Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“Afforded us by God & Nature”

"Sect. 135. Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being, or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every common-wealth; yet, First, It is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people: for it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person, or assembly, which is legislator; it can be no more than those persons had in a state of nature before they entered into society, and gave up to the community: for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself; and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another. A man, as has been proved, cannot subject himself to the arbitrary power of another; and having in the state of nature no arbitrary power over the life, liberty, or possession of another, but only so much as the law of nature gave him for the preservation of himself, and the rest of mankind; this is all he doth, or can give up to the common-wealth, and by it to the legislative power, so that the legislative can have no more than this. Their power, in the utmost bounds of it, is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power, that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects.* The obligations of the law of nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have by human laws known penalties annexed to them, to inforce their observation. Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions, must, as well as their own and other men's actions, be conformable to the law of nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good, or valid against it."
- John Locke, "The Second Treatise of Government" - Chapter 11 - Of the Extent of the Legislative Power. (1690).

"The least of men is a man as well as a giant: And those in the West-Indies who have not above twenty or thirty subjects able to bear arms, are kings as well as Xerxes. Every nation may divide itself into small parcels as some have done, by the same law they have restrained or abolished their kings, joined to one another, or taken their hazard of subsisting by themselves; acted by delegation, or retaining the power in their own persons; given finite or indefinite powers; reserved to themselves a power of punishing those who should depart from their duty, or referred it to their general assemblies. And that liberty, for which we contend as the gift of God and nature, remains equally to them all."

- Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Section 44: No People That Is Not Free Can Substitute Delegates, [1698]. Ed. Thomas G. West (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1996).

"Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal [or state] laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislation has power to abridge or destroy them...."

"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found by comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity."

- William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765–1769.

"...But what will all these things avail us, if we be deprived of that liberty which the God of nature hath given us. View the miserable condition of the poor wretches, who inhabit countries once the most fertile and happy in the world, where the blessings of liberty have been removed by the hand of arbitrary power. Religion, learning, arts, and industry, vanished at the deformed appearance of tyranny. Those countries are depopulated, and the scarce and thin inhabitants are fast fixed in chains and slavery. They have nothing which they can call their own; even their lives are at the absolute disposal of the monsters who have usurped dominion over them...."

"...Government is necessary. It was instituted to secure to individuals that natural liberty, which no human creature hath a right to deprive them of. For which end the people have given power unto the rulers to use as there may be occasion for the good of whole community, and not that the civil magistrate, who is only the peoples trustee, should make use of it for the hurt of the governed. If a commander of a fortress, appointed to make defence against the approaches of an enemy, should breech about his guns and fire upon his own town, he would commence tyrant and ought to be treated as an enemy to mankind...."
- A Discourse at the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty, 1768

Rather than writing any needless commentary. It will become plain that the evidence which follows is more than able to speak for itself;

"...That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people, claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate. Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art. To give praise where it is not due, might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. . . . . The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them...."
- Thomas Jefferson, July 1774, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America". [The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Edited by Julian P. Boyd et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950.]

"Mr. Henry for it. Says that a preparation for Warr is Necessary to obtain peace--That America is not Now in a State of peace--That all the Bulwarks, of Our Safety, of Our Constitn. are thrown down, That We are Now in a State of Nature--That We ought to ask Ourselves the Question should the planns of Nonim [portatio] n & Nonexp [oratio] n fail of success--in that Case Arms are Necessary, & if then, it is Necessary Now. Arms are a Resource to which We shall be forced, a Resource afforded Us by God & Nature, & why in the Name of both are We to hesitate providing them Now whilst in Our power."

- Silas Deane's Diary, [Oct. 3, 1774]. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1 AUGUST 1774 - AUGUST 1775.] (Presumably referring to Patrick Henry).

Journals of the Continental Congress,

The Congress resuming the consideration of the letter from Boston,

Resolved unanimously, That it is the opinion of this body, that the removal of the people of Boston into the country, would be not only extremely difficult in the execution, but so important in its consequences, as to require the utmost deliberation before it is adopted; but, in case the provincial meeting of that Colony should judge it absolutely necessary, it is the opinion of the Congress, that all America ought to contribute towards recompensing them for the injury they may thereby sustain; and it will be recommended accordingly.

Resolved, That the Congress recommend to the inhabitants of the colony of Massachusetts-bay, to submit to a suspension of the administration of Justice, where it cannot be procured in a legal & peaceable manner, under the rules of their present charter, and the laws of the colony founded thereon.1

    [Note 1: 1 This second resolution was carried by a majority only, as is noted in the text. Richard Henry Lee voted against it. It was probably in this debate that the motion of Ross was submitted. "I have sometimes wished, since my return, that we had fallen in, totis viribus, with the motion made by Mr. Ross, and seconded by Mr. Galloway, that this province should be left to her own discretion with respect to government and justice, as well as defence. Our provincial Congress had in contemplation some sublime conceptions, which would in that case have been rapidly carried into execution." John Adams to Edward Biddle, 12 December, 1774.]

Resolved unanimously, That every person and persons whatsoever, who shall take, accept, or act under any commission or authority, in any wise derived from the act passed in the last session of parliament, changing the form of government, and violating the charter of the province of Massachusetts-bay, ought to be held in detestation and abhorrence by all good men, and considered as the wicked tools of that despotism, which is preparing to destroy those rights, which God, nature, and compact, have given to America.

The committee brought in a draught of a letter to general Gage, and the same being read and amended, was ordered to be copied, & to be signed by the president in behalf of the Congress.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2
John Adams to James Warren

"...There is a Disposition prevailing to spare no Pains or Expence in the necessary Defence of our Rights by Sea or Land.

The News you will see in the Papers, give you Joy of the good Prospect to the Northward.
New Hampshire has Permission to establish what Form of Government they like best, and so has S. Carolina and so will every other Colony which shall ask for it which they all will do soon, if the Squabble continues.

New England will now be able to exert her Strength and if I ken it right, it will be found to be that of a full grown Man, no Infant.

Who expected to live to see the Principles of Liberty Spread and prevail so rapidly, human Nature exerting her whole Rights, unshackled by Priests or Kings or Nobles, pulling down Tyrannies like Sampson, and building up, what Governments the People think best framed for human Felicity.

God grant the Spirit, success....

