at Providence in 1765. Admitting the right of Parliament to regulate the affairs of the whole empire, Hopkins not only claims for the colonies “as much freedom as the mother state from which they went out,” but dwells forcibly upon the dangerous tendency of the new policy, the widespread apprehension which it has already aroused, and the absence of any clear necessity for raising an American revenue by parliamentary fiat.
What motive . . . can remain, to induce the parliament to abridge the privileges, and lessen the rights of the most loyal and dutiful subjects; subjects justly intituled to ample freedom, who have long enjoyed, and not abused or forfeited their liberties, who have used them to their own advantage, in dutiful subserviency to the orders and interests of Great-Britain?Such reasoning as that of Otis, Thacher, and Hopkins, however convincing to the popular mind, avoided, but did not settle, the important and difficult constitutional question of the ultimate authority of Parliament over the colonies. On that question the wisest were certain to differ, and a presentation of the other side of the case was speedily forthcoming. In February, 1765, there appeared at Newport A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax, to his Friend in Rhode-Island, published anonymously, but written by Martin Howard, a Newport lawyer of repute. In this temperate, logical, and readable pamphlet, the “Gentleman at Halifax,” replying to Hopkins's “labored, ostentatious piece,” puts his finger on the primary defect in the whole colonial argument, namely, the claim “that the colonies have rights independent of, and not controulable by the authority of parliament.” If they derived their political rights from Parliament, were not those rights subject to interpretation or abridgement by Parliament? A lively controversy ensued. Hopkins defended himself in a series of articles in the Providence Gazette, while Otis, his zeal for debate knowing no provincial bounds, printed A Vindication of the British Colonies against the Aspersions of the Halifax Gentleman. Howard retorted with A Defence of the Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax, to his Friend in Rhode-Island, to which Otis responded with Brief remarks on the defence of the Halifax libel on the British-American-colonies. The tide of patriotism was rising, however,