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in these Republicks! The same Magistrates, as a body, are absolute in everything. By having the execution of the laws, they possess whatever powers they are pleased to give themselves in making them. They may plunder the State without control; for they, first of all, in the character of lawgivers, appoint what taxes they please; and, being also the executors of the laws, these taxes come into their own hands, and may be put into their own pockets. Being likewise themselves judges, amidst all these oppressions, no man can have a remedy against them, and every private citizen may be ruined by their particular decisions. Although in such a State there is no external pomp (such as arbitrary Princes have) that indicates tyranny or despotick sway, yet the people know it by a surer markthey feel it every moment. Even at Venice, where the power of the Magistracy is said to be somewhat softened, by having different tribunals erected, which temper each other, there is still this mischief, that these tribunals are composed of Magistrates all belonging to the same body, which constitutes almost one and the same power, unaccountable to any other.
These three powers ought, then, for the preservation of liberty, to be lodged in separate bodies, and made to control each other. Montesquieu adds, that for the greater safety, the judicial power ought not to be given to a standing Senate; but that the judges should be of the same station as the accused; or, in other words, their peersamenable to the law; only its mouth, and guided wholly by its decisions; that, in criminal cases especially, it is proper the person accused should have the privilege of choosing, in some measure, his judges, (that is, in our Constitution, a Jury,) in concurrence with the law, or at least he should have a right to except against so great a number that the remainder may be deemed his own choice.
The application of these general doctrines to the English Constitution, the corruptions that have crept into it, with the power left in the people for bringing it back to its first principles, and rendering it safer for us than any other we can probably substitute in its room, are important subjects, and too copious to be discussed in this letter.
GLOUCESTER COUNTY (NEW-JERSEY) COMMITTEE.
Whereas the Continental Congress did lately resolve, That if any person shall be so lost to all virtue and regard for this country as to refuse to receive the Bills of Credit emitted by the authority of Congress, or should obstruct or discourage the currency thereof, and be convicted by the Committee of the City, County, or District, where he should reside, such person should be deemed, published, and treated as an enemy of this country, and be precluded from all trade or intercourse with the inhabitants of these Colonies: And whereas Lucas Gibbs, of the Township of Deptford, in the County of Gloucester, Blacksmith, being charged with a breach of this resolve, in refusing to receive the above Bills of Credit, and the said Lucas Gibbs appearing before the Committee of the County aforesaid, and being charged with said breach, acknowledged the same, and alleged, in his defence, scruples of conscience thereupon, as being money emitted for the purpose of carrying on war against Government:
The Committee, pursuant to the trust reposed in them, proceeded to consider the charge and defence; were of opinion, that as such charge appears to be true, and there being no exception made by Congress, and as such conduct tends to subvert the most essential rights and liberties of their fellow-citizens, and the freedom of America, and, by destroying the means of defence, to expose their lives and properties to unavoidable ruin, it ought not to be admitted. And it appearing, by his own acknowledgment, that he has heretofore received, and still continues to receive Bills of Credit emitted in this and the neighbouring Provinces, though frequently issued for the purpose of war, his objection being ill-founded, and the present pretence inconsistent with his former conduct; this Committee do unanimously hold up to the world the said Lucas Gibbs as an enemy to his country, and precluded from all trade or intercourse with the inhabitants of these Colonies.
By order of the Committee:
JOSEPH HUGG, Clerk.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF NEW-YORK.
When we remember that there is no principle in divinity or morality, in law or physick, but what has been controverted by some from interest or prejudice, and that with some plausibility, we need not be greatly surprised to find, that notwithstanding the very general approbation which Common Sense and Independence have met with in these Colonies, some few should rise up and oppose them. What plainer dictate of reason, than that the mother and child are akin? Yet there have been learned, ingenious lawyers, who have argued against this with as much plausibleness as to persuade Courts that they were not akin, and to give a decision against it. What is more evident in religion, morality, and politicks, than that corruption and bribery are not for the good of the nation, and that it is very destructive for placemen and pensioners to have seats in Parliament? But though it has been often attempted to exclude them, yet it has always been negatived. It is the interest of the Court, and these Court members, to allow them, and therefore reason and good policy are not regarded. Such Americans as depend upon, or have expectations from the British Court, most certainly will be against separation, since, as Demetrius of old (a man who understood himself well) observed, with great propriety, by this we have our wealth.
It is supposed, not without reason, that some of the most zealous opposers of Common Sense are secret enemies to this countryTories in disguise, who, finding that toryism is become obnoxious, have chosen dependance as a more advantageous post from which they may, with greater reputation and success, promote divisions, and defeat all the measures the Colonies have concerted. Hence it is observed, that all who were suspected to be Tories are now fierce for reconciliation, and pretend to be dreadfully afraid at the mention of Independence. They have changed their ground, but not their principles. Others are influenced by motives not so unfriendly to their country, viz: ignorance and custom; as multitudes in Popish countries are prejudiced against Protestants and reformation.
The British Constitution has been mightily extolled. But by whom? By Court Bishops and their dependants; by Court lawyers and their dependants; by placemen and pensioners. For by this we have our wealth. But notwithstanding all the praises which such gentry, the great leaders of the nation, have lavished upon the British Constitution, any person of candour, who shall examine it with impartiality, must soon be convinced that it is far from deserving any great commendation. To pass over the great imperfections of Kingly Government and hereditary succession, and the enormous expense which Courts require to support their extravagance, to the great oppression of the industrious poor; what right from Scripture, or reason, has the King to assume the arrogant title of Head of the Church, and to act in that capacity, when it often happens that he is not qualified to be a member of the Church? Was it not the most absurd thing in the world that King James the Second, a professed Papist, should be the head of the Protestant Church of England, to which he was the most determined enemy? or that an infant, or a woman, should be invested with this prerogative? According to the custom, (derived not from reason, but from the feudal tenures,) the lands descend to the eldest sons, who may indulge themselves in the greatest profusion, while all the rest of the children are left to shift for themselves. God Almighty is no respecter of persons; but the British Constitution gives to some to wallow in luxury to destroy themselves, and forces the greater part to live in poverty. And hence innumerable robberies and executions, which have scarce made their appearance in the Colonies, except imported from the British Constitution.
These mighty landed gentlemen are entitled by birth, to all generations, be they ever so worthless, to a seat in the House of Lords. When they are brought up in luxury, pride, and ambition, they are excellently qualified, no doubt, to be legislators. Yet such is this boasted Constitution, that legislators they must be, though they should know no more about law and right than about Arabick or fluxions. To the Lords Temporal there are added the Lords Spiritual, or the Bishops. But what reason is there for clergymen to have seats in Parliament? Are there not secular, gentlemen enough to regulate the civil state of the Kingdom, without obliging the clergy to leave their proper functions