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2
Samuel Ward to Henry Ward

My dear Bror. Philadelphia 11th Novr. 1775 A Ship arrived from London on Thursday. Our Petition you see the Fate of in the Letter published in the Paper I sent Govr. Cooke last Evening. Passengers assure us that the Hanoverians refuse to come to America, that Administration is determined to push their Measures at all Events, that 20000 Troops are to be sent over in the Spring, four or five Regiments this Fall, that Terms of Accommodation that is the Terms upon which they are willing to receive Us & our Posterity for their Slaves are to be committed to the General & that they will treat with us no other Way; The King has carried Sir Jeffery Amherst out in his Coach seven Mornings running but can't prevail upon him to take the Command in America, that Genl. Monckton hath nobly refused said he would never engage in such an infamous Cause. Orders are given to open all Letters at the post Offices & stop such as contain any American Intelligence. The People disapprove the Introduction of foreign Troops; the Parliament setts 26th Octr., Ministry was collecting its Forces to carry every Measure with a high hand. Opposition was rallying its Friends in Order to make a vigorous Stand. A Letter from a Gentn. of high Character whose Intelligence hath ever been good says that Ministry was putting Arms into the Hands of all who would receive them, English, scotch, irish, roman catholics, Hessians, Hanoverians &c, and that fifty Men of War are to destroy all our maritime Towns & interdict our Trade. If Administration succeeds they are determined another Letter says to extirpate the New England Colonies. An Army from Canada & the 20000 men from England they suppose capable of doing this, these Threats will not intimidate one brave Man but animate all in their Country's Cause and blessed be God We are in his all gracious Hands & not in those of a Ministry fit to serve a Nero only. To Be or not to be is now the Question; every private View, Passion & Interest ought to be buried. We are embarked in one common Bottom. If She sinks We all perish; if She survives the Storm, Peace & Plenty (the offspring of Liberty) and every thing which will dignify & felicitate human Nature will be the Reward of our Virtue. Oh my Brother This is not the Cause of the Colonies & of Britain only but of human Nature itself, and that God who is the Author of Nature, the Friend of Mankind and who hath so remarkably preserved & prospered these Colonies will still continue his all gracious Protection to which I most devoutly recommend You, my Friends & my Country.
    I am Yours most affectionately Sam Ward

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2
Samuel Ward to Henry Ward

Dear Bror. Philadelpa. 27th Decr. 1775 A Letter from you tho' ever so short is always agreable. I never allow myself to find Fault with the Ways of Heaven or I should say that Asthma of yours was cruel to take up so much of your Time when your Country & your Friends want every Moment of it.

The Barbarities of a Wallace (1) or any other Savage do not much surprize Me. When I first entered this Contest with Great Britain I extended my Views through the various Scenes which my Judgment or Imagination (say which you please) pointed out to Me, I saw clearly that the last Act of this cruel Tragedy would close in Fields of Blood, I have traced the Progress of the unnatural War through burning Towns, Devastation of the Country & every subsequent Evil, I have realized with Regard to myself the Bullet, the Bayonet & the Halter and compared with the immense Object I have in View they are all less than nothing. No man living perhaps is more fond of his Children [than] I am & I am not so old as to be tired of Life and yet as far as I can now judge the tenderest Connections and the most important private Concerns are very minute objects. "Heaven save my Country" I was going to say is my first, my last and almost my only Prayer.

I have several Times mentioned to you the Anxiety I felt on Acctt. of the newmodelling the Army, that cruel Jealousy which the southern Colonies have of the northern has occasioned all this mischief. The Army must be wholly continental, all colonial Distinctions must be at an End, the Troops must be taught to look up not to their several Colonies but to the Continent. For that Purpose the Congress must appoint all officers. Again the British Soldiers have but 6d a Day & shall We give ours 1/. Ours shall have no Bounty & shall find themselves Arms and so far has this stupid Policy been pursued that instead of 20000 Men in the Massachusetts We have not half the Number & in Canada instead of 5000 Men We have not 1500 besides Canadians. In this Province a Battalion was ordered to be raised two Months ago at 5 Dollars a Month; 150 of the best of those enlisted have deserted & they are not full yet and still there is an Idea of raising Men upon the same Terms. I have wrote fully to General Greene & proposed to him that the Generals should recommend at least by private Letters to their Friends the offering a Bounty to the Men, finding them their Arms & recommending to the Colonies the filling up their Troops; this would soon fill up our Army.(2) I mention these things to You that you may use your Infiuence to prevent the fatal Mischiefs which will atend our being found unprepared in the Spring & may give Me your best Advice upon the Subject. I do not in the least despair for I firmly believe that the Cause We are engaged in is the Cause of God & human Nature & that in Mercy to Mankind Heaven will prosper it.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3
Samuel Ward to Nicholas Cooke

Sir, Philadelphia 7th Jany. 1776...

"...The Ravages committed by the armed Vessels & the continual Alarms raised by them must be very distressing to the Colony but what would not a wise Man do or suffer to preserve his Liberty, the alone Source of human Happiness and only Security for the permanent Enjoyment of it. The Colony has bravely defended Itself and supported the common Cause of America. The next Campaign of our Enemies will make every possible Effort against Us [and] will probably require still greater Exertions. We are therefore clearly in Opinion with You that a Regiment ought to be raised & kept up in the Colony at the continental Expence & shall embrace the first favourable Opportunity of applying for one. If by the divine Blessing We succeed next Campaign, the Burthen of the War will be over & the Reestablishment of our just Rights and Privileges will be the glorious Reward of this arduous Struggle....

    ...We lately gave our Opinion upon it, but horned Cattle, Sheep, hogs & poultry cannot be exported by it, our extreme Want of Powder occasioned that Resolve.(1) No Man ought to take the Advantages of the Necessities of his Country to demand exorbitant Prices for what she stands in Need of, nor to abuse a License given by her to her Injury or should an instance of that kind happen others ought by no Means to violate her Resolves for if once the Resolutions of Congress are trampled upon there will be no common Bond of Union left, no adequate Power to collect & exert the united Strength of the Colonies, Confusion and certain Destruction would soon follow. A moments Reflection must satisfy any Man of this & induce him as he values everything dear to human Nature religiously to support the Resolves of Congress....

    ...Every Man must now be convinced that under God our Safety depends wholly upon a brave, wise and determined Resistance. May infinite Wisdom direct all your measures to the Preservation of America in general and the Happiness of the Colony in particular.

S. Ward

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3
Samuel Adams to John Sullivan

My dear sir Philade Jany 12 1776 Your very acceptable Letter of the 3d Inst duly came to hand. I thank you heartily for the favor and shall be much obligd to you if you will write to me as often as your Leisure will admit of it.

It gave me pain to be informd by you, that by an unlucky Circumstance you were prevented from executing a plan, the Success of which would have afforded you Laurels, and probably in its immediate Effects turnd the present Crisis in favor of our Country. We are indebted to you for your laudable Endeavor; Another Tryal will, I hope, crown your utmost Wish.

I have seen the Speech which is falsly & shamefully called most gracious. It breathes the most malevolent Spirit, wantonly proposes Measures calculated to distress Mankind, and determines my opinion of the Author of it as a Man of a wicked Heart. What a pity it is, that Men are become so degenerate and servile, as to bestow Epithets which can be appropriated to the supreme Being alone, upon Speeches & actions which will hereafter be read & spoken of by every Man who shall profess to have a spark of Virtue & Honor, with the utmost Contempt and Detestation. What have we to expect from Britain, but Chains & Slavery? I hope we shall act the part which the great Law of Nature points out. It is high time that we should assume that Character, which I am sorry to find the Capital of your Colony has publickly and expressly disavowd.(1) It is my most fervent prayer to Almighty God, that he would direct and prosper the Councils of America, inspire her Armies with true Courage, shield them in every Instance of Danger and lead them on to Victory & Tryumph. I am yr affectionate Friend, S.A.

