Abbildungen der Seite



The object of this Dialogue, as the author tells us, was to enlighten the public mind on his Militia Act, and to promote the association necessary to form a militia. In his opinion it had "great effect." Such objections as could be brought against the Act, are stated and answered in a manner suited to the understanding of the people. It was first printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 18th, 1755. The Militia Act and the Dialogue were published in the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, London, the one in February, the other in March, 1756. In an editorial paragraph it is said, "The conduct of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, at this time of imminent danger, being thought by many somewhat extraordinary, every thing that tends to give light into the motives of its proceedings must deserve attention." - EDITOR.

X. YOUR servant, Gentlemen; I am glad to see you at my house. Is there any thing new to-day? Y. We have been talking of the militia act; have you seen it?

X. Yes; I have read it in the papers.

Z. And what do you think of it?

X. The more I consider it, the better I like it. It appears to me a very good act, and I am persuaded will be of good use, if heartily carried into execution.

Z. Ay, that may be; but who is to carry it into execution? It says, that people may form themselves

into companies, and choose their own officers; but there is neither time nor place appointed for this transaction, nor any person directed or empowered to call them together.

X. It is true; but methinks there are some words that point out the method pretty plain to willing minds. And it seems to me, that we who joined so sincerely in the petitions for a militia law, and really thought one absolutely necessary for the safety of our country, should, now we have obtained the law, rather endeavour to explain, than invent difficulties in the construction of it.

Y. What are those words you mention?

X. Here is the act itself; I will read that part of it. "From and after the publication of this act, it shall and may be lawful for the freemen of this province to form themselves into companies, as heretofore they used in time of war without law, and for each company, by majority of votes, in the way of ballot, to choose its own officers, &c." The words I meant are these, “as heretofore they have used in time of war." Now I suppose we have none of us forgot the association in the time of the last war; it is not so long since, but that we may well enough remember the method we took to form ourselves into companies, choose our officers, and present them to the governor for approbation and commissions; and the act in question says plainly, we may now lawfully do, in this affair, what we then did without law.

Y. I did not before take so much notice of those words, but, to be sure, the thing is easy enough; for I remember very well how we managed at that time. And indeed it is easier to effect it now than it was then; for the companies and regiments, and their districts, &c., were then all to form and settle. But now,



why may not the officers of the old companies call the old associators together, with such others in the district of each company, as incline to be concerned, and proceed immediately to a new choice by virtue of the act? Other new companies may in other places be formed, as the associated companies were.

Z. You say right. And if this were all the objection to the act, no doubt they would do so immediately. But it is said, there are other faults in it. X. What are they?

Z. The act is so loose, that persons who never intended to engage in the militia, even Quakers, may meet and vote in the choice of the officers.

X. Possibly;-but was any such thing observed in the association elections?

Z. Not that I remember.

X. Why should it be more apprehended now, than it was at that time? Can they have any motives to such a conduct now, which they had not then?

Z. I cannot say.

X. Nor can I. If a militia be necessary for the safety of the province, I hope we shall not boggle at this little difficulty. What else is objected?

Z. I have heard this objected, That it were better the governor should appoint the officers; for, the choice being in the people, a man very unworthy to be an officer may happen to be popular enough to get himself chosen by the undiscerning mob.

X. It is possible. And if all officers appointed by governors were always men of merit, and fully quali fied for their posts, it would be wrong ever to hazard a popular election. It is reasonable, I allow, that the commander-in-chief should not have officers absolutely forced upon him, in whom, from his knowledge of their incapacity, he can place no confidence. And, on

the other hand, it seems likely that the people will engage more readily in the service, and face danger with more intrepidity, when they are commanded by a man they know and esteem, and on whose prudence and courage, as well as good-will and integrity, they can have reliance, than they would under a man they either did not know, or did not like. For, supposing governors ever so judicious and upright in the distribution of commissions, they cannot know everybody, in every part of the province, and are liable to be imposed on by partial recommendations; but the people generally know their neighbours. And, to me, the act in question seems to have hit a proper medium between the two modes of appointing. The people choose, and if the governor approves, he grants the commission; if not, they are to choose a second, and even a third time. Out of three choices, it is probable one may be right; and where an officer is approved both by superiors and inferiors, there is the greatest prospect of those advantages that attend a good agreement in the service. This mode of choice is moreover agreeable to the liberty and genius of our constitution. It is similar to the manner in which by our laws sheriffs and coroners are chosen and approved. And yet it has more regard to the prerogative than the mode of choice in some colonies, where the military officers are either chosen absolutely by the companies themselves, or by the House of Representatives, without any negative on that choice, or any approbation necessary from the governor.

Y. But is that agreeable to the English constitution? X. Considered in this light, I think it is; British subjects, by removing into America, cultivating a wilderness, extending the dominion, and increasing the wealth, commerce, and power of their mother country,

at the hazard of their lives and fortunes, ought not, and in fact do not thereby lose their native rights. There is a power in the crown to grant a continuance of those rights to such subjects, in any part of the world, and to their posterity born in such new country; and, for the farther encouragement and reward of such merit, to grant additional liberties and privileges, not used in England, but suited to the different circumstances of different colonies. If then the grants of those additional liberties and privileges may be regularly made under an English constitution, they may be enjoyed agreeably to that constitution.

Y. But the act is very short; there are numberless circumstances and occasions pertaining to a body of armed men, which are not, as they ought to have been, expressly provided for in the act.

X. It is true, there are not express provisions in the act for all circumstances; but there is a power lodged by the act in the governor and field-officers of the regiments, to make all such provisions, in the articles of war which they may form and establish.

Y. But can it be right in the legislature, by any act, to delegate their power of making laws to others?

X. I believe not, generally; but certainly in particular cases it may. Legislatures may, and frequently do, give to corporations power to make by-laws for their own government. And, in this case, the act of Parliament gives the power of making articles of war for the government of the army to the King alone, and there is no doubt but the Parliament understands the rights of government.

Y. Are you sure the act of Parliament gives such power?

X. This is the act. The power I mention is here in the 55th section. "Provided always, that it shall and

« ZurückWeiter »