Sunday, August 24, 2014

Madison: The Danger of Locating the War Power in the Executive

In 1793. after Alexander Hamilton published his Pacificus essays in defense of President Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality, Jefferson urged Madison to take up his pen to strike down Hamilton’s heresies. Madison’s response in his Letters of Helvidius was incredibly prolix and difficult for most mortals to understand, but in a few passages he lucidly laid bare “the fundamental doctrine of the constitution” locating the power to declare war in the legislature:

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Every just view that can be taken of this subject, admonishes the public, of the necessity of a rigid adherence to the simple, the received and the fundamental doctrine of the constitution, that the power to declare war including the power of judging of the causes of war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature: that the executive has no right, in any case to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war: that the right of convening and informing Congress, whenever such a question seems to call for a decision, is all the right which the constitution has deemed requisite or proper: and that for such more than for any other contingency, this right was specially given to the executive.
In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture of heterogeneous powers: the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man: not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war a physical force is to be created, and it is the executive will which is to direct it. In war the public treasures are to be unlocked, and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions, and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.
Hence it has grown into an axiom that the executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence.

As the best praise then that can be pronounced on an executive magistrate, is, that he is the friend of peace; a praise that rises in its value, as there may be a known capacity to shine in war: so it must be one of the most sacred duties of a free people, to mark the first omen in the society, of principles that may stimulate the hopes of other magistrates of another propensity, to intrude into questions on which its gratification depends. If a free people be a wise people also, they will not forget that the danger of surprise can never be so great, as when the advocates for the prerogative of war, can sheathe it in a symbol of peace.

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Letters of Helvidius, No. IV, August-September 1793, The Writings of James Madison, Galliard Hunt, ed. (1906), VI: 174-75. (Online Library of Liberty)

Vattel: Rights and Duties of Nations

Emer de Vattel, a Swiss writer, published in 1758 The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns. The work was widely used in the United States in the era of independence and constitution-making. Vattel was, as Alexander Hamilton remarked, “perhaps the most accurate and approved of the writers on the law of Nations.” Jefferson, insisting that U.S. policy “is dictated by the law of nature and the usage of nations,” believed that no judge of this law was more “enlightened and disinterested” than Vattel. The law of nations was considered authoritative by the Founders. “Ever since we have been an Independent nation,” Hamilton observed, “we have appealed to and acted upon the modern law of Nations as understood in Europe. Various resolutions of Congress during our revolution—the correspondencies of Executive officers—the decisions of our Courts of Admiralty, all recognized this standard.” So, too, did the “executive and legislative Acts and the proceedings of our Courts under” the new government of 1789.
These excerpts from Vattel’s famous work (from the Liberty Fund reprint) are about 6900 words.
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PRELIMINARIES: Idea and general Principles of the Law of Nations

To establish on a solid foundation the obligations and rights of nations, is the design of this work. The law of nations is the science which teaches the rights subsisting between nations or states, and the obligations correspondent to those rights.
In this treatise it will appear, in what manner states, as such, ought to regulate all their actions. We shall examine the obligations of a people, as well towards themselves as towards other nations; and by that means we shall discover the rights which result from those obligations. For, the  right being nothing more than the power of doing what is morally possible, that is to say, what is proper and consistent with duty,—it is evident that right is derived from duty, or passive obligation,—the obligation we lie under to act in such or such manner. It is therefore necessary that a nation should acquire a knowledge of the obligations incumbent on her, in order that she may not only avoid all violation of her duty, but also be able distinctly to ascertain her rights, or what she may lawfully require from other nations. 

Nations being composed of men naturally free and independent, and who, before the establishment of civil societies, lived together in the state of nature,—nations or sovereign states are to be considered as so many free persons living together in the state of nature.

It is a settled point with writers on the natural law, that all men inherit from nature a perfect liberty and independence, of which they cannot be deprived without their own consent. In a state, the individual citizens do not enjoy them fully and absolutely, because they have made a partial surrender of them to the sovereign. But the body of the nation, the state, remains absolutely free and independent with respect to all other men, all other nations, as long as it has not voluntarily submitted to them.

As men are subject to the laws of nature,—and as their union in civil society cannot have exempted them from the obligation to observe those laws, since by that union they do not cease to be men,—the entire nation, whose common will is but the result of the united wills of the citizens, remains subject to the laws of nature, and is bound to respect them in all her proceedings. And since right arises from obligation, as we have just observed (§3), the nation possesses also the same rights which nature has conferred upon men in order to enable them to perform their duties.

We must therefore apply to nations the rules of the law of nature, in order to discover what their obligations are, and what their rights: consequently the law of nations is originally no other than the law of nature applied to nations. But as the application of a rule cannot be just and reasonable unless it be made in a manner suitable to the subject, we are not to imagine that the law of nations is precisely and in every case the same as the law of nature, with the difference only of the subjects to which it is applied, so as to allow of our substituting nations for individuals. A state or civil society is a subject very different from an individual of the human race: from which circumstance, pursuant to the law of nature itself, there result, in many cases, very different obligations and rights; since the same general rule, applied to two subjects, cannot produce exactly the same decisions, when the subjects are different; and a particular rule which is perfectly just with respect to one subject, is not applicable to another subject of a quite different nature. There are many cases, therefore, in which the law of nature does not decide between state and state in the same manner as it would between man and man. We must therefore know how to accommodate the application of it to different subjects; and it is the art of thus applying it with a precision founded on right reason, that renders the law of nations a distinct science.

We call that the necessary law of nations which consists in the application of the law of nature to nations. It is necessary, because nations are absolutely bound to observe it. This law contains the precepts prescribed by the law of nature to states, on whom that law is not less obligatory than on individuals, since states are composed of men, their resolutions are taken by men, and the law of nature is binding on all men, under whatever relation they act. This is the law which Grotius, and those who follow him, call the internal law of nations, on account of its being obligatory on nations in point of conscience. Several writers term it the natural law of nations.

Since therefore the necessary law of nations consists in the application of the law of nature to states,—which law is immutable, as being founded on the nature of things, and particularly on the nature of man,—it follows, that the necessary law of nations is immutable.

Nations can make no change in it, nor dispense with the obligations arising from it.