FC (NN).
1 The city of Portsmouth had instructed its representatives to the New Hampshire Convention not to seek the formation of a new government for New Hampshire N.H. Provincial Papers, 7:701-2.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3
Oliver Wolcott to Samuel Lyman

Sir, Philadelphia 27 March 1776 Your favour of the 9th inst I recd. with Pleasure. I had hereby not only the Benefit of Your Correspondence personally but an Acco. of the Health and Condition of my Family. You mention it as a matter of publick Concern, that the Commissioners might perhaps delude the Colonies. I hope there is no danger of an Event of this Nature. G. Britain will proceed douptless upon their usual Governmental Maxims-Violence and Corruption-but neither I hope will succeed against America. Folly has hitherto Marked her Councills and I think they will continue distinguished with that disgraceful Characteristic. Some few Americans may wish to support a Monarchy which is lavish in its Bountys, hoping to Share in the oppressions of Power-some may be timid and fearfull of entring upon untried Scenes and others who have supported the Distinctions of an Aristocracy may fear the Prevalency of a Republican Spirit-but God has evidently appeared to Vindicate the Rights of this People, and I beleive they will be taken Care of but not by their own Wisdom nor Power. The Expulsion of the Troops from Boston is a great Event, it has bro't a Disgrace on the British Arms which they had not so such a Degree suffered for a long Time. I wish they might not desolate the eastern Coast. It is rather conjectured by Many that they will go for Hallifax but the certainty of their Destination will be known long before this reaches you and so no conjecture ought not to have been mentioned. I have sent you a few Papers which will give you the present News. My compliments to my Freinds, particularly to Mr Morrice I am sir with regard, your most humble Servt. Oliver Wolcott

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...."

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 4
and the Delaware Assembly

Gentlemen, Philada. July 4th. 1776. The Congress have this Day received Intelligence which renders it absolutely necessary that the greatest Exertions should be made to save our Country from being desolated by the Hand of Tyranny. Genl. Howe having taken Possession of Staten Island, and the Jersey being drained of their Militia for the Defence of New York, I am directed by Congress to request, you will proceed immediately to embody your Militia for the Establishment of the flying Camp, and march them with all possible Expedition, either by Battalions, Detachments of Battalions, or by Companies, to the City of Philadelphia.(1)

The present Campaign, I have no Doubt, if we exert ourselves properly, will secure the Enjoyment of our Liberties for ever. All Accounts agree that Great Britain will make her greatest Effort this Summer. Should we therefore be able to keep our Ground, we shall afterwards have little to apprehend from her. I do therefore most ardently beseech & request you, in the Name and by the Authority of Congress, as you regard your own Freedom, and as you stand engaged by the most solemn Ties of Honour to support the Common Cause-to strain every Nerve to send forward your Militia. This is a Step of such infinite Moment, that in all human Probability, your speedy Compliance will prove the Salvation of your Country. It is impossible we can have any higher Motives to induce us to act. We should reflect too, that the Loss of this Campaign, will inevitably protract the War; and that in Order to gain it, we have only to exert ourselves, and to make Use of the Means which God & Nature have given us to defend ourselves. I must therefore again repeat to you, that the Congress most anxiously expect & request you will not lose a Moment in carrying into Effect this Requisition, with all the Zeal, Spirit, & Dispatch, which are so indispensibly required by the critical Situation of our Affairs.(2)

I have the Honour to be, Gentlemen, your most obed., & very hble Ser. J. H. Pst.

LB (DNA: PCC, item 12A).
1 See JCC, 5:509. Washington transmitted this "Intelligence" to Congress in his July 3 letter to Hancock. PCC, item 152, 2:149-52; and Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 5:214-16.
2 Also on this day Maryland delegates William Paca, John Rogers, and Thomas Stone signed a receipt stating that they had received "of the Honble John Hancock an order on the Treasurers for five thousand Dollars to be transmitted to the Convention or Council of Safety of Maryland for raising four German Companys directed by Congress to be raised in the Province." Red Books, MdAA. See also Hancock to the Maryland Convention, June 29, 1776.
Aside from its bearing upon the measures being taken for raising German troops in Maryland, this document confirms the presence in Congress of John Rogers this day, a fact that takes on additional significance because Rogers, who was not among the delegates Maryland elected this same day to new terms, left Philadelphia before the Declaration was signed on August 2 and did not become a "Signer" because he never returned to Congress. As a result, he has remained a man comparatively forgotten among the participants in this memorable day's events in Congress.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 4
Robert Treat Paine to Joseph Palmer

July 6, 1776. It is our unhappiness, in this time of danger, to have too many Calvinistic politicians, who seem to think their country will be saved by good words and warm faith, without concomitant exploits; if it did not proceed from a defect in human nature, I think we should not find it in so many places. I have a long time thought that the manufacture of arms and ammunition was an essential object of attention, and have accordingly applied myself most intensely to it, and I hope with good effect....(1)

The day before yesterday the declaration of American independency was voted by twelve colonies, agreeable to the sense of the constituents, and New-York was silent, till their new convention (which sits next week) express their assent, of which we have some doubt. Thus the issue is joined; and it is our comfortable reflection, that if by struggling we can avoid that servile subjection which Britain demanded, we remain a free and happy people; but if, through the frowns of Providence, we sink in the struggle, we do but remain the wretched people we should have been without this declaration. Our hearts are full, our hands are full; may God, in whom we trust, support us.

    MS not found; reprinted from extract in New York Review and Atheneum Magazine 2 (May 1826): 449-50.
    1 Ellipsis in Tr.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 6
Richard Henry Lee to Arthur Lee

My dear Sir,

Baltimore in Maryld.

17th Feby. 1777

...Upon the whole, notwithstanding the contemptible Ministerial boasts in their Gazettes, and in Parliament, the great force they sent here has cut a most pitiful figure indeed. In humanity they figure still worse than They do in arms. Their ravages in the Jersies, until They were checked and driven back, beggars all description. Rapes, Murders, and devastation marked their steps in such a manner as would have disgraced the Savages of the Wilderness. The old English esteem for valor seems quite done away, and in several instances where young Americans displaid heroic spirit, and happened to fall in to their power, they have butchered them in cold blood in a most cruel and barbarous manner. They have been so frequently shameless in this way, after remonstrance has been in vain made to Gen. Howe, that the patience of our Soldiery is exhausted, and it appears as if no more prisoners will be taken, until Mr. Howe & his people learn the practice of humanity. I have received two letters from [ ....] (1) But he thinks strongly in favor of Great Britain. Was it not the most unrelenting and cruel persecution of us that forced us from her, and are we not compelled upon the clearest principles of self preservation to seek from Strangers what our kindred denied us? Must a great Continent be buried in ruin because the people of England cannot rouse from a lethargy which suffers the most abandoned of Men to trample upon the rights of human nature? It is decreed above, and we are parted Forever. Every Friendly American Nerve will now be strained to procure the active interference of France, by which, under God, the liberty of North America must be secured....

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2
A. Lee to Florida Blanca.*

[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State; 1 Sparks, Dip. Rev. Corr., 408. See introduction, § § 86 ff.]

Vitoria, March 17, 1777.

Mr. Lee wishes to state to his excellency the Count de Florida Blanca what he has understood from his excellency the Marquis de Grimaldi, to be the intentions of his majesty relative to the United States of America.

That for very powerful reasons his majesty can not at this moment enter into an alliance with them or declare in their favor; that, nevertheless, they may depend upon his majesty's sincere desire to see their rights and liberties established...

