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so great, perpetuated power, in the hands of one roan and one family, would prove very intoxicating and corrupting, too heavy for the weakness of the human mind to support with honour; and that Government, thrown into this form, would, in fact, soon degenerate into an oppressing tyranny, and so prove a curse instead of a blessing, directed Samuel to lay this before the people, as an argument to dissuade them from insisting upon having their demand of a Kingly Government granted. He did so, and has painted a covetous, greedy, proud, and oppressive tyrant, lifting himself up above his brethren, to the life. See 1 Samuel viii, 1018. The people still persisting in their demand, God condescended to it, and in granting their request, they found their punishment. I gave them a King in mine anger.Hosea xiii, 11.
Thus, as a fool, they prepared a rod for their own backs. This, then, is the result; if a people, in forming a plan of Government, will consult the Supreme Ruler of the nations, his advice to them is not to establish Monarchical Government, because it easily and naturally degenerates into tyran-ny; but if they choose it, he suffers it to be so, and uses their Kings as an iron rod in chastening the apostate rebel nations; and by the heavy strokes of these iron rods, he dashes the earthen vessels one after another. The King-doms both of Israel and Judah were ruined by their Kings; so have numberless nations been; so will Britain probably be; so will America soon be, unless God, in great mercy, now saves her, as he did David from the paw of the bear and the mouth of the lion. The plain truth is, the nations, by presumptuously trusting too great power in the hands of one man and one family, have caught a Tartar. All history confirms this. Considering the weak and disordered state of human nature, no other can be expected.
Common Sense objects against the hereditary Kings, that this is a frequent occasion of great and destructive contentions. To this, Rationalis opposes the strifes and contentions that arise about the choice of Kings in elective Monarchies, and instances Poland. The Polish Kings are elective, but by whom? Not by the body of the people, nor by men deputed by the people to choose a King for them; but by a set of great men in the nation, who are independent on the people, have usurped a tyranny over them, and are generally pensioners to neighbouring Kings, who interfere by these their creatures, and frequently by their armies too, in the choice of a new King for Poland. No wonder, then, that that Kingdom is thrown into great commo--tions on these occasions. The manifest truth is, that, when the Crowns of Kingdoms are invested with exorbitant pow-ers, and decorated with great riches and high prerogatives, dangerous to the rights and liberties of the subjects, they become objects of greedy, coveting desire, and a bone of frequent furious contention amongst great ones, whether they are hereditary or elective; and the people are sure to suffer and bleed, whoever bears away the prize.
Rationalis complains that Common Sense argues from the abuse of the British Constitution, to its insufficiency to secure its grand aimthe liberty and happiness of the people; and says, if the several branches of the Legislature would be faithful, the British Constitution would be the best in the world. In this he does not do Common Sense common justice. He points out the errors and defects inherent in the Constitution itself, (some of them, but not all,) the chief of which is, the exorbitant powers and dangerous prerogatives given to the Crown, and shows that the great abuses of the Government naturally arise out of the errors and defects in the Constitution itself.
The Bill of Rights has limited the Crown a little, but not enough to secure the interest and liberty of the subjects. Had the limitations proposed by the long Parliament to Charles I, taken place, it would have been happy for the nation. That is a bad Constitution indeed, under which the rulers, though ever so faithful, cannot serve the interest of the nation. That is a good and wisely constructed Constitution, by virtue of which the governing powers have full liberty and authority to do all the good to the people they wish them to do, and at the same time are made liable to be restrained and controlled by them, whenever they attempt to sacrifice the publick interest to their private passions, and whereby the subjects have reserved in their own hands full power to remove corrupt and dangerous rulers, from year to year, and put worthier in their places. Such is the Constitution proposed to America. The British Constitution furnishes no such effectual security against a corrupt Parliament and Administration. The liberty of making a new choice of members for a House of Commons once in seven years, as things are managed, is of no advantage, is no real security to the people. The nation might as well leave the nomination of their Representatives in Parliament to the King, as they do the nomination of their Bishops; for he does in effect nominate and secure a large majority as bis creatures.
But Rationalis endeavours to frighten the people; and prejudice them against the proposed plan of American Government, by telling many frightful stories of the violent factions, confusions, and tyranny of Commonwealths, and instances Athens, Rome, and Carthage. These cities were once Commonwealths, in an imperfect, defective form. But many other cities, Provinces, and people, were conquered by them; especially the two last, stripped of their liberties, and subdued under their Government. These were not generally incorporated as members of the Commonwealth, invested with equal rights, and liberties; but the ruling cities exercised an arbitrary government over them, like what Britain is now attempting over America; reserving to themselves the power of the purse and the sword, and the disposal of the great offices. No wonder, then, these ruling cities were rent with factious strifes, among their members, and tyrants to their conquered subjects. If the City of Philadelphia, or New-York, should form itself into a Commonwealth, and then conquer the whole Province, and bow it under her Government, doubtless she would rule as a tyrant, and be agitated and torn by great strifes among her own members, contending among themselves for offices and the spoils of a Province.
Rationalis also mentions the Commonwealth formed in England after Charles I. was cut off, as another instance to his purpose. He might as well have mentioned the conquest and tyranny of William I. over England. They that had the Government after Charles; s death, proudly styled themselves the Commonwealth of England, but were not so; but only a party of mad enthusiasts and violent Independents, with a few Deists, formed in the Long Parliament, who have artfully got the Army into their power, usurped the Government of the nation, and ruled by the sword and arbitrary power. Their Government was a real tyranny. And when Cromwell usurped it from them, it was only an exchange of many joint tyrants for one.
Suppose, as the issue of the present war, the British Go vernment in America is overthrown, and some little party among us, as for instance the Baptists, aided by the Army, should form themselves as a kind of Commonwealth, and violently assume and exercise sovereign dominion over all America, and arrogantly style themselves the Commonwealth of America, would this make them really so? Would not America, in this case, be really a conquered people, under the tyrant rule of the Baptists? To what purpose are such instances of the few, formed among themselves as a kind of Commonwealth, and exercising tyrant rule over the many, introduced to discredit such a genuine Commonwealth as is recommended to America, wherein all who are subject to its Government are constituent members of it, and have all equal rights, liberties, and privileges, and equal interest in its Government? They have no analogy or likeness to this plan.
Rationalis thinks the right time to declare for an independent Government is not yet come; that we ought yet to seek reconciliation; that if we cannot obtain safe terms, we should still fight on for them, till every brave man in America is slain. We shall do so before Britain will grant such terms; then, after that, if we cannot obtain them, and the aggressors call in foreign aid in this last extremity, we may do so too, and then declare. This brings to mind the old proverb, After death call the Doctor. Fight for an accommodation till all your brave men, who have courage to fight, are slain, then set up Independency. He knows it will then be too late. Yes, yes, fight down and slaughter all the sons of liberty, then the sons of slavery will have free liberty, to subject their country to the conquerors iron yoke, and may, perhaps, share a very small part of her spoils as the reward of their villany. Will not America erect a superb monument in honour of this great master of reason, this wise counsellor?