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OF THE COMMITTEE OF GRIEVANCES OF THE ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA, FEBRUARY 22, 1757.
IN obedience to the order of the house, we have drawn up the heads of the most important aggrievances that occur to us, which the people of this province with great difficulty labour under; the many infractions of the constitution (in manifest violation of the royal grant, the proprietary charter, the laws of this province, and of the laws, usages, and customs of our mother-country) and other matters; which we apprehend call aloud for redress. They are as follow:
First-By the royal charter (which has ever been, ought to be, and truly is the principal and invariable fundamental of this constitution) king Charles the Second did give and grant unto William Penn, his heirs, and assigns, the province of Pennsylvania; and also to him and his heirs, and his or their deputies or lieutenants, free, full, and absolute power, for the good and happy government thereof, to make and enact any laws, according to their best discretion; by and with the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the said country, or of their delegates or deputies; for the raising of money, or any other end appertaining to the public state, peace, or safety of the said country. By the words of this grant, it is evident, that full powers are granted to the deputies and lieutenants of William Penn and his heirs, to concur with the people in framing laws for their protection and the safety of the province, according to their best discretion; independent of any instructions or directions they should receive from their principals. And it is equally obvious to your committee, that the people of this province and their representatives were interested in this royal grant; and by virtue thereof, have an original right of legisla tion inherent in them; which neither the proprietors nor any other person whatsoever can divest them of, restrain, or abridge, without manifestly violating and destroying the letter, spirit, and design of this grant.
Nevertheless we unfortunately find, that the proprietaries of this province, regardless of this sacred fundamental of our rights and liberties, have so abridged and restricted their late and present governor's discretion in matters of legislation, by their illegal, impracticable, and unconstitutional instructions and prohibitions; that no bill for granting aids and supplies to our most gracious sovereign (be it ever so reasonable, expedient, and necessary for the defence of this his majesty's colony, and safety of his people) unless it be agreeable thereto, can meet with his approbation : by means whereof the many considerable sums of money which have been offered for those purposes, by the assemblies of this province (ever anxious to maintain his honour and rights), have been rejected to the great encouragement of his majesty's enemies, and the imminent danger of the loss of this colony.
Secondly-The reprepresentatives of the people, in general assembly met, by virtue of the said royal grant, and the charter of privileges granted by the said William Penn, and a law of this province, have right to, and ought to enjoy all the powers and privileges of an assembly, according to the rights of the free-born subjects of England, and as is usual in any of the plantations in America: [also] it is an indubitable and now an incontested right of the commons of England, to grant aids and supplies to his majesty in any manner they think most easy to themselves and the people; and they [also] are the sole judges of the measure, manner, and time of granting and raising the same.
Nevertheless the proprietaries of this province, in contempt of the said royal grant, proprietary charter, and law of their colony, designing to subvert the fundamentals of this constitution, to deprive the assembly and people of their rights and privileges, and to assume an arbitrary and tyrannical power over the liberties and properties of his majesty's liege subjects, have so restrained the governors by the despotic instructions (which are not to be varied from, and are particularly directory in the framing and passing of money bills and supplies to his majesty, as to the mode, measure, and time), that it is impossible for the assembly, should they lose all sense of their most essential rights, and comply with those instructions, to grant sufficient aids for the defence of this his majesty's province from the common enemy.
Thirdly-In pursuance of sundry acts of general asembly, approved of by the crown, [and] a natural right inherent in every man antecedent to all laws, the assemblies of this province have had the power of disposing of the public moneys, that have been raised for the encouragement of trade and support of government, by the interest money arising by the loan of the bills of credit and the excise. No part of these moneys was ever paid by the proprietaries, or ever raised on their estates; and therefore they can have no pretence of right to a voice in the disposition of them. They have ever been applied with prudent frugality to the honour and advantage of the public, and the king's immediate service, to the general approbation of the people: the credit of the government has been preserved, and the debts of the public punctually discharged. In short, no inconveniencies but great and many advantages have accrued, from the assembly's prudent care and management of these funds.