...nor can anything give more lasting satisfaction to the royal mind than the reflection of having employed those means which God has put into his hands in assisting an oppressed people to vindicate those rights and liberties which have been violated by twice six years of incessant injuries and insulted supplications; those rights which God and nature, together with the convention of their ancestors and the constitution of their country, gave to the people of the States. Instead of that protection in those rights which was the due return for sovereignty exercised over them, they have seen their defenseless towns wantonly laid in ashes, their unfortified country cruelly desolated, their property wasted, their people slain; the ruthless savage, whose inhuman war spares neither age nor sex, instigated against them; the hand of the servant armed against his master by public proclamation, and the very food which the sea that washes their coast furnishes forbidden them by a law of unparalleled folly and injustice. Proinde quasi injuriam facere id demure esset imperio uti. Nor was it enough that for these purposes the British force was exhausted against them, but foreign mercenaries were also bribed to complete the butchery of their people and the devastation of their country. And that nothing might be wanting to make the practices equivalent to the principles of this war, the minds of these mercenaries were poisoned with every prejudice that might harden their hearts and sharpen their swords against a people who not only never injured or offended them, but who have received with open arms and provided habitations for their wandering countrymen. These are injuries which the Americans can never forget. These are oppressors whom they can never again endure. The force of intolerable and accumulated outrages has compelled them to appeal to God and to the sword. The King of Spain, in assisting them to maintain that appeal, assists in vindicating the violated rights of human nature. No cause can be more illustrious, no motive more magnanimous.*

[Note *: * At the bottom of this letter and of the memorial to the court of Spain Mr. Lee signs himself "Commissioner Plenipotentiary from the Congress of the United States of America." But this must have been for the greater formality, as he had not yet received any appointment to Spain from Congress, but only went there by advice of the commissioners in Paris.--Sparks.]

Arthur Lee.

Journals of the Continental Congress,

THURSDAY, MAY 29, 1777

Inhabitants of the United States

...Soon as the Governors perceived the Assemblies were in Deliberation on this Subject they dissolved them. Other Representatives were chozen and those Extravagant Usurpations Still presented themselves as the greatest Grievance. When they entered on the Consideration of them they were again dissolved. This mode was pursued until the People every where became Sensible that no Opportunity would be given them ever to Complain. Necessity pointed out to them that they must have recourse to other Methods of representing their wrongs and requiring redress. Nature pointed out to them the mode they Adopted, and they were so reluctant to do any thing which might even appear a Deviation from Established Form, that they long forbore assembling in Towns and Counties and did not at length yield to the Necessity until they found every hope of redress any other way was lost.

When obliged to take this first Step the People proceeded with the utmost Caution. No tumult or disorder appeared, every man was impressed with an awful Sense of the Necessity he was under of Exercising that Right which Nature gave to every Man, and which the British Constitution expressly Assented, that of Consulting and resolving Concerning his Safety and Happiness, and each was determined to Exercise it no farther than the Necessity pressingly required....

...A formidable Naval Force was employed to hinder the Commerce of populous Cities and thereby to reduce the poor Inhabitants to Wretchedness, and even to prevent their availing themselves of the Food which the Sea Washing their own Coasts afforded to their Industry-and it was expressly declared that no Mitigation of those violences could be obtained but by Submitting without Condition to the absolute Will of the Parliament of Great Britain, a Body composed of men unknown to and unchozen by the Inhabitants of America, and who showed but too little regard to the Rights of their own Constituents, and of human Nature.

The Conduct of the British Court towards the Americans in the repeated dissolutions of their Assemblies whenever they attempted to Complain, in disregarding their Complaints when offered in the most humble and supplicating Manner by their Representatives in Congress, in refusing even to point out a Mode whereby they might find an Inoffensive passage to the Royal Ear, in disregarding all Rules of Justice and humanity by Subjecting their persons and Properties to Military Violence and Endeavouring even to Starve them, and by denying any Mitigation of those Enormities, Unless absolute Submission Should be made. this Conduct of the B[ritish] C[ourt] left no room to doubt that they considered the Americans as objects merely of Dominion not of Government. of Plunder not of Protection, of Military Tyranny not of Legal administration of Justice. No choice was left but to Oppose Arms to Arms, or submit to the absolute dominion of Men whose pride and Cruelty is incurrable, and whose rapacity is without Bounds. No alternative was left to the Citizen but to rouse into a Soldier or Sink into a Slave and entail Servitude Irrevocably on his posterity....

...Yet even after this altho the People of America Could not Hesitate to take Arms, they kept in view their much loved Constitutional Connection with Britain, and altho they knew that when Protection was denied them, and they were driven to arms for their Safety....

...Not detered by such Disadvantages, nor despairing of Divine aid and Protection the Virtuous Inhabitants of America determined (without Hesitation) to resist all attempts to enforce such unjust and extravagant Claims, and to maintain that Freedom which Heaven had originally bestowed on Mankind, and which their Ancestors had wrested from the Hands of usurping Tyrants, and rendering it more valuable by their Blood shed in its defence transmitted Improved to their Posterity, chusing rather to trust to the Issue of any War however callamitous, than to the boundless and Insatiable rapine of Ministers who had a whole People once great and Free to corrupt, and Consequently Innumerable Minions to employ, whose avarice or Luxury must be Satiated with the plunder extorted from the Industrious Poor in America. The Events of the War hitherto have justified our Trust in Divine Providence, and prove to us that an all wise and beneficent God will never forsake men who have virtue enough to Struggle for those Blessings which he has bestowed upon them, and who will rely on his Protection against all superiority of worldly Power, for, our unfeeling Enemy, tho possessed of the advantages of superior Force, Discipline and Experience, and employing every Engine of Fraud and violence in a three years War have acquired only one City and a small Teritory round it which by reason of their superiority in shipping could not be defended and they have been baffled in every (Considerable Enterprize) attempt to Penetrate into the Country whether from Canada or the Sea....

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 9
Thomas Johnson

Dear Sir, York 21 April 1778.

"...If our People would but exert themselves this campaign we might Secure our liberties for ever. Gen. Washington is weak; reinforcements come in slow. Try, for God Sake & the Sake of human nature, to rouse our countrymen from their lethargy...."

Journals of the Continental Congress,

FRIDAY, MAY 8, 1778


Friends and Countrymen: Three years have now passed away, since the commencement of the present war: a war without parallel in the annals of mankind. It hath displayed a spectacle, the most solemn that can possibly be exhibited. On one side, we behold fraud and violence laboring in the service of despotism; on the other, virtue and fortitude supporting and establishing the rights of human nature....

...At length that God of battles, in whom was our trust, hath conducted us through the paths of danger and distress to the thresholds of security. It hath now become morally certain, that, if we have courage to persevere, we shall establish our liberties and independence....

...But, if you exert the means of defence which God and nature have given you, the time will soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid....

Journals of the Continental Congress,


Friends and Countrymen,

"...Observing the interests of his kingdom, to which duty and inclination prompted his attention, to be connected with those of America, and the combination of both clearly to coincide with the beneficent designs of the Author of Nature, who unquestionably intended men to partake of certain rights and portions of happiness, his majesty perceived the attainment of these views to be founded on the single proposition of a separation between America and Great Britain...."

"...Piously endeavor to derive this consolation from their remorseless fury, that the "Father of Mercies" looks down with disapprobation on such audacious defiances of his holy laws; and be further comforted with recollecting, that the arms assumed by you in your righteous defensive cause, have not been sullied by any unjustifiable severities...."

