partisan, Otis argued the case for the colonies, appealing as before to the British constitution as he understood it, and to the logic of right, liberty, and justice. A colony being an integral part of the mother country, though territorially separated from it, its people are, “by the law of God and nature, by the common law, and by act of Parliament . . . entitled to all the natural, essential, inherent, and inseparable rights of our fellow-subjects in Great Britain.” Among these rights was that of freedom from taxation save with their own consent, and of representation in the supreme or some subordinate legislature. Parliament admittedly possessed a general supervisory authority over the colonies, but if, under the guise of regulation, it were to infringe upon the right of taxation through duly elected representatives, it would be guilty of an arbitrary violation of the constitution. Forcible resistance, however, even to an unconstitutional act, was not to be thought of.
There would be an end of all government, if one or a number of subjects or subordinate provinces should take upon them so far to judge of the justice of an act of Parliament, as to refuse obedience to it. . . . Therefore let the Parliament lay what burdens they please on us, we must, it is our duty to submit and patiently bear them, till they will be pleased to relieve us.Otis voiced effectively the first impulse of thoughtful, patriotic Americans as they contemplated the prospect of parliamentary taxation. The proposed act violated the constitution whose benefits the colonists claimed, but forcible resistance would be treason. The same line of argument, more systematically and cogently put, characterized Oxenbridge Thacher's Sentiments of a British American (1764). Thacher was a fellow townsman of Otis, and the two had been associated in the case of the writs of assistance. Like Otis, Thacher's legal argument closes with a strong profession of loyalty to the crown, and there is no good ground for thinking that in either case the profession was insincere. Argument and dissent were an Englishman's right, and the constitution had grown by protest against abuses. An even more effective statement of the American case is found in The rights of colonies examined, a pamphlet written by Stephen Hopkins, governor of Rhode Island, and published