Yet the proprietaries resolved to deprive the assemblies of the power and means of supporting an agent in England, and of prosecuting their complaints and remonstrating their aggrievances, when injured and oppressed, to his majesty and his parliament; and to rob them of this natural right (which has been so often approved of by their gracious sovereign), have, by their said instructions, prohibited their governor from giving his assent to any laws emitting or remitting any paper currency or bills of credit, or for raising money by excise or any other method; unless the governor or commander-in-chief for the time being, by clauses to be inserted therein, has a negative in the disposition of the moneys arising thereby; let the languishing circumstances of our trade be ever so great, and a further or greater medium be ever so necessary for its support.
Fourthly-By the laws and statutes of England, the chief rents, honours, and castles of the crown are taxed, and pay their proportion to the supplies that are granted to the king for the defence of the realm, and support of government: his majesty, the nobility of the realm, and all the British subjects do now actually contribute their proportion towards the defence of America in general, and this province in particular; and it is in a more especial manner the duty of the proprietaries to pay their proportion of a tax for the immediate preservation of their own estates in this province. To exempt, therefore, any part of their estates from their reasonable part of this necessary burthen, it is unjust as it is illegal, and as new as it is arbitrary.
Yet the proprietaries, notwithstanding the general danger to which the nation and its colonies are exposed, and great distress of this province in particular, by their said instructions, have prohibited their governors from passing laws for the raising supplies for its defence; unless all their located, unimproved, and unoccupied lands, quit-rents, fines, and purchase moneys on interest (the much greater part of their enormous estates in this colony) are expressly exempted from paying any part of the tax.
Fifthly-By virtue of the said royal charter, the proprietaries are invested with a power of doing every thing "which unto a complete establishment of justice, unto courts and tribunals, forms of judicature, and manner of proceedings, do belong." It was certainly the import and design of this grant, that the courts of judicature should be formed, and the judges and officers thereof hold their commissions, in a manner not repugnant, but agreeable to the laws and customs of England; that thereby they might remain free from the influence of persons in power, the rights of the people might be preserved, and their properties effectually secured. That by the guarantee, William Penn (understanding the said grant in this light) did, by his original frame of government, covenant and grant with the people, that the judges and other officers should hold their commissions during their good behaviour, and no longer.
Notwithstanding which, the governors of this province have, for many years past, granted all the commissions to the judges of the king's bench or supreme court of this province, and to the judges of the court of common pleas of the several counties, to be held during their will and pleasure; by means whereof, the said judges being subject to the influence and directions of the proprietaries and their governors, their favourites and creatures, the laws may not be duly administered or executed, but often wrested from their true sense to serve particular purposes; the foundation of justice may be liable to be destroyed; and the lives, laws, liberties, privileges, and properties of the people thereby rendered precarious and altogether insecure; to the great disgrace of our laws, and the inconceivable injury of his majesty's subjects.
Your committee further beg leave to add, that besides these aggrievances, there are other hardships the people of this province have experienced, that call for redress.-The enlistment of servants, without the least satisfaction being made to the masters, has not only prevented the cultivation of our lands, and diminished the trade and commerce of the province, but is a burden extremely unequal and oppressive to individuals. And should the practice continue, the consequence must prove very discouraging to the further settlement of this colony, and prejudicial to his majesty's future service.-Justice, therefore, demands, that satisfaction should be made to the masters of such enlisted servants; and that the right of masters to their servants be confirmed and settled. But as those servants have been enlisted into his majesty's service for the general defence of America, and not of this province only, but all the colonies, and the nation in general, have and will receive equal benefit from their service; this satisfaction should be made at the expense of the nation, and not of the province only.
That the people now labour under a burden of taxes, almost insupportable by so young a colony, for the defence of its long-extended frontier, of about two hundred miles from New Jersey to Maryland; without either of those colonies, or the three lower counties on Delaware, contributing their proportion thereto; though their frontiers are in a great measure covered and protected by our forts. And should the war continue, and with it this unequal burden, many of his majesty's subjects in this province will be reduced to want, and the province, if not lost to the enemy, involved in debt, and sunk under its load.