Whence, as this law is immutable, and the obligations that arise from it necessary and indispensable, nations can neither make any changes in it by their conventions, dispense with it in their own conduct, nor reciprocally release each other from the observance of it.

This is the principle by which we may distinguish lawful conventions or treaties from those that are not lawful, and innocent and rational customs from those that are unjust or censurable.

There are things, just in themselves, and allowed by the necessary law of nations, on which states may mutually agree with each other, and which they may consecrate and enforce by their manners and customs. There are others, of an indifferent nature, respecting which, it rests at the option of nations to make in their treaties whatever agreements they please, or to introduce whatever custom or practice they think proper. But every treaty, every custom, which contravenes the injunctions or prohibitions of the necessary law of nations, is unlawful. It will appear, however, in the sequel, that it is only by the internal law, by the law of conscience, such conventions or treaties are always condemned as unlawful,—and that, for reasons which shall be given in their proper place, they are nevertheless often valid by the external law. Nations being free and independent,—though the conduct of one of them be illegal and condemnable by the laws of conscience, the others are bound to acquiesce in it, when it does not infringe upon their perfect rights. The liberty of that nation would not remain entire, if the others were to arrogate to themselves the right of inspecting and regulating her actions;—an assumption on their part, that would be contrary to the law of nature, which declares every nation free and independent of all the others.

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BOOK I, CHAPTER II: General Principles of the Duties of a Nation towards itself.

If the rights of a nation spring from its obligations, it is principally from those that relate to itself. It will further appear that its duties towards others depend very much on its duties towards itself, as the former are to be regulated and measured by the latter. As we are then to treat of the obligations and rights of nations,—an attention to order requires that we should begin by establishing what each nation owes to itself.
The general and fundamental rule of our duties towards ourselves is, that every moral being ought to live in a manner conformable to his nature, naturae convenienter vivere. A nation is a being determined by its essential attributes, that has its own nature, and can act in conformity to it. There are then actions of a nation as such, wherein it is concerned in its national character, and which are either suitable or opposite to what constitutes it a nation; so that it is not a matter of indifference whether it performs some of those actions, and omits others. In this respect, the Law of Nature prescribes it certain duties. We shall see, in this first book, what conduct a nation ought to observe, in order that it may not be wanting to itself. But we shall first sketch out a general idea of this subject.
He who no longer exists can have no duties to perform: and a moral being is charged with obligations to himself, only with a view to his perfection and happiness: for to preserve and to perfect his own nature, is the sum of all his duties to himself.
The preservation of a nation consists in the duration of the political association by which it is formed. If a period is put to this association, the nation or state no longer subsists, though the individuals that composed it, still exist.
The perfection of a nation is found in what renders it capable of obtaining the end of civil society; and a nation is in a perfect state, when nothing necessary is wanting to arrive at that end. We know that the perfection of a thing consists, generally, in the perfect agreement of all its constituent parts to tend to the same end. A nation being a multitude of men united together in civil society,—if in that multitude all conspire to attain the end proposed in forming a civil society, the nation is perfect; and it is more or less so, according as it approaches more or less to that perfect agreement. In the same manner its external state will be more or less perfect, according as it concurs with the interior perfection of the nation.
The end or object of civil society is to procure for the citizens whatever they stand in need of, for the necessities, the conveniences, the accommodation of life, and, in general, whatever constitutes happiness,—with the peaceful possession of property, a method of obtaining justice with security, and, finally a mutual defence against all external violence.
It is now easy to form a just idea of the perfection of a state or nation:—every thing in it must conspire to promote the ends we have pointed out.
In the act of association, by virtue of which a multitude of men form together a state or nation, each individual has entered into engagements with all, to promote the general welfare; and all have entered into engagements with each individual, to facilitate for him the means of supplying his necessities, and to protect and defend him. It is manifest that these reciprocal engagements can no otherwise be fulfilled than by maintaining the political association. The entire nation is then obliged to maintain that association; and as their preservation depends on its continuance, it thence follows that every nation is obliged to perform the duty of self-preservation.
This obligation, so natural to each individual of God’s creation, is not derived to nations immediately from nature, but from the agreement by which civil society is formed: it is therefore not absolute, but conditional,—that is to say, it supposes a human act, to wit, the social compact. And as compacts may be dissolved by common consent of the parties,—if the individuals that compose a nation should unanimously agree to break the link that binds them, it would be lawful for them to do so, and thus to destroy the state or nation; but they would doubtless incur a degree of guilt, if they took this step without just and weighty reasons; for civil societies are approved by the Law of Nature, which recommends them to mankind, as the true means of supplying all their wants, and of effectually advancing towards their own perfection. Moreover civil society is so useful, nay so necessary to all citizens, that it may well be considered as morally impossible for them to consent unanimously to break it without necessity. But what citizens may or ought to do,—what the majority of them may resolve in certain cases of necessity, or of pressing exigency,—are questions that will be treated of elsewhere: they cannot be solidly determined without some principles which we have not yet established. For the present, it is sufficient to have proved, that, in general, as long as the political society subsists, the whole nation is obliged to endeavour to maintain it.

