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[11] countrymen, and the mildest and most beneficent government on the face of the earth!


Before the Revolution the Colonies were a People.

But we are told all this is done in virtue of the Sovereignty of the States; as if, because a State is Sovereign, its people were incompetent to establish a government for themselves and their posterity. Certainly the States are clothed with Sovereignty for local purposes; but it is doubtful whether they ever possessed it in any other sense; and if they had, it is certain that they ceded it to the General Government, in adopting the Constitution. Before their independence of England was asserted, they constituted a provincial people, (Burke calls it “a glorious Empire,” ) subject to the British crown, organized for certain purposes under separate colonial charters, but, on some great occasions of political interest and public safety, acting as one. Thus they acted when, on the approach of the great Seven Years War, which exerted such an important influence on the fate of British America, they sent their delegates to Albany to concert a plan of union. In the discussions of that plan which was reported by Franklin, the citizens of the colonies were evidently considered as a People. When the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 roused the spirit of resistance throughout America, the Unity of her People assumed a still more practical form. “Union,” says one of our great American historians,1 “was the hope of Otis. Union that ‘should knit and work into the very blood and bones of the original system every region as fast as settled.’ ” In this hope he argued against writs of assistance, and in this hope he brought about the call of the Convention at New York in 1765. At that Convention, the noble South Carolinian Christopher Gadsden, with prophetic foreboding of the disintegrating heresies of the present day, cautioned his associates against too great dependence on their colonial charters. “I wish,” said he, “that the charters may not ensnare us at last, by drawing different Colonies to act differently in this great cause. Whenever that is the case all is over with the whole. There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker, known on the Continent, but all of us Americans.” 2

While the patriots in America counselled, and wrote, and spoke as a people, they were recognized as such in England. “Believe me,” cried Colonel Barre in the House of Commons, “I this day told you so, the same spirit of Freedom which actuated that People at first will accompany them still. The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has, but a People jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, should they be violated.”

When ten years later the great struggle long foreboded came on, it was felt, on both sides of the Atlantic, to be an attempt to reduce a free People beyond the sea to unconditional dependence on a parliament in which they were not represented. “What foundation have we,” was the language of Chatham on the 27th Jan. 1775, “for our claims over America? What is our right to persist in such cruel and vindictive measures against that loyal, respectable People? How have this respectable people behaved under all their grievances? Repeal, therefore, I say. But bare repeal will not satisfy this enlightened and spirited People.” Lord Camden, in the same debate, exclaimed, “You have no right to tax America; the natural rights of man, and the immutable laws of Nature, are with that People.” Burke,

1 Banoroft's History of the United States, vol. v., p. 292.

2 Ibid., p. 335.

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