That notwithstanding this weight of taxes, the assemblies of this province have given to the general service of the nation, five thousand pounds to purchase provisions for the troops under general Braddock; two thousand nine hundred and eighty-five pounds and eleven pence for clearing a road by his orders; ten thousand five hundred and fourteen pounds ten shillings and a penny to general Shirley, for the purchasing provisions for the New England forces; and expended the sum of two thousand three hundred and eighty-five pounds and two pence halfpenny
DEDICATION TO ARTHUR ONSLOW, ESQ.
vii in supporting the inhabitants of Nova Scotia; which likewise we conceive ought to be a national
And that his majesty's subjects, the merchants and insurers in England, as well as the merchants here and elsewhere, did during the last, and will during the present war, greatly suffer in their property, trade, and commerce, by the enemy's privateers on this coast, and at our capes, unless some method be fallen on to prevent it.
Wherefore your committee are of opinion, that the commissioners intended to be sent to England, to solicit a memorial and redress of the many infractions and violations of the constitution, should also have it in charge, and be instructed to represent to our most gracious sovereign and his parliaments, the several unequal burdens and hardships before mentioned; and endeavour to procure satisfaction to the masters of such servants as have been enlisted, and the right of masters to their servants established and confirmed; and obtain a repayment of the said several sums of money, some assistance towards defending our extensive frontier, and a vessel of war to protect the trade and commerce of this province.
Submitted to the correction of the house, February 22, 1757.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
ARTHUR ONSLOW, Esq.
SPEAKER OF THE HONOURABLE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
SIR-The subject of the following sheets is an unhappy one: the controversy between the proprietaries and successive assemblies of Pennsylvania. A controversy which has often embarrassed, if not endangered the public service; a controversy which has been long depending, and which still seems to be as far from an issue as ever.
Our blessed Saviour reproaches the Pharisees with laying heavy burdens on men's shoulders, which they themselves would not stir with a single finger.
Our proprietaries, sir, have done the same; and for the sake of the commonwealth, the province has hitherto submitted to the imposition. Not, indeed, without the most strenuous endeavours to lay the load equally, the fullest manifestations of their right to do so, and the strongest protestations against the violence put upon them.
Having been most injuriously misrepresented and traduced in print by the known agents and dependants of these gentlemen their fellow subjects, they at last find themselves obliged to set forth an historical state of their case, and to make their appeal to the public upon it.
With the public opinion in their favour, they may with the more confidence lift up their eyes to the wisdom of parliament and the majesty of the crown, from whence alone they can derive an effectual remedy.
To your hands, sir, these papers are most humbly presented, for considerations so obvious, that they scarce need any explanation.
The Roman provinces did not stand more in need of patronage than ours: and such clients as we are would have preferred the integrity of Cato to the fortune of Cæsar.
The cause we bring is in fact the cause of all the provinces in one; it is the cause of every British subject in every part of the British dominions. It is the cause of every man who deserves to be free, every where.
The propriety, therefore, of addressing these papers to a gentleman, who, for so many successive parliaments, with so much honour to himself and satisfaction to the public, has been at the head of the commons of Great Britain, cannot be called in question.
You will smile, sir, perhaps, as you read the references of a provincial assembly to the rights and claims of parliament; but, we humbly conceive, it will be without the least mixture of resentment; those assemblies having nothing more in view than barely to establish their privileges, on the most rational and solid basis they could find, for the security and service of their constituents.
And you are humbly besought, sir, not to think the worse of this address, because it has been made without your permission or privity.
Nobody asks leave to pay a debt; every Briton is your debtor, sir; and all we have said, or can say, is but a poor composition for what we owe you.
You have conferred as much honour on the chair you fill, as the chair has conferred on you. Probity and dignity are your characteristics.
May that seat always derive the same lustre from the same qualities.