If a nation is obliged to preserve itself, it is no less obliged carefully to preserve all its members. The nation owes this to itself, since the loss even of one of its members weakens it, and [6] is injurious to its preservation. It owes this also to the members in particular, in consequence of the very act of association; for those who compose a nation are united for their defence and common advantage; and none can justly be deprived of this union, and of the advantages he expects to derive from it, while he on his side fulfils the conditions.
The body of a nation cannot then abandon a province, a town, or even a single individual who is a part of it, unless compelled to it by necessity, or indispensably obliged to it by the strongest reasons founded on the public safety.
Since then a nation is obliged to preserve itself, it has a right to every thing necessary for its preservation. For the Law of Nature gives us a right to every thing, without which we cannot fulfil our obligation; otherwise it would oblige us to do impossibilities, or rather would contradict itself in prescribing us a duty, and at the same time debarring us of the only means of fulfilling it. It will doubtless be here understood, that those means ought not to be unjust in themselves, or such as are absolutely forbidden by the Law of Nature. As it is impossible that it should ever permit the use of such means,—if on a particular occasion no other present themselves for fulfilling a general obligation, the obligation must, in that particular instance, be looked on as impossible, and consequently void.
By an evident consequence from what has been said, a nation ought carefully to avoid, as much as possible, whatever might cause its destruction, or that of the state, which is the same thing.
A nation or state has a right to every thing that can help to ward off imminent danger, and keep at a distance whatever is capable of causing its ruin; and that from the very same reasons that establish its right to the things necessary to its preservation.
The second general duty of a nation towards itself is to labour at its own perfection and that of its state. It is this double perfection that renders a nation capable of attaining the end of civil society: it would be absurd to unite in society, and yet not endeavour to promote the end of that union.
Here the entire body of a nation, and each individual citizen, are bound by a double obligation, the one immediately proceeding from nature, and the other resulting from their reciprocal engagements. Nature lays an obligation upon each man to labour after his own perfection; and in so doing, he labours after that of civil society, which could not fail to be very flourishing, were it composed of none but good citizens. But the individual finding in a well regulated society the most powerful succours to enable him to fulfil the task which Nature imposes upon him in relation to himself, for becoming better, and consequently more happy,—he is doubtless obliged to contribute all in his power to render that society more perfect.
All the citizens who form a political society, reciprocally engage to advance the common welfare, and as far as possible to promote the advantage of each member. Since then the perfection of the society is what enables it to secure equally the happiness of the body and that of the members, the grand object of the engagements and duties of a citizen is to aim at this perfection. This is more particularly the duty of the body collective in all their common deliberations, and in every thing they do as a body.

A nation therefore ought to prevent, and carefully to avoid, whatever may hinder its perfection and that of the state, or retard the progress either of the one or the other.

We may then conclude, as we have done above in regard to the preservation of a state (§18), that a nation has a right to every thing without which it cannot attain the perfection of the members and of the state, or prevent and repel whatever is contrary to this double perfection. . . .
We shall conclude this chapter, with observing, that a nation ought to know itself. Without this knowledge, it cannot make any successful endeavours after its own perfection. It ought to have a just idea of its state, to enable it to take the most proper measures; it ought to know the progress it has already made, and what further advances it has still to make,—what advantages it possesses, and what defects it labours under, in order to preserve the former, and correct the latter. Without this knowledge, a nation will act at random, and often take the most improper measures. It will think it acts with great wisdom in imitating the conduct of nations that are reputed wise and skilful,—not perceiving that such or such regulation, such or such practice, though salutary to one state, is often pernicious to another. Every thing ought to be conducted according to its nature. Nations cannot be well governed without such regulations as are suitable to their respective characters; and in order to this, their characters ought to be known.
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From BOOK II: Of a Nation considered in its Relations to others, CHAPTER I: Of the Common Duties of a Nation towards others, or of the Offices of Humanity between Nations.

The following maxims will appear very strange to cabinet politicians: and such is the misfortune of mankind, that, to many of those refined conductors of nations, the doctrine of this chapter will be a subject of ridicule. Be it so!—but we will nevertheless boldly lay down what the law of nature prescribes to nations. Shall we be intimidated by ridicule, when we speak after Cicero? That great man held the reins of the most powerful state that ever existed; and in that station he appeared no less eminent than at the bar. The punctual observance of the law of nature he considered as the most salutary policy to the state. In my preface, I have already quoted this fine passage: “A state cannot be happily governed [when] committing injustice; without a strict attention to the most rigid justice, public affairs cannot be advantageously administered.” I might say on good grounds, that, by the words, summa justitia, Cicero means that universal justice which consists in completely fulfilling the law of nature. But in another place he explains himself more clearly on this head, and gives us sufficiently to understand that he does not confine the mutual duties of men to the observance of justice, properly so called. “Nothing,” says he, “is more agreeable to nature, more capable of affording true satisfaction, than, in imitation of Hercules, to undertake even the most arduous and painful labours for the benefit and preservation of all nations.” “It is more in accord with Nature to emulate the great Hercules and undergo the greatest toil and trouble for the sake of aiding or saving the world, if possible, than to live in seclusion, not only free from all care but also reveling in pleasures and abounding in wealth, while excelling others also in beauty and strength. Thus Hercules denied himself and underwent toil and tribulation for the world, and, out of gratitude for his services, popular belief has given him a place in the council of gods. The better and more noble therefore the character with which a man is endowed, the more does he prefer the life of service to the life of pleasure.” In the same chapter, Cicero expressly refutes those who are for excluding foreigners from the benefit of those duties to which they acknowledge themselves bound towards their fellow citizens. “Others again who say that regard should be had for the rights of fellow citizens, but not for foreigners, would destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind; and, when this is annihilated, kindness, generosity, goodness, and justice must utterly perish; and those who work all this destruction must be considered as wickedly rebelling against the immortal gods. For they uproot the fellowship between humans.”
And why should we not hope still to find, among those who are at the head of affairs, some wise individuals, who are convinced of this great truth, that virtue is, even for sovereigns and political bodies, the most certain road to prosperity and happiness? There is at least one benefit to be expected from the open assertion and publication of sound maxims, which is, that even those who relish them the least, are thereby laid under a necessity of keeping within some bounds, lest they should forfeit their characters altogether. To flatter ourselves with the vain expectation that men, and especially men in power, will be inclined strictly to conform to the laws of nature, would be a gross mistake; and to renounce all hope of making impression on some of them, would be to give up mankind for lost.
Nations being obliged by nature reciprocally to cultivate human society (Prelim. §11), are bound to observe towards each other all the duties which the safety and advantage of that society require.
The offices of humanity are those succours, those duties, which men owe to each other, as men, that is, as social beings formed to live in society, and standing in need of mutual assistance for their preservation and happiness, and to enable them to live in a manner conformable to their nature. Now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals (Prelim. §5), whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations (Prelim. §10, &c.). Such is the foundation of those common duties,—of those offices of humanity,—to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other. They consist, generally, in doing every thing in our power for the preservation and happiness of others, as far as such conduct is reconcilable with our duties towards ourselves.
The nature and essence of man—who, without the assistance of his fellow men, is unable to supply all his wants, to preserve himself, to render himself perfect, and to live happily—plainly shews us that he is destined to live in society, in the interchange of mutual aid,—and, consequently, that all men are, by their very nature and essence, obliged to unite their common efforts for the perfection of their own being and that of their condition. The surest method of succeeding in this pursuit is, that each individual should exert his efforts, first for himself, and then for others. Hence it follows that whatever we owe to ourselves, we like-wise owe to others, so far as they stand in need of assistance, and we can grant it to them without being wanting to ourselves. Since then one nation, in its way, owes to another nation every duty that one man owes to another man, we may confidently lay down this general principle:—One state owes to another state whatever it owes to itself, so far as that other stands in real need of its assistance, and the former can grant it without neglecting the duties it owes to itself. Such is the eternal and immutable law of nature. Those who might be alarmed at this doctrine, as totally subversive of the maxims of sound policy, will be relieved from their apprehensions by the two following considerations—
1. Social bodies or sovereign states are much more capable of supplying all their wants than individual men are; and mutual assistance is not so necessary among them, nor so frequently required. Now, in those particulars which a nation can itself perform, no succour is due to it from others.

