Cover art: by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1790–1795.
Independence National Historical Park. Reprinted by permission.
It happened that the charter of Massachusetts was vacated by a decision in Chancery, and a new one was conferred by The agents for that colony did not accept it till they had first consulted the most judicious civilians and politicians upon the contents of it, and then drew up an instrument in which they assigned the reasons of their acceptance. The following extract will serve to show their sense of it: “The colony,” say they, “is now made a province; and the General Court has, with the King’s approbation, as much power in New England as the King and Parliament have in England. They have all English privileges and liberties, and can be touched by and by but of their own making. All the liberties of their religion are for ever secured.”
Printed in the United States of America
You say, that “the power to levy taxes is restrained to provincial and local purposes only, and to be exercised over such only as are inhabitants and proprietors of the said province.”
This other restores the sense of repose to a body without a soul:—
These securities, the most powerful that human affairs will admit of, have the people of Britain for the good deportment of their representatives toward them. They may have proved, at some times, and on some occasions, defective; but, upon the whole, they have been found sufficient.
“All at once wept and tore their hair.”
But what was the use and design of this privilege? To secure his life and property from the attacks of exorbitant power. And in what manner is this done? By giving him the election of those who are to have the disposal and regulation of them, and whose interest is in every respect connected with his.
But we can never enough decry the disorderly sallies of our minds.
For it often falls out that, on the contrary, every one will rather choose to be prating of another man’s province than his own, thinking it so much new reputation acquired; witness the jeer Archidamus put upon Periander, “that he had quitted the glory of being an excellent physician to gain the repute of a very bad poet. And do but observe how large and ample Caesar is to make us understand his inventions of building bridges and contriving engines of war, and how succinct and reserved in comparison, where he speaks of the offices of his profession, his own valor, and military conduct. His exploits sufficiently prove him a great captain, and that he knew well enough; but he would be thought an excellent engineer to boot; a quality something different, and not necessary to be expected in him. Old Dionysius was a very great captain, as it befitted his fortune he should be; but he took very great pains to get a particular reputation by poetry, and yet he was never cut out for a poet. A man of the legal profession being not long since brought to see a study furnished with all sorts of books, both of his own and all other faculties, took no occasion at all to entertain himself with any of them, but fell very rudely and magisterially to descant upon a barricade placed on the winding stair before the study door, a thing that a hundred captains and common soldiers see every day without taking any notice or offence:—