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 3
J. Adams to the President of Congress.*

    [Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 137, with verbal changes.]

Paris, June 16, 1780

The recovery of America from the disasters and distresses of war will be rapid and sudden. Very unlike an old country, whose population is full, and whose cultivation, commerce, and strength have arrived at their height, the multiplication of her numbers and the increase of her power will surpass all expectation. If her sudden growth has already exceeded the most sanguine ideas, it is certain that the increase of her strength, when supported and assisted by France and pushed forward by the powerful motives arising from her separate interest, her own preservation, and the prospect of her own arising glory and importance among nations, will far outrun any idea we have had of her late population. Nor wilt it be the interest of America to check the ambition of France while confined to Europe. Her distance, and the safety arising from it, will render her regardless of the fate of nations on this side of the Atlantic as soon as her own strength shall be established. The prosperity or ruin of kingdoms, from whose power she can have nothing to fear and whose assistance she can never want, will be matters of equal indifference....

..."With the independence of America," says he, "we must give up our fisheries on the bank of Newfoundland and in the American seas." Supposing this to be true, which it is in part, but not in the whole, if Great Britain loses her fisheries, does not America gain them? Are they not an object then to America as important and desirable as to Great Britain? Has not America then at least as strong and pressing a motive to fight for them as Great Britain? The question then is reduced to another--Which has the best prospect of contending for them successfully? America, favored by all the world, or Great Britain, thwarted and opposed by all the world. And to whom did God and nature give them? The English lay great stress upon the gifts of God and nature, as they call the advantage of their insular situation, to justify their injustice and hostilities against all the maritime powers of the world. Why should the Americans hold the blessings of Providence in a lower estimation, which they can enjoy, without doing injury to any nation or individual whatsoever? ....

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 4
J. Adams to Vergennes.*

[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 212, with verbal changes.]

Paris, July 26, 1780.

...Europe is a country whose land is all cultivated nearly to perfection, where the people have no way to advance themselves but by manufactures and commerce; here are two worlds, then, fitted by God and nature to benefit each other--one by furnishing raw material, the other manufactures, and they can never interfere. The number of the States in America, their position and extension over such a great continent, and their fundamental constitution that nine States must concur to war, show that nine of these States never can agree in any foreign war, or any other, but for self defense, if they should ever become powerful. But in this case, however disagreeble a prospect it may open to Americans, Europe has an everlasting warranty against their becoming dangerous to her in the nature of men, the nature of her governments, and their position towards one another.

All these circumstances serve to show, and the people of England begin to be sensible of it, that Europe will never suffer them to regain their domination and monopoly even if the English were able to extort a forced submission. In this situation, then, the only honorable and advantageous course for England is to make peace and open commerce with America in perfect consistency with her independence and her alliances. The people of England can not be said to furnish subsidies without murmuring, for it is certain there never was so much murmuring and such radical discontent in that nation, nor any other, but at the eve of a revolution....

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 16
James M. Varnum to John Innes Clark

... Our Perplexities do not arise from Poverty or the want of Men, but from the absolute want of Government. It is a fact as demonstrable as any Proposition in Euclid, that where a Number of Sovereign, Independant States are mutually engaged in War, neither of them is adequate to any of its conclusive Purposes: Hence the necessity of a federal Union, by which the Wisdom, the Virtue, the Strength & Resources of the whole may be Conjointly centered & exerted. In this fundamental principle however we fail. For it is notorious that Congress have not the power of calling forth the Resources of the country. It is probable, I confess, that the Confederation will Soon be concluded; But then, we shall be just where we are now, in a perfect state of Imbecility. By the Act of Confederation Congress are not vested with the Powers requisite in Time of War. They are authorized to make War or Peace; but they are not competent to the means of Supporting Either.

Suppose they call upon the States for money or supplies, and some of them neglect or refuse, as they invariably do, where is the Power of Compulsion? And without that it is evident, the best Measures may be frustrated. We have stumbled upon Expedients too long; We have too long trifled with Objects of the greatest Magnitude; We have trusted to Heaven for Success to our Arms, while we have neglected to improve the Means with which the God of Nature has blessed us. Among confederated States there must be a Supreme Controul, equally effective upon all. I am confident, from Observation, History and Reflection that the present War never will be carried on with Success, till Congress, or some other Body, are invested by the States with all the Powers necessary to command the Resources of the Country. Trade & Commerce, those great Sources of National Wealth, should undoubtedly be Subject to exact Regulation; but if each State should undertake the Matter Seperately, every Gentleman of common Understanding will readily perceive the Confusion & innumerable Frauds, relatively to each other & to Individuals, that must result....

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 4
J. Adams' Memorial to the States-General.*

[Note *: * 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 346.]

Leyden, April 19, 1781.

...This immortal declaration of the 4th of July, 1776, when America was invaded by a hundred vessels of war, and, according to estimates laid before Parliament, by fifty-five thousand of veteran troops, was not the effect of any sudden passion or enthusiasm; but a measure which had been long in deliberation among the people, maturely discussed in some hundreds of popular assemblies and by public writings in all the States; it was a measure which Congress did not adopt until they had received the positive instructions of their constituents in all the States; it was then unanimously adopted by Congress, subscribed by all its members, transmitted to the assemblies of the several States, and by them respectively accepted, ratified, and recorded among their archives; so that no decree, edict, statute, placard, or fundamental law of any nation was ever made with more solemnity, or with more unanimity or cordiality adopted, as the act and consent of the whole people, than this; and it has been held sacred to this day by every State with such unshaken firmness, that not even the smallest has ever been induced to depart from it, although the English have wasted many millions and vast fleets and armies in the vain attempt to invalidate it. On the contrary, each of the thirteen States instituted a form of government for itself, under the authority of the people; has erected its legislature in the several branches; its executive authority, with all its offices; its judiciary departments and judges; its army, militia, revenue, and some of them their navy; and all these departments of government have been regularly and constitutionally organized under the associated superintendency of Congress now these five years, and have acquired a consistency, solidity, and activity equal to the oldest and most established governments....

...Nor is there more solidity in another supposition propagated by the English to prevent other nations from pursuing their true interests, that other colonies will follow the example of the United States. Those powers which have as large possessions as any beyond seas have already declared against England, apprehending no such consequences. Indeed there is no probability of any other power of Europe following the example of England in attempting to change the whole system of the government of colonies, and reducing them by oppression to the necessity of governing themselves; and without such manifest injustice and cruelty on the part of the metropolis there is no danger of colonies attempting innovations. Established governments are founded deeply in the hearts, the passions, the imaginations, and understandings of the people; and without some violent change from without, to alter the temper and character of the whole people, it is not in human nature to exchange safety for danger, and certain happiness for very precarious benefits....

"Be assured that when contemptible discord, with its odious attendants, artifice and imposture, could effectuate nothing, absolutely nothing, at the moment when the present war broke out, to prejudice in the least the fidelity of the citizens of the Amstel, or to shake them in the observation of their duties, the inconveniences and the evils that a war naturally and necessarilly draws after it, will not produce the effect neither; yes, we will submit more willingly to them, accordingly as we shall perceive that the means that God and nature have put into our hands are more and more employed to reduce and humble a haughty enemy."