2. The duties of a nation towards itself, and chiefly the care of its own safety, require much more circumspection and reserve, than need be observed by an individual in giving assistance to others. This remark we shall soon illustrate.
Of all the duties of a nation towards itself the chief object is its preservation and perfection, together with that of its state. The detail given of them in the first book of this work may serve to point out the several objects in relation to which a state may and should assist another state. Every nation ought, on occasion, to labour for the preservation of others, and for securing them from ruin and destruction, as far as it can do this, without exposing itself too much. Thus, when a neighbouring nation is unjustly attacked by a powerful enemy who threatens to oppress it,—if you can defend it without exposing yourself to great danger, unquestionably it is your duty to do so. Let it not be said, in objection to this, that a sovereign is not to expose the lives of his soldiers, for the safety of a foreign nation with which he has not contracted a defensive alliance. It may be his own case to stand in need of assistance; and consequently he is acting for the safety of his own nation, in giving energy to the spirit and disposition to afford mutual aid. Accordingly, policy here coincides with and enforces obligation and duty. It is the interest of princes to stop the progress of an ambitious monarch who aims at aggrandising himself by subjugating his neighbours. A powerful league was formed in favour of the United Provinces, when threatened with the yoke of Lewis XIV. When the Turks laid siege to Vienna, the brave Sobieski king of Poland saved the house of Austria, and possibly all Germany, and his own kingdom.
For the same reason, if a nation is afflicted with famine, all those who have provisions to spare ought to relieve her distress, without however exposing themselves to want. But if that nation is able to pay for the provisions thus furnished, it is perfectly lawful to sell them to her at a reasonable rate; for they are not bound to furnish her with what she is herself capable of procuring; and consequently there is no obligation of gratuitously bestowing on her such things as she is able to purchase. To give assistance in such extreme necessity is so essentially conformable to humanity, that the duty is seldom neglected by any nation that has received the slightest polish of civilisation. The great Henry the Fourth could not forbear to comply with it in favour of obstinate rebels who were bent on his destruction.
Whatever be the calamity with which a nation is afflicted, the like assistance is due to it. We have seen little states in Switzerland order public collections to be made in behalf of towns or villages of the neighbouring countries, which had been ruined by fire, and remit them liberal succours; the difference of religion proving no bar to the performance of so humane a deed. The calamities of Portugal have given England an opportunity of fulfilling the duties of humanity with that noble generosity which characterises a great nation. On the first intelligence of the disastrous fate of Lisbon [in earthquake of 1755], the parliament voted a hundred thousand pounds sterling for the relief of an unfortunate people; the king also added considerable sums: ships, laden with provisions and all kinds of succours, were sent away with the utmost dispatch; and their arrival convinced the Portuguese, that an opposition in belief and worship does not restrain the beneficence of those who understand the claims of humanity. On the same occasion likewise the king of Spain signally displayed his tenderness for a near ally, and exerted in a conspicuous manner his humanity and generosity.
A nation must not simply confine itself to the preservation of other states; it should likewise, according to its power and their want of its assistance, contribute to their perfection. We have already shewn (Prelim. §13) that natural society imposes on it this general obligation. We are now come to the proper place for treating of the obligation somewhat more in detail. A state is more or less perfect, as it is more or less adapted to attain the end of civil society, which consists in procuring for its members every thing of which they stand in need, for the necessities, the conveniences and enjoyments of life, and for their happiness in general,—in providing for the peaceful enjoyment of property, and the safe and easy administration of justice,—and, finally, in defending itself against all foreign violence (Book I. §15). Every nation therefore should occasionally, and according to its power, contribute, not only to put another nation in possession of these advantages, but likewise to render it capable of procuring them itself. Accordingly, a learned nation, if applied to for masters and teachers in the sciences, by another nation desirous of shaking off its native barbarism, ought not to refuse such a request. A nation whose happiness it is to live under wise laws, should, on occasion, make it a point of duty to communicate them. Thus when the wise and virtuous Romans sent ambassadors to Greece to collect good laws, the Greeks were far from rejecting so reasonable and so laudable a request.
But though a nation be obliged to promote, as far as lies in its power, the perfection of others, it is not entitled forcibly to obtrude these good offices on them. Such an attempt would be a violation of their natural liberty. In order to compel any one to receive a kindness, we must have an authority over him; but nations are absolutely free and independent (Prelim. §4). Those ambitious Europeans who attacked the American nations, and subjected them to their greedy dominion, in order, as they pretended, to civilise them, and cause them to be instructed in the true religion,—those usurpers, I say, grounded themselves on a pretext equally unjust and ridiculous. It is strange to hear the learned and judicious Grotius assert, that a sovereign may justly take up arms to chastise nations which are guilty of enormous transgressions of the law of nature, which treat their parents with inhumanity like the Sogdians, which eat human flesh as the ancient Gauls, &c. [citing Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, book 2, chap. 20, §11.] What led him into this error, was his attributing to every independent man, and of course to every sovereign, an odd kind of right to punish faults which involve an enormous violation of the laws of nature, though they do not affect either his rights or his safety. But we have shewn (Book I. §169) that men derive the right of punishment solely from their right to provide for their own safety; and consequently they cannot claim it except against those by whom they have been injured. Could it escape Grotius, that, notwithstanding all the precautions added by him in the following paragraphs, his opinion opens a door to all the ravages of enthusiasm and fanaticism, and furnishes ambition with numberless pretexts? Mahomet and his successors have desolated and subdued Asia, to avenge the indignity done to the unity of the Godhead; all whom they termed associators or idolaters fell victims to their devout fury. . . .