This at least ought to be our prayer, whether it is or not within our expectations.
For the province of Pennsylvania, as well as in my own private capacity, I have the honour to be, with the most profound respect,
Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
To obtain an infinite variety of purposes, by a few plain principles, is the characteristic of nature. As the eye is affected, so is the understanding; objects at a distance strike us according to their dimensions, or the quantity of light thrown upon them; near, according to their novelty or familiarity; as they are in motion or at rest. It is the same with actions. A battle is all motion:-a hero all glare; while such images are before us, we can attend to nothing else. Solon and Lycurgus would make no figure in the same scene with the king of Prussia and we are at present so lost in the military scramble on the continent next us,* in which it must be confessed we are deeply interested, that we have scarce time to throw a glance towards America, where we have also much at stake, and where, if anywhere, our account must be made up at last.
We love to stare more than to reflect; and to be indolently amused at our leisure, rather than commit the smallest trespass on our patience by winding a painful, tedious maze, which would pay us in nothing but knowledge.
But then, as there are some eyes which can find nothing marvellous, but what is marvellously great, so there are others which are equally disposed to marvel at what is marvellously little; and who can derive as much entertainment from their microscope in examining a mite, as Dr. —————— in ascertaining the geography of the moon, or measuring the tail of a comet.
still wore the same equal face; nobody aspired; nobody was oppressed; industry was sure of profit, knowledge of esteem, and virtue of veneration.
An assuming landlord, strongly disposed to convert free tenants into abject vassals, and to reap what he did not sow, countenanced and abetted by a few desperate and designing dependants on the one side; and on the other, all who have sense enough to know their rights, and spirit enough to defend them, combined as one man against the said landlord, and his encroachments, is the form it has since assumed.
And, surely, to a nation born to liberty like this, bound to leave it unimpaired as they received it from their fathers in perpetuity to their heirs, and interested in the conservation of it in every appendage of the British empire, the particulars of such a contest cannot be wholly indifferent.
On the contrary, it is reasonable to think, the first workings of power against liberty, and the natural efforts of unbiased men to secure themselves against the first approaches of oppression, must have a captivating power over every man of sensibility and discernment amongst us.
Liberty, it seems, thrives best in the woods, America best cultivates what Germany brought forth. And were it not for certain ugly comparisons, hard to be suppressed, the pleasure arising from such a research would be without alloy.
In the feuds of Florence, recorded by Machiavel, we find more to lament and less to praise. Scarce can we believe the first citizens of the ancient republics had such pretensions to consideration, though so highly celebrated in ancient story. And as to ourselves, we need no longer have recourse to the late glorious stand of the French parliaments to excite our emulation.
Let this serve as an excuse for the author of these sheets, if he needs any, for bestowing them on the transactions of a colony, till of late hardly mentioned in our annals; in point of establishment one of the last upon the British list, and in point of rank one of the most subordinate; as being not only subject, in common with the rest, to the It is a known custom among farmers to change crown, but also so the claims of a proprietary, who their corn from season to season for the sake of thinks he does them honour enough in governing filling the bushel: and in case the wisdom of the them by deputy; consequently so much farther re- age should condescend to make the like experimoved from the royal eye, and so much the more ex-ment in another shape, from hence we may learn posed to the pressure of self-interested instructions. whither to repair for the proper species. Considerable, however, as most of them for hap- It is not, however, to be presumed, that such as piness of situation, fertility of soil, product of have long been accustomed to consider the colovaluable commodities, number of inhabitants, ship-nies, in general, as only so many dependencies on ping, amount of exportations, latitude of rights and privileges, and every other requisite for the being and well-being of society, and more considerable than any of them all for the celerity of its growth, unassisted by any human help but the vigour and virtue of its own excellent constitution.