- John Adams, letter to Livingston*, March 19, 1782, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 5. [* - MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 562.]

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 5
Jay to Morris.*

[Note *: * 2 Jay's Life, 96.]

Madrid, April 25, 1782.

...Nothing is more true, than that all things figure by comparison. This elegant seat, being surrounded by exclusive wastes, appears like a blessed and fortunate island in a dreary ocean. The contrast heightens its charms, and every traveller arrives with a mind predisposed to admire and enjoy them; but as the first impression wears away and he begins to recollect the more happy though less magnificent abodes in his own country, the attractions and allurements of this insensibly diminish. I have more than once experienced this, and though not difficult to please or be contented, yet I confess that I find little here that resembles, and nothing that can compensate for the free air, the free conversation, the equal liberty, and the other numerous blessings which God and nature and the laws of our making have given and secured to our happier country. I would not be understood to insinuate that good society and agreeable companions are wanting here. They may, perhaps, abound more in some other parts of the world, but they are also to be found here, though an unsocial kind of policy requires unceasing attention to the most austere rules of caution and prudence. The little that I have seen and observed of this people induces me to think that (except the generality of those who compose the highest and lowest grades) they possess many qualities which are praiseworthy; and that two or three long and wise reigns would make them a very powerful and an amiable nation. But as I have not had sufficient opportunities of mixing with and personally knowing many of them, time and further information may either confirm or alter this opinion. The evident suspense and indecision of the court respecting us has kept many at a distance, with whom I should otherwise have been on a very familiar footing, and some of them have been so candid as to tell me so. This is a kind of prudence which naturally grows out of a jealous and absolute government under which the people have for many generations been habituated to that kind of dependence which constrains every class to watch and respect the opinions and inclinations of their superiors in power. The prosperous tide of our affairs, however, has for some time past run so strong that I think many of our obstacles here must soon give way. Shyness will then cease, and I shall not afterwards find it difficult to be received into more of their houses, and that in the only manner I ever wish to be received into any--I mean, at the front door, by direct invitation from the masters of them, and without the precursory good offices of upper servants and unimportant favorites, whom I never can submit to court. Until this period arrives I shall continue to cultivate the few acquaintances I have, and without giving offence to any, endeavor to increase their number whenever it may be done with propriety and to advantage; but I shall, as heretofore, avoid embarrassing and intruding upon those who, in the meantime, may think it necessary to be reserved. Self respect joins with prudence in pointing out this line of conduct; and as I have no enemies of my own making, I am persuaded that instead of losing I shall eventually be a gainer by adhering to it, especially as those who may have been led to ascribe this conduct to improper motives will then immediately find themselves undeceived.

Be pleased to present our compliments and best wishes to Mrs. Morris and our friends with you.I am, &c.,

John Jay.

A Moderate Whig, "they that have the law of nature, the law of God", June 17, 1782

    "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

    - Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227.

    Journals of the Continental Congress,

    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1783

    By the United States in Congress assembled.


    Whereas it hath pleased the Supreme Ruler of all human events, to dispose the hearts of the late belligerent powers to put a period to the effusion of human blood, by proclaiming a cessation of all hostilities by sea and land, and these United States are not only happily rescued from the dangers distresses and calamities which they have so long and so magnanimously sustained to which they have been so long exposed, but their freedom, sovereignty and independence ultimately acknowledged by the king of Great Britain. And whereas in the progress of a contest on which the most essential rights of human nature depended, the interposition of Divine Providence in our favour hath been most abundantly and most graciously manifested, and the citizens of these United States have every possible reason for praise and gratitude to the God of their salvation....

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 22
David Howell to William Greene

Sir, New York January 12, 1785.

"...If it is the character of a politician to conceal or, to deliver with reserve & cryptically his opinions---;to keep a watchful eye on the tide of popular opinion---;and in all events to aim chiefly at bringing off his own dear Self in a whole Skin, I thank God I am no politician! ..."

"...Avarice, ambition or the lust of power & all the baser passions are so much more active & prevalent than the virtues, with which they stand contrasted, that it is not strange to see the Government of this World commonly in the hands of the vilest men in it. "There is, says an excellent writer, in every human Society an effort continually tending to confer on one part the height of power & happiness & to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness & misery," And whoever contemplates the different Kingdoms, Empires & States throughout the World, the nature of their governments, & the condition of the people will be affected, if capable of feeling, with the wretchedness of his fellowmen & will be constrained to drop a sympathetic tear over the ruins of human nature!

"Ye Gods! What havoc does ambition make among your works?"

"The U. States furnish the World with a rare instance of Freedom---;and a wise System of political Constitutions happily calculated to secure it. But alas! How restless are many of our rulers to engross more power? How easily are the people imposed upon & duped out of their rights? What artifice, what chicanery, what management have already taken place in our public affairs? I cannot, however, close this dull & gloomy letter without making one consolating remark---;& in that I am warranted---;that the seasonable & firm stand made by Rhode Island against the all grasping hand of power, in the case of duties, has saved the U. States! And I should be wanting, as well in duty to the State, as to my own feelings, if I should neglect to inform them that they have the thanks of thousands of the wisest & best men in the Union for their Conduct...."

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 22
James Monroe to Joseph Brant

Dear Sir,(1) (Copy) New York. Febry. 5th. 1785
I have lately received your favor from Cataraqui (2) and am happy I have it in my power to correct the information you have received respecting the detention of Captain Aaron Hill and others, Chiefs of the Six Nations, under the late Treaty at fort Stanwix.(3) The Commrs. in concluding that treaty, agreeably to a stipulation of it,(4) with consent of the Six Nations, kept these Chiefs as Hostages untill there shou'd be a complyance with the engag'ment on the part of the Indians, in the restitution of their prisoners. This is a custom warranted by all previous Treaties, where stipulations of the same Kind are entered into. Their situation is quite different from that of Prisoners nor are they considered in such a light. It is a practice Known & in use, among the politest European Nations and therefore cannot be held dishonorable to the Indians. As for my own part, I consider it in this instance as an unnecessary precaution, for I have such confidence in the Indian Chiefs and Warriors, that if they gave me their honor they wou'd perform any condition, I wou'd require no other obligation from them. It is in Old Countries, hacknied in the vices & debaucheries of Courts, where solemn ingagements are treated with contempt, and the faith of Treaties hold of no avail. Between the Indians & the United States I wou'd require no other obligation than their mutual honor, but the commissrs. of Congress thought it their duty to pursue the old custom. I have no doubt, if it is the desire of the Chiefs, they will be set at liberty, provided they can get home; or if they cannot, they will be invited here, where they will be treated with the utmost kindness & friendship. I am exceedingly glad you did not go to G. Britain. It is the earnest disposition of the States to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, and of course, the less they are connected with other powers, the more agreeable it will be to them; and the greater confidence they will be able to place in them. Examine your own situation; look to the Powers of Europe; mark their objects and progress on this Continent; then look to the united States; with whom does the powerful impulse of nature, or the God of nature bid you ally yourselves! Did we request you in the late War to be otherwise than neutral! But you might have joined us! And do we request more now than that you be our friends. Does the spirit of revenge govern us in our conduct toward you? It does not. We wish to take you by the hands & forever hereafter to esteem you brothers. Your apprehensions of danger in coming here are believe me groundless. You shall certainly be treated with kindness & the utmost attention & be permitted to go when you please. I shou'd be glad to see you here & many other members of Congress as well as our friend Governor Clinton wou'd also be happy to see you. Believe me I speak with sincerity, that the disposition of the Congress is very friendly to the Indians, and that nothing wou'd be more painful to them, than that any circumstance shou'd take place which might give them uneasiness. I shall be always happy to hear from you & Mrs. Brant as well as little Joseph & am very sincerely your friend & servant, James Monroe

The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 2]


"...There is such a love of liberty implanted in the human heart, that no nation ever willingly gave up its liberty. If they lose this inestimable birthright of men, it is not for a want of the will, but of the proper means to support it. If we look into history, we shall find that the common avenue, through which tyranny has entered in, and enslaved nations who were once free, has been their not supporting government."