CHAPTER IV: Of the Right to Security, and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of nations.

In vain does nature prescribe to nations, as well as to individuals, the care of self-preservation, and of advancing their own perfection and happiness, if she does not give them a right to preserve themselves from every thing that might render this care ineffectual. This right is nothing more than a moral power of acting, that is, the power of doing what is morally possible,—what is proper and conformable to our duties. We have then in general a right to do whatever is necessary to the discharge of our duties. Every nation, as well as every man, has therefore a right to prevent other nations from obstructing her preservation, her perfection, and happiness,—that is, to preserve herself from all injuries (§18): and this right is a perfect one, since it is given to satisfy a natural and indispensable obligation: for when we cannot use constraint in order to cause our rights to be respected, their effects are very uncertain. It is this right to preserve herself from all injury that is called the right to security.
It is safest to prevent the evil, when it can be prevented. A nation has a right to resist an injurious attempt, and to make use of force and every honourable expedient against whosoever is actually engaged in opposition to her, and even to anticipate his machinations, observing, however, not to attack him upon vague and uncertain suspicions, lest she should incur the imputation of becoming herself an unjust aggressor.
When the evil is done, the same right to security authorises the offended party to endeavour to obtain a complete reparation, and to employ force for that purpose, if necessary.
Finally, the offended party have a right to provide for their future security, and to chastise the offender, by inflicting upon him a punishment capable of deterring him thenceforward from similar aggressions, and of intimidating those who might be tempted to imitate him. They may even, if necessary, disable the aggressor from doing further injury. They only make use of their right in all these measures, which they adopt with good reason: and if evil thence results to him who has reduced them to the necessity of taking such steps, he must impute the consequences only to his own injustice.
If then there is any-where a nation of a restless and mischievous disposition, ever ready to injure others, to traverse their designs, and to excite domestic disturbances in their dominions,—it is not to be doubted that all the others have a right to form a coalition in order to repress and chastise that nation, and to put it forever after out of her power to injure them. Such would be the just fruits of the policy which Machiavel praises in Caesar Borgia. The conduct followed by Philip II. king of Spain, was calculated to unite all Europe against him; and it was from just reasons that Henry the Great formed the design of humbling a power, whose strength was formidable, and whose maxims were pernicious.
The three preceding propositions are so many principles, that furnish the various foundations for a just war, as we shall see in the proper place.

It is an evident consequence of the liberty and independence of nations, that all have a right to be governed as they think proper, and that no state has the smallest right to interfere in the government of another. Of all the rights that can belong to a nation, sovereignty is, doubtless, the most precious, and that which other nations ought the most scrupulously to respect, if they would not do her an injury.

The sovereign is he to whom the nation has intrusted the empire, and the care of the government: she has invested him with her rights; she alone is directly interested in the manner in which the conductor she has chosen makes use of his power. It does not then belong to any foreign power to take cognisance of the administration of that sovereign, to set himself up for a judge of his conduct, and to oblige him to alter it. If he loads his subjects with taxes, and if he treats them with severity, the nation alone is concerned in the business; and no other is called upon to oblige him to amend his conduct, and follow more wise and equitable maxims. It is the part of prudence to point out the occasions when officious and amicable representations may be made to him. The Spaniards violated all rules, when they set themselves up as judges of the Inca Athualpa. If that prince had violated the law of nations with respect to them, they would have had a right to punish him. But they accused him of having put some of his subjects to death, of having had several wives, &c.—things, for which he was not at all accountable to them; and, to fill up the measure of their extravagant injustice, they condemned him by the laws of Spain.

But if the prince, by violating the fundamental laws, gives his subjects a legal right to resist him,—if tyranny becoming insupportable obliges the nation to rise in their own defence,—every foreign power has a right to succour an oppressed people who implore their assistance. The English justly complained of James II. The nobility and the most distinguished patriots, having determined to check him in the prosecution of his schemes, which manifestly tended to overthrow the constitution, and to destroy the liberties and the religion of the people,—applied for assistance to the United Provinces. The authority of the prince of Orange had, doubtless, an influence on the deliberations of the states-general; but it did not lead them to the commission of an act of injustice: for when a people from good reasons take up arms against an oppressor, it is but an act of justice and generosity to assist brave men in the defence of their liberties. Whenever therefore matters are carried so far as to produce a civil war, foreign powers may assist that party which appears to them to have justice on its side. He who assists an odious tyrant,—he who declares for an unjust and rebellious people,—violates his duty. But when the bands of the political society are broken, or at least suspended, between the sovereign and his people, the contending parties may then be considered as two distinct powers; and since they are both equally independent of all foreign authority, nobody has a right to judge them. Either may be in the right; and each of those who grant their assistance may imagine that he is acting in support of the better cause. It follows then, in virtue of the voluntary law of nations (see Prelim. §21), that the two parties may act as having an equal right, and behave to each other accordingly, till the decision of the affair.

But we ought not to abuse this maxim, and make a handle of it to authorise odious machinations against the internal tranquillity of states. It is a violation of the law of nations to invite those subjects to revolt who actually pay obedience to their sovereign, though they complain of his government.
The practice of nations is conformable to our maxims. When the German protestants came to the assistance of the reformed party in France, the court never attempted to treat them otherwise than on the usual footing of enemies in general, and according to the laws of war. France was at the same time engaged in assisting the Netherlands then in arms against Spain,—and expected that her troops should be considered in no other light than as auxiliaries in a regular war. But no power ever fails to complain, as of an atrocious wrong, if any one attempts by his emissaries to excite his subjects to revolt.
As to those monsters who, under the title of sovereigns, render themselves the scourges and horror of the human race, they are savage beasts, whom every brave man may justly exterminate from the face of the earth. All antiquity has praised Hercules for delivering the world from an Antaeus, a Busiris, and a Diomede.
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Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns. . . Richard Whatmore and Béla Kapossy, eds. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund) (originally published 1758). I substituted the English translations of Cicero for the Latin in the Vattel's original text. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Madison: Pay Attention to What Other Nations Think

This passage appears in the 63rd number of The Federalist. Madison is explaining the utility of a senate. A nation, he thinks, needs not only to gain the "esteem" of foreign powers but, more importantly, to actually deserve it. Without a senate, "the national councils will not possess that sensibility to the opinion of the world, which is perhaps not less necessary in order to merit, than it is to obtain, its respect and confidence."