A father and his family, the latter united by interest and affection, the former to be revered for the wisdom of his institutions, and the indulgent use of his authority, was the form it was at first presented in. Those who were only ambitious of repose found it here; and as none returned with an evil report of the land, numbers followed, all partook of the leaven they found; the community
*This publication was made in London during the war that begun in 1753, and the author, who always adapts himself to his situation, had discernment enough to perceive that a work on a subject so im portant would lose none of its consideration by being published in a remote colony. The introduction, which is a model of vivid style and sound wisdom.
written as in London, and with the zeal of a man zealous for the prosperity of the British government. viii
the council-board, the board of trade, and the board of customs; or as a hot-bed for causes, jobs, and other pecuniary emoluments, and as bound as effectually by instructions as by laws, can be prevailed upon to consider these patriot rustics with any degree of respect.
Derision, on the contrary, must be the lot of him who imagines it in the power of the pen to set any lustre upon them; and indignation theirs for daring to assert and maintain the independency interwoven in their constitution, which now, it seems, is become an improper ingredient, and therefore to be excised away.
But how contemptibly soever these gentlemen may talk of the colonies, how cheap soever they may hold their assemblies, or how insignificant the planters and traders who compose them, truth will be truth, and principle principle notwithstanding
Courage, wisdom, integrity, and honour are not to be measured by the sphere assigned them to act in, but by the trials they undergo, and the vouchers they furnish, and if so manifested, need neither robes nor titles to set them off.
AN HISTORICAL REVIEW
CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT
to enlarge the British empire, to promote such useful commodities as might be of benefit to it, and to civilize the savage inhabitants.
THE Constitution of Pennsylvania is de- | Penn, and the commendable desire of his son rived, first, from the birthright of every British subject; secondly, from the royal charter granted to William Penn by king Charles II., and thirdly, from the charter of privileges granted by the said William Penn as proprietary and governor, in virtue of the former, to the freemen of the said province and territories; being the last of four at several periods issued by the same authority.
The birthright of every British subject is, to have a property of his own, in his estate, person, and reputation; subject only to laws enacted by his own concurrence, either in person or by his representatives: and which birthright accompanies him wheresoever he wanders or rests; so long as he is within the pale of the British dominions, and is true to his allegiance.
The royal charter was granted to William Penn in the beginning of the year 1681. A most alarming period! The nation being in a strong ferment; and the court forming an arbitrary plan; which, under the countenance of a small standing army, they began the same year to carry into execution, by cajoling some corporations, and forcing others by quo warrantos to surrender their charters: so that by the abuse of law, the disuse of parliaments, and the terror of power, the kingdom became in effect the prey of will and pleasure.
The charter governments of America had, before this, afforded a place of refuge to the persecuted and miserable; and, as if to enlarge the field of liberty abroad, which had been so sacrilegiously contracted at home, Pennsylvania even then was made a new asylum, where all who wished or desired to be free might be so for ever.
The basis of the grant expressed in the preamble was, the merits and services of admiral VOL. II.... A 1
In the third section, which constitutes the said William Penn the true and absolute proprietary of the said province, there is a saving to the crown, of the faith and allegiance ́ of the said William Penn, his heirs and assigns, and of all other proprietaries, tenants, and inhabitants of the said province, as also of the sovereignty thereof.
The fourth, professing to repose special trust and confidence in the fidelity, wisdom, justice, and provident circumspection of the said Penn, grants to him and his heirs, and to his and their deputies, free, full, and absolute power, for the good and happy government of the said country, to ordain, make, and enact, and under his or their seals, to publish any laws whatsoever, for the raising of money for public uses of the said province, or for any other end appertaining either unto the public state, peace, or safety of the said country, or unto the private utility of particular persons, according to their best discretion; by and with the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the said country, or the greater part of them, or of their delegates and deputies, to be assembled in such sort and form, as to him and them shall seem best, and as often as need shall require.
By the fifth, the said William Penn is impowered and authorized to erect courts of judicature, appoint judges, and administer justice in all forms, and carry all the laws so made as above, into execution, under the pains therein expressed; provided the said laws be consonant to reason, and not repugnant or contrary, (but as near as conveniently may be) agreeable to the laws and statutes and rights of England; with a saving to the crown in 1