"The great secret of preserving liberty is, to lodge the supreme power so as to be well supported, and not abused. If this could be effected, no nation would ever lose its liberty. The history of man clearly shows that it is dangerous to intrust the supreme power in the hands of one man. The same source of knowledge proves that it is not only inconvenient, but dangerous to liberty, for the people of a large community to attempt to exercise in person the supreme authority. Hence arises the necessity that the people should act by their representatives; but this method, so necessary for civil liberty, is an improvement of modern times. Liberty, however, is not so well secured as it ought to be, when the supreme power is lodged in one body of representatives. There ought to be two branches of the legislature, that one may be a check upon the other. It is difficult for the people at large to know when the supreme power is verging towards abuse, and to apply the proper remedy. But if the government be properly balanced, it will possess a renovating principle, by which it will be able to right itself. The constitution of the British nation affords us great light upon the subject of government. Learned men in other countries have admired it, though they thought it too fine-spun to prove beneficial in practice. But a long trial has now shown its excellence; and the difficulties which, that nation now experiences arise not from their constitution, but from other circumstances."

"The Author of nature has given mankind a certain degree of insight into futurity. As far as we can see a probability that certain events will happen, so far we do well to provide and guard...."

- Gov. HUNTINGDON, Jan. 9, 1788

The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 2]


“...I know, sir, that the people talk about the liberty of nature, and assert that we divest ourselves of a portion of it when we enter into society. This is declamation against matter of fact. We cannot live without society; and as to liberty, how can I be said to enjoy that which another may take from me when he pleases? The liberty of one depends not so much on the removal of all restraint from him, as on the due restraint upon the liberties of others. Without such restraint, there can be no liberty. Liberty is so far from being endangered or destroyed by this, that it is extended and secured. For I said that we do not enjoy that which another may take from us. But civil liberty cannot be taken from us, when any one may please to invade it; for we have the strength of the society on our side....”

Fisher Ames, Jan. 15, 1788

“...It has been objected that the Constitution provides no religious test by oath, and we may have in power unprincipled men, atheists and pagans. No man can wish more ardently than I do that all our public offices may be filled by men who fear God and hate wickedness; but it must remain with the electors to give the government this security. An oath will not do it. Will an unprincipled man be entangled by an oath? Will an atheist or a pagan dread the vengeance of the Christian's God, a being, in his opinion, the creature of fancy and credulity? It is a solecism in expression. No man is so illiberal as to wish the confining places of honor or profit to any one sect of Christians; but what security is it to government, that every public officer shall swear that he is a Christian? For what will then be called Christianity? One man will declare that the Christian religion is only an illumination of natural religion, and that he is a Christian; another Christian will assert that all men must be happy hereafter in spite of themselves; a third Christian reverses the image, and declares that, let a man do all he can, he will certainly be punished in another world; and a fourth will tell us that, if a man use any force for the common defence, he violates every principle of Christianity. Sir, the only evidence we can have of the sincerity of a man's religion is a good life; and I trust that such evidence will be required of every candidate by every elector. That man who acts an honest part to his neighbor, will, most probably, conduct honorably towards the public....”

“...The honorable gentleman from Boston has stated at large most of the checks the people have against usurpation, and the abuse of power, under the proposed Constitution; but from the abundance of his matter, he has, in my opinion, omitted two or three, which I shall mention. The oath the several legislative, executive, and judicial officers of the several states take to support the federal Constitution, is as effectual a security against the usurpation of the general government as it is against the encroachment of the state governments. For an increase of the powers by usurpation is as clearly a violation of the federal Constitution as a diminution of these powers by private encroachment; and that the oath obliges the officers of the several states as vigorously to oppose the one as the other. But there is another check, founded in the nature of the Union, superior to all the parchment checks that can be invented. If there should be a usurpation, it will not be on the farmer and merchant, employed and attentive only to their several occupations; it will be upon thirteen legislatures, completely organized, possessed of the confidence of the people, and having the means, as well as inclination, successfully to oppose it. Under these circumstances, none but madmen would attempt a usurpation. But, sir, the people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance....”

- Mr. Parsons, Jan. 23, 1788

The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]
Tuesday, June 24, 1788.

“...During the short time of my political life, having been fully impressed with the truth of these observations, when a proposition was made by Virginia to invite the sister states to a general convention, at Philadelphia, to amend these defects, I readily gave my assent; and when I considered the very respectable characters who formed that body,--when I reflected that they were, most of them, those sages and patriots under whose banners, and by whose counsels, we had been rescued from impending danger, and placed among the nations of the earth,--when I also turned my attention to that illustrious character, to immortalize whose memory Fame shall blow her trump to the latest ages,--I say, when I weighed all these considerations, I was almost persuaded to declare in favor of the proposed plan, and to exert my slender abilities in its favor, But when I came to investigate it impartially, on the immutable principles of government, and to exercise that reason with which the God of nature hath endowed me, and which I will ever freely use, I was convinced of this important, though melancholy truth,--that the greatest men may err, and that their errors are sometimes of the greatest magnitude. I was persuaded that, although the proposed plan contains many things excellent, yet, by the adoption of it as it now stands, the liberties of America in general, the property of Virginia in particular, would be endangered.

These being my sentiments,--sentiments which I offer with the diffidence of a young politician, but with the firmness of a republican, which I am ready to change when I am convinced they are founded in error, but which I will support until that conviction,--I should be a traitor to my country, and unworthy that freedom for which I trust I shall ever remain an advocate, were I to declare my entire approbation of the plan as it now stands, or assent to its ratification without previous amendments....”

"...a duty which we owe to ourselves, which we owe to the southern part of America, and which we owe to the natural rights of mankind--to guard against it in such manner as will forever prevent its accomplishment...."

- Mr. Dawson, Delegate to the Virginia Ratifying Convention.

    "...Self defence is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; this primæval principle, the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges every one to remonstrate against the strides of ambition, and a wanton lust of domination, and to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave sons of America have fought with an heroism scarcely paralleled even in ancient republicks...."
- Elbridge Gerry, Observations On the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions. By a Columbian Patriot. Sic transit gloria Americana. [Boston: 1788.]