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An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations; and how many errors and follies would she not have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?

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Federalist No. 63, Such was the inspiration for another blog of mine, What They Think: A Survey of the Views of Foreign Diplomats and Leaders

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hamilton: From League to Government

In Federalist No. 15, Hamilton takes up the question of “the insufficiency of the present confederation to the preservation of the union.” Hamilton begins his paper with a classic depiction of the “last stage of national humiliation” facing the disunited states. But he still felt obligated to show that “the evils we experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but from fundamental errors in the structure of the building, which cannot be amended, otherwise than by an alteration in the very elements and main pillars of the fabric.”

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The great and radical vice, in the construction of the existing confederation, is in the principle of legislation for states or governments, in their corporate or collective capacities, and as contradistinguished from the individuals of whom they consist. Though this principle does not run through all the powers delegated to the union; yet it pervades and governs those on which the efficacy of the rest depends: except, as to the rule of apportionment, the United States have an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either, by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America. The consequence of this is, that, though in theory, their resolutions concerning those objects, are laws, constitutionally binding on the members of the union; yet, in practice, they are mere recommendations, which the states observe or disregard at their option.

It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human mind, that, after all the admonitions we have had from experience on this head, there should still be found men, who object to the new constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found the bane of the old; and which is, in itself, evidently incompatible with the idea of a government; a principle, in short, which, if it is to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary agency of the sword, to the mild influence of the magistracy.

There is nothing absurd or impracticable, in the idea of a league or alliance between independent nations, for certain defined purposes precisely stated in a treaty; regulating all the details of time, place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of the parties. Compacts of this kind, exist among all civilized nations, subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war; of observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the contracting powers dictate. In the early part of the present century, there was an epidemical rage in Europe for this species of compacts; from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for benefits which were never realized. With a view to establishing the equilibrium of power, and the peace of that part of the world, all the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and quadruple alliances were formed; but they were scarcely formed before they were broken, giving an instructive, but afflicting, lesson to mankind, how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith; and which oppose general considerations of peace and justice, to the impulse of any immediate interest or passion.

If the particular states in this country are disposed to stand in a similar relation to each other, and to drop the project of a general discretionary superintendence, the scheme would indeed be pernicious, and would entail upon us all the mischiefs which have been enumerated under the first head; but it would have the merit of being, at least, consistent and practicable. Abandoning all views towards a confederate government, this would bring us to a simple alliance, offensive and defensive; and would place us in a situation to be alternately friends and enemies of each other, as our mutual jealousies and rivalships, nourished by the intrigues of foreign nations, should prescribe to us.

But if we are unwilling to be placed in this perilous situation; if we still adhere to the design of a national government, or, which is the same thing, of a superintending power, under the direction of a common council, we must resolve to incorporate into our plan those ingredients, which may be considered as forming the characteristic difference between a league and a government; we must extend the authority of the union to the persons of the citizens . . . the only proper objects of government.

Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws, will in fact amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways; by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice, or by military force; by the coercion of the magistracy, or by the coercion of arms. The first kind can evidently apply only to men: the last kind must of necessity be employed against bodies politic, or communities or states. It is evident, that there is no process of a court by which their observance of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an association, where the general authority is confined to the collective bodies of the communities that compose it, every breach of the laws must involve a state of war, and military execution must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.

There was a time when we were told that breaches, by the states, of the regulations of the federal authority were not to be expected; that a sense of common interest would preside over the conduct of the respective members, and would beget a full compliance with all the constitutional requisitions of the union. This language, at the present day, would appear as wild as a great part of what we now hear from the same quarter will be thought, when we shall have received further lessons from that best oracle of wisdom, experience. It at all times betrayed an ignorance of the true springs by which human conduct is actuated, and belied the original inducements to the establishment of civil power. Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. Has it been found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and the inference is founded upon obvious reasons. Regard to reputation, has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number, than when it is to fall singly upon one. A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons, of whom they are composed, into improprieties and excesses, for which they would blush in a private capacity.

In addition to all this, there is, in the nature of sovereign power, an impatience of control, which disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations. From this spirit it happens, that in every political association which is formed upon the principle of uniting in a common interest a number of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the common centre. This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for. It has its origin in the love of power. Power controled or abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which it is controled or abridged. This simple proposition will teach us how little reason there is to expect, that the persons entrusted with the administration of the affairs of the particular members of a confederacy, will at all times be ready, with perfect good humour, and an unbiassed regard to the public weal, to execute the resolutions or decrees of the general authority. The reverse of this results from the constitution of man. . . .

In our case, the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign wills is requisite under the confederation, to the complete execution of every important measure, that proceeds from the union. It has happened, as was to have been foreseen. The measures of the union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the states have, step by step, matured themselves to an extreme, which has at length arrested all the wheels of the national government, and brought them to an awful stand. Congress at this time scarcely possess the means of keeping up the forms of administration, till the states can have time to agree upon a more substantial substitute for the present shadow of a federal government. Things did not come to this desperate extremity at once. The causes which have been specified, produced at first only unequal and disproportionate degrees of compliance with the requisitions of the union. The greater deficiencies of some states furnished the pretext of example, and the temptation of interest to the complying, or at least delinquent states. Why should we do more in proportion than those who are embarked with us in the same political voyage? Why should we consent to bear more than our proper share of the common burthen? These were suggestions which human selfishness could not withstand, and which even speculative men, who looked forward to remote consequences, could not without hesitation combat. Each state, yielding to the persuasive voice of immediate interest or convenience, has successively withdrawn its support, till the frail and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads, and to crush us beneath its ruins.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Madison: Of Rivalry Among the Great

In his speech of June 28, 1787, in the Federal Convention, James Madison was debating with representatives of the small states the question of their representation in the proposed federal government, and was concerned to show that the small states had nothing to fear from combinations of the larger states, that in fact their true interest was to subordinate themselves to a general authority as much as possible. Only then could they be secure. In making his demonstration, Madison showed that he had reflected greatly on the history of independent states and nations:

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Was a combination of the large ones dreaded? This must arise either from some interest common to Virginia, Massachusetts, & Pennsylvania distinguishing them from the other States or from the mere circumstance of similarity of size. Did any such common interest exist? In point of situation they could not have been more effectually separated from each other by the most jealous citizen of the most jealous State. In point of manners, Religion, and the other circumstances which sometimes beget affection between different communities, they were not more assimilated than the other States.—In point of the staple productions they were as dissimilar as any three other States in the Union. The Staple of Massachusetts was fish, of Pennsylvania flower, of Virginia tobacco.
Was a combination to be apprehended from the mere circumstance of equality of size? Experience suggested no such danger. The journals of Congress did not present any peculiar association of these States in the votes recorded. It had never been seen that different Counties in the same State, conformable in extent, but disagreeing in other circumstances, betrayed a propensity to such combinations. Experience rather taught a contrary lesson. Among individuals of superior eminence & weight in Society, rivalships were much more frequent than coalitions.
Among independent nations, pre-eminent over their neighbours, the same remark was verified. Carthage & Rome tore one another to pieces instead of uniting their forces to devour the weaker nations of the Earth. The Houses of Austria & France were hostile as long as they remained the greatest powers of Europe. England & France have succeeded to the pre-eminence & to the enmity. To this principle we owe perhaps our liberty. A coalition between those powers would have been fatal to us.
Among the principal members of antient & Modern confederacies, we find the same effect from the same cause. The contentions, not the Coalitions of Sparta, Athens & Thebes, proved fatal to the smaller members of the Amphyctionic Confederacy. The contentions, not the combinations of Prussia & Austria, have distracted & oppressed the Germanic empire.
Were the large States formidable singly to their smaller neighbours? On this supposition the latter ought to wish for such a general Government as will operate with equal energy on the former as on themselves. The more lax the band, the more liberty the larger will have to avail themselves of their superior force. Here again Experience was an instructive monitor. What is the situation of the weak compared with the strong in those stages of civilization in which the violence of individuals is least controuled by an efficient Government? The Heroic period of Antient Greece, the feudal licentiousness of the middle ages of Europe, the existing condition of the American Savages, answer this question.
What is the situation of the minor sovereigns in the great society of independent nations, in which the more powerful are under no controul but the nominal authority of the law of Nations? Is not the danger to the former exactly in proportion to their weakness. But there are cases still more in point. What was the condition of the weaker members of the Amphyctionic Confederacy. Plutarch [58 life of Themistocles] will inform us that it happened but too often that the strongest cities corrupted & awed the weaker, and that Judgment went in favor of the more powerful party. What is the condition of the lesser states in the German Confederacy? We all know that they are exceedingly trampled 'upon; and that they owe their safety as far as they enjoy it, partly to their enlisting themselves, under the rival banners of the pre-eminent members, partly to alliances with neighbouring Princes which the Constitution of the Empire does not prohibit. What is the state of things in the lax system of the Dutch Confederacy? Holland contains about ½ the people, supplies about ½ of the money, and by her influence, silently & indirectly governs the whole republic.
In a word; the two extremes before us are a perfect separation & a perfect incorporation, of the 13 States. In the first case they would be independent nations subject to no law, but the law of nations. In the last, they would be mere counties of one entire republic, subject to one common law. In the first case the smaller States would have every thing to fear from the larger. In the last they would have nothing to fear.
The true policy of the small States therefore lies in promoting those principles & that form of Government which will most approximate the States to the condition of counties. Another consideration may be added. If the General Government be feeble, the large States distrusting its continuance, and foreseeing that their importance & security may depend on their own size & strength, will never submit to a partition. Give to the General Government sufficient energy & permanency, & you remove the objection. Gradual partitions of the large, & junctions of the small States will be facilitated, and time may effect that equalization, which is wished for by the small States now, but can never be accomplished at once.

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Source: Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, edited by Charles C. Tansill. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1927), 292-294. I have filled out abbreviations and split the speech into separate paragraphs. 

Congress: The Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson drafted The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, issued July 6, 1775, by "The Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia." In Dickinson's hand is the first two thirds; in Jefferson's, the rousing conclusion. Apart from the Declaration of Independence, which advanced the case in a few particulars, this is the best statement of the American position in the controversy with Great Britain. 

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If it was possible for men, who exercise their reason to believe, that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the parliament of Great-Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them, has been granted to that body. But a reverance for our Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end. The legislature of Great-Britain, however, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and desparate of success in any mode of contest, where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms. - Yet, however blinded that assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited domination, so to sight justice and the opinion of mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by obligations of respect to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause.

Our forefathers, inhabitants of the island of Great-Britain, left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expense of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least charge to the country from which they removed, by unceasing labour, and an unconquerable spirit, they effected settlements in the distant and unhospitable wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike barbarians.—Societies or governments, vested with perfect legislatures, were formed under charters from the crown, and an harmonious intercourse was established between the colonies and the kingdom from which they derived their origin. The mutual benefits of this union became in a short time so extraordinary, as to excite astonishment. It is universally confessed, that the amazing increase of the wealth, strength, and navigation of the realm, arose from this source; and the minister, who so wisely and successfully directed the measures of Great-Britain in the late war, publicly declared, that these colonies enabled her to triumph over her enemies.—Towards the conclusion of that war, it pleased our sovereign to make a change in his counsels.—From that fatal movement, the affairs of the British empire began to fall into confusion, and gradually sliding from the summit of glorious prosperity, to which they had been advanced by the virtues and abilities of one man, are at length distracted by the convulsions, that now shake it to its deepest foundations.—The new ministry finding the brave foes of Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, took up the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and then subduing her faithful friends.

These devoted colonies were judged to be in such a state, as to present victories without bloodshed, and all the easy emoluments of statuteable plunder.—The uninterrupted tenor of their peaceable and respectful behaviour from the beginning of colonization, their dutiful, zealous, and useful services during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in the most honourable manner by his majesty, by the late king, and by parliament, could not save them from the meditated innovations.—Parliament was influenced to adopt the pernicious project, and assuming a new power over them, have in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to leave no doubt concerning the effects of acquiescence under it. They have undertaken to give and grant our money without our consent, though we have ever exercised an exclusive right to dispose of our own property; statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty and vice-admiralty beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us of the accustomed and inestimable privilege of trial by jury, in cases affecting both life and property; for suspending the legislature of one of the colonies; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of government established by charter, and secured by acts of its own legislature solemnly confirmed by the crown; for exempting the "murderers" of colonists from legal trial, and in effect, from punishment; for erecting in a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of Great-Britain and America, a despotism dangerous to our very existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonists in time of profound peace. It has also been resolved in parliament, that colonists charged with committing certain offences, shall be transported to England to be tried.

