In the days of the Stuarts, it was look’d upon by some men as a high degree of prophaness, for any subject to enquire into what was called the mysteries of government: James the first thundered his anathema against Dr. Cowel, for his daring presumption in treating of–those mysteries; and forbad his subjects to read his books, or even to keep them in their houses. In those days passive obedience, non-resistance, the divine hereditary right of kings, and their being accountable to God alone, were doctrines generally taught, believ’d and practiced: But behold the sudden transition of human affairs!
In the very next reign the people assum’d the right of free enquiry, into the nature and end of government, and the conduct of those who were entrusted with it: Laud and Strafford were bro’t to the block; and after the horrors of a civil war, in which some of the best blood of the nation was spilt as water upon the ground, they finally called to account, arraign’d, adjudg’d, condemn’d and even executed the monarch himself! and for a time held his son and heir in exile. The two sons of Charles the first, after the death of Oliver Cromwell, reigned in their turns; but by copying after their father, their administration of government was grievous to their subjects, and infamous abroad. Charles the second indeed reign’d till he died; but his brother James was oblig’d to abdicate the throne, which made room for William the third, and his royal consort Mary, the daughter of the unfortunate James.
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This was the fate of a race of Kings, bigotted to the greatest degree to the doctrines of slavery and regardless of the natural, inherent, divinely hereditary and indefeasible rights of their subjects.–At the revolution, the British constitution was again restor’d to its original principles, declared in the bill of rights; which was afterwards pass’d into a law, and stands as a bulwark to the natural rights of subjects.
“To vindicate these rights, says Mr. Blackstone, when actually violated or attack’d, the subjects of England are entitled first to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law–next to the right of petitioning the King and parliament for redress of grievances–and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence.”
These he calls “auxiliary subordinate rights, which serve principally as barriers to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rights of personal security, personal liberty and private property“: And that of having arms for their defence he tells us is “a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”
How little do those persons attend to the rights of the constitution, if they know anything about them, who find fault with a late vote of this town, calling upon the inhabitants to provide themselves with arms for their defence at any time; but more especially, when they had reason to fear, there would be a necessity of the means of self preservation against the violence of oppression.
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Every one knows that the exercise of the military power is forever dangerous to civil rights; and we have had recent instances of violences that have been offer’d to private subjects, and the last week, even to a magistrate in the execution of his office!
Such violences are no more than might have been expected from military troops: A power, which is apt enough at all times to take a wanton lead, even when in the midst of civil society; but more especially so, when they are led to believe that they are become necessary, to awe a spirit of rebellion, and preserve peace and good order.
But there are some persons, who would, if possibly they could, persuade the people never to make use of their constitutional rights or terrify them from doing it. No wonder that a resolution of this town to keep arms for its own defence, should be represented as having at bottom a secret intention to oppose the landing of the King’s troops: when those very persons, who gave it this colouring, had before represented the peoples petitioning their Sovereign, as proceeding from a factious and rebellious spirit; and would now insinuate that there is an impropriety in their addressing even a plantation Governor upon public business–Such are the times we are fallen into!
Boston Gazette, 27 Feb. 1769
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