    "...The Law of nations, by which this question is to be determined, is composed of three branches,

    1. The Moral law of our nature.
    2. The Usages of nations.
    3. Their special Conventions.

"The first of these only, concerns this question, that is to say the Moral law to which Man has been subjected by his creator, & of which his feelings, or Conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his creator has furnished him. The Moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society & the aggregate of the duties of all the individuals composing the society constitutes the duties of that society towards any other; so that between society & society the same moral duties exist as did between the individuals composing them while in an unassociated state, their maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation. Compacts then between nation & nation are obligatory on them by the same moral law which obliges individuals to observe their compacts. There are circumstances however which sometimes excuse the non-performance of contracts between man & man: so are there also between nation & nation. When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligation to others. For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head & heart of every rational & honest man. It is there Nature has written her moral laws, & where every man may read them for himself. He will never read there the permission to annul his obligations for a time, or for ever, whenever they become "dangerous, useless, or disagreeable." Certainly not when merely useless or disagreeable, as seems to be said in an authority which has been quoted, Vattel, 2. 197, and tho he may under certain degrees of danger, yet the danger must be imminent, & the degree great. Of these, it is true, that nations are to be judges for themselves, since no one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another. But the tribunal of our consciences remains, & that also of the opinion of the world. These will revise the sentence we pass in our own case, & as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial & vigorous judges...."
- Thomas Jefferson, April 28, 1793 letter to George Washington. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]

"We declare, that nothing can retribute us for the suspension or loss of this inestimable right. We declare it to be a right which must be obtained; and do also declare, that if the General Government will not procure it for us, we shall hold ourselves not answerable for any consequences that may result from our own procurement of it. The God of nature has given us both the right and means of acquiring and enjoying it; and to permit a sacrifice of it to any earthly consideration, would be a crime against ourselves, and against our posterity."
- The Remonstrance of the Citizens West of the Allegany Mountains, TO THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Dec. 1793. [Library of Congress, American Memory, An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera.]

The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 4]

"...These are solemn but painful truths; and yet we recommend it to you not to forget the possibility of danger from without, although danger threatens us from within. Usurpation is indeed dreadful; but against foreign invasion, if that should happen, let us rise with hearts and hands united, and repel the attack with the zeal of freemen who will strengthen their title to examine and correct domestic measures, by having defended their country against foreign aggression.

"Pledged as we are, fellow-citizens, to these sacred engagements, we yet humbly, fervently implore the Almighty Disposer of events to avert from our land war and usurpation, the scourges of mankind; to permit our fields to be cultivated in peace; to instil into nations the love of friendly intercourse; to suffer our youth to be educated in virtue, and to preserve our morality from the pollution invariably incident to habits of war; to prevent the laborer and husbandman from being harassed by taxes and imposts; to remove from ambition the means of disturbing the commonwealth; to annihilate all pretexts for power afforded by war; to maintain the Constitution; and to bless our nation with tranquillity, under whose benign influence we may reach the summit of happiness and glory, to which we are destined by nature and nature's God."

    Attest, JOHN STEWART, C. H. D.

    1799, January 23d. Agreed to by the Senate. H. BROOKE, C.S.

"WHILE the Nations of the Old World are destroying each other, and laying waste the fields of Agriculture and Industry, America is seeking only to preserve, in peace, those advantages which God and Nature have given her, and which her industrious Citizens are justly entitled to enjoy. But so long as the maritime Nations of Europe shall continue to prosecute their wars, their avarice and pride will stimulate them to measures which will often clash with the Rights of the American People, and the Peace of our Country will be put to hazard. We have already had sufficient experience of these injurious effects, to admonish us of our duty, as a Free and Independent State that we be prepared to resist every aggression; to point out to us the necessity of a vigorous exertion, in placing our military affairs in the most formidable attitude; and to omit nothing which will conduce to give energy to our united strength. Indeed the United States have not been negligent of the important Interests of the Union."
- Commander in chief. William Donnison, Adj. Gen. [Boston], General orders. Headquarters. Roxbury, March 30, 1799.

"Let us be grateful for these blessings to the beneficent Being who has conferred them, and who suffers us to indulge a reasonable hope of their continuance and extension, while we neglect not the means by which they maybe preserved. If we may dare to judge of His future designs by the manner in which his past favors have been bestowed, he has made our national prosperity to depend on the preservation of our liberties--our national force on our federal union--and our individual happiness on the maintenance of our State rights and wise institutions. If we are prosperous at home, and respected abroad, it is because we are free, united, industrious, and obedient to the laws. While we continue so, we shall, by the blessing of Heavens, go on in the happy career we have begun, and which has brought us, in the short period of our political existence, from a population of three to thirteen millions--from thirteen separate Colonies to twenty-four United States--from weakness to strength--from a rank scarcely marked in the scale of nations to a high place in their respect...."
- President Andrew Jackson, Dec. 6, 1831. [Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States.]

"...If the peace of the domestic fireside throughout these States should ever be invaded--if the mothers of families within this extensive region should not be able to retire to rest at night without suffering dreadful apprehensions of what may be their own fate and that of their children before the morning--it would be vain to recount to such a people the political benefits which result to them from the Union. Self-preservation is the first instinct of nature, and therefore any state of society in which the sword is all the time suspended over the heads of the people must at last become intolerable. But I indulge in no such gloomy forebodings. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the events at Harper's Ferry, by causing the people to pause and reflect upon the possible peril to their cherished institutions, will be the means, under Providence, of allaying the existing excitement and preventing further outbreaks of a similar character...."
- President James Buchanan, December 19, 1859 address to U.S. House and Senate. [Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, February 9, 1860.]

    “Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator, for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure.”
- President James Buchanan, Washington City, December 3, 1860. Message to the U.S. House & Senate

    Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,
    SATURDAY, August 3, 1861.

    "...Mr. Sumner presented a petition of citizens of Marlborough, Massachusetts, praying Congress to use all the means God and nature have put into their hands against those now in rebellion against the government."

    "Ordered, That it lie on the table...."

    "It is true that religion has been closely identified with our history and government. As we said in Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 434 (1962), "The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion. And . . . since the beginning of that history many people have devoutly believed that `More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.'" In Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313 (1952), we gave specific recognition to the proposition that "[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." The fact that the Founding Fathers believed devotedly that there was a God and that the unalienable rights of man were rooted in Him is clearly evidenced in their writings, from the Mayflower Compact to the Constitution itself. This background is evidenced today in our public life through the continuance in our oaths of office from the Presidency to the Alderman of the final supplication, "So help me God." Likewise each House of the Congress provides through its Chaplain an opening prayer, and the sessions of this Court are declared open by the crier in a short ceremony, the final phrase of which invokes the grace of God. Again, there are such manifestations in our military forces, where those of our citizens who are under the restrictions of military service wish to engage in voluntary worship. Indeed, only last year an official survey of the country indicated that 64% of our people have church membership, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, Statistical Abstract of the United States (83d ed. 1962), 48, while less than 3% profess no religion whatever. Id., at p. 46. It can be truly said, therefore, that today, as in the beginning, our national life reflects a religious people who, in the words of Madison, are "earnestly praying, as . . . in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe . . . guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his [blessing . . . .]" Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, quoted in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 71-72 (1947) (Appendix to dissenting opinion of Rutledge, J.)."
- MR. JUSTICE CLARK deliver[ing] the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, [ABINGTON SCHOOL DIST. v. SCHEMPP, 374 U.S. 203 (1963). Page 374 U.S. 203, 212, 213] Decided June 17, 1963.

There isn't much that could be added that would further clarify the above, is there? Except:

Know God = Know Rights

No God = No rights

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