But why should we enumerate our injuries in detail? By one statute it is declared, that parliament can "of right make laws to bind us in all cases whatsoever." What is to defend us against so enormous, so unlimited a power? Not a single man of those who assume it, is chosen by us; or is subject to our control or influence; but, on the contrary, they are all of them exempt from the operation of such laws, and an American revenue, if not diverted from the ostensible purposes for which it is raised, would actually lighten their own burdens in proportion, as they increase ours. We saw the misery to which such despotism would reduce us. We for ten years incessantly and ineffectually besieged the throne as supplicants; we reasoned, we remonstrated with parliament, in the most mild and decent language.

Administration sensible that we should regard these oppressive measures as freemen ought to do, sent over fleets and armies to enforce them. The indignation of the Americans was roused, it is true; but it was the indignation of a virtuous, loyal, and affectionate people. A Congress of delegates from the United Colonies was assembled at Philadelphia, on the fifth day of last September. We resolved again to offer an humble and dutiful petition to the King, and also addressed our fellow-subjects of Great-Britain. We have pursued every temperate, every respectful measure; we have even proceeded to break off our commercial intercourse with our fellow-subjects, as the last peaceable admonition, that our attachment to no nation upon earth should supplant our attachment to liberty.—This, we flattered ourselves, was the ultimate step of the controversy: but subsequent events have shewn, how vain was this hope of finding moderation in our enemies.

Several threatening expressions against the colonies were inserted in his majesty's speech; our petition, tho' we were told it was a decent one, and that his majesty had been pleased to receive it graciously, and to promise laying it before his parliament, was huddled into both houses among a bundle of American papers, and there neglected. The lords and commons in their address, in the month of February, said, that "a rebellion at that time actually existed within the province of Massachusetts-Bay; and that those concerned with it, had been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations and engagements, entered into by his majesty's subjects in several of the other colonies; and therefore they besought his majesty, that he would take the most effectual measures to inforce due obediance to the laws and authority of the supreme legislature."—Soon  after, the commercial intercourse of whole colonies, with foreign countries, and with each other, was cut off by an act of parliament; by another several of them were intirely prohibited from the fisheries in the seas near their coasts, on which they always depended for their sustenance; and large reinforcements of ships and troops were immediately sent over to general Gage.

Fruitless were all the entreaties, arguments, and eloquence of an illustrious band of the most distinguished peers, and commoners, who nobly and strenuously asserted the justice of our cause, to stay, or even to mitigate the heedless fury with which these accumulated and unexampled outrages were hurried on.—equally fruitless was the interference of the city of London, of Bristol, and many other respectable towns in our favor. Parliament adopted an insidious manoeuvre calculated to divide us, to establish a perpetual auction of taxations where colony should bid against colony, all of them uninformed what ransom would redeem their lives; and thus to extort from us, at the point of the bayonet, the unknown sums that should be sufficient to gratify, if possible to gratify, ministerial rapacity, with the miserable indulgence left to us of raising, in our own mode, the prescribed tribute. What terms more rigid and humiliating could have been dictated by remorseless victors to conquered enemies? in our circumstances to accept them, would be to deserve them.

Soon after the intelligence of these proceedings arrived on this continent, general Gage, who in the course of the last year had taken possession of the town of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts-Bay, and still occupied it a garrison, on the 19th day of April, sent out from that place a large detachment of his army, who made an unprovoked assault on the inhabitants of the said province, at the town of Lexington, as appears by the affidavits of a great number of persons, some of whom were officers and soldiers of that detachment, murdered eight of the inhabitants, and wounded many others. From thence the troops proceeded in warlike array to the town of Concord, where they set upon another party of the inhabitants of the same province, killing several and wounding more, until compelled to retreat by the country people suddenly assembled to repel this cruel aggression. Hostilities, thus commenced by the British troops, have been since prosecuted by them without regard to faith or reputation.—The inhabitants of Boston being confined within that town by the general their governor, and having, in order to procure their dismission, entered into a treaty with him, it was stipulated that the said inhabitants having deposited their arms with their own magistrate, should have liberty to depart, taking with them their other effects. They accordingly delivered up their arms, but in open violation of honour, in defiance of the obligation of treaties, which even savage nations esteemed sacred, the governor ordered the arms deposited as aforesaid, that they might be preserved for their owners, to be seized by a body of soldiers; detained the greatest part of the inhabitants in the town, and compelled the few who were permitted to retire, to leave their most valuable effects behind.

By this perfidy wives are separated from their husbands, children from their parents, the aged and the sick from their relations and friends, who wish to attend and comfort them; and those who have been used to live in plenty and even elegance, are reduced to deplorable distress.

The general, further emulating his ministerial masters, by a proclamation bearing date on the 12th day of June, after venting the grossest falsehoods and calumnies against the good people of these colonies, proceeds to "declare them all, either by name or description, to be rebels and traitors, to supersede the course of the common law, and instead thereof to publish and order the use and exercise of the law martial."—His troops have butchered our countrymen, have wantonly burnt Charlestown, besides a considerable number of houses in other places; our ships and vessels are seized; the necessary supplies of provisions are intercepted, and he is exerting his utmost power to spread destruction and devastation around him.

We have received certain intelligence, that general Carleton, the governor of Canada, is instigating the people of that province and the Indians to fall upon us; and we have but too much reason to apprehend, that schemes have been formed to excite domestic enemies against us. In brief, a part of these colonies now feel, and all of them are sure of feeling, as far as the vengeance of administration can inflict them, the complicated calamities of fire, sword and famine. We are reduced to the alternative of chusing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force.—The latter is our choice.—We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.—Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.

Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable.—We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.

Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow-subjects in any part of the empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored.—Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them.—We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great-Britain, and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence. They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it—for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our fore-fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore his divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the calamities of civil war.

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Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, edited by Charles C. Tansill. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1927), 10-17