the letter of the law, and render himself obnoxious to the prevailing party, and consequently part with his office? This observation is equally true in fact. The worst Judges I have ever seen, are those who have some favour to ask of the people. An elective Judge is a monster in Government. Without some other constitutional aid, in vain would the feeble hand of justice endeavour to support the balance against a powerful prevailing faction. I should much doubt if justice is better administered in Rhode Island than some of the monarchical Colonies, or even in Westminster-Hall.
I believe history, ancient or modem, will make few Republicans, He that reads the state of the Grecian or Roman Republicks, what doth he read, but scenes of domes tick violence and rapine, war and bloodshed? Even the virtue of individuals could not preserve them from crumbling to pieces. Like ill-constructed machines set in motion, they perished by their own instability and unwieldiness. Nor will the Commonwealths of our own times excite our envy. I know of but two pure Democracies in the world, viz; Connecticut and Rhode-Island. Those of Holland, Switzerland, and Italy, are Aristocraciesof all tyrannies the least supportable. If any one chooses to turn panygerist, and declaim in praise of the two I have mentioned, I have no objection.
But it must be acknowledged that the English Constitution, like all other human systems, is in some parts imperfect, and open to corruption. The unequal representation by means of Boroughs, and the length of Parliaments, have made them less amenable to the people, and introduced a system of venality. How long this poison will operate before the vitals are affected, or whether the soundness of the Constitution will one day throw it off, time must discover. In this happy land of Pennsylvania, we have imitated its excellencies without its defects. Our mode of representation being uniform and equal, the election from year to year, and the right of our Assemblies to sit on their own adjournments, not subject to dissolution or prorogation, have corrected the errors of the British Government, and made this the most perfect and happiest in the known world. But should we, in an evil hour, barter it for an uncertainty, or a certainty of having a much worse, it would be madness in the extreme. I flatter myself the good people of this Province will seriously take the consideration of this great question to heart; that they will not shrink back from the contest, but, with their usual good sense, assert their attachment to their ancient happy Constitution.
When attempts are made to plunge us into anarchy, and rob us of that equal liberty under which this Province has so signally flourished; when the Constitution itself is threatened with dissolution, because its guardians have instructed our Delegates to preserve it sacred, it is criminal to be silent. But the spirit of the friends to the Constitution was up, and, by a timely zeal in supporting our Assembly, the attempt was crushed in its shell.
As the complexion of this Province will be known by our conduct, on the 1st day of May, I hope we shall exercise that great constitutional right as becomes freemen attached inviolably to their form of Government. The weight we have in the American scale makes it an object of the last importance, too great to be sported away in compliance with the designs or dreams of modern lawgivers.
GENERAL HEATH TO NEW-YORK COMMITTEE OF SAFETY.
City of New-York, April 6, 1776.
SIR: Mr. Murray applies to me for an approbation of your permit to go on board the ship Dutchess of Gordon. As by the permit it appears that he is restricted only relative to the fortifications, I cannot, consistent with my duty, consent to his going on board, unless under greater restrictions.
I am, sir, with respect, your most humble servant,
To the Chairman of the Committee of Safety, New-York.
JACOB CONCKLIN TO COLONEL HASBROUCK.
April 6, 1776.
SIR: Enclosed I send you the proceedings of a choice in my company, performed this day, under the inspection of Captain Drake, of the New-Marlborough Precinct, and myself, by which you will see that John Crowell, by a plurality of voices, is chosen Ensign. And I have good reasons to believe him to be a true friend to the American cause, and I think will exert himself on all occasions to defend his bleeding country. I should be glad his commission could be sent for him immediately.
I am, sir, your very humble servant,
To Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM AN OFFICER AT MONTREAL,
By a gentleman from Quebeck, we have the following advices, which may be depended on: A number of Canadians,