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for the said plantation and the inhabitants there, as for naming and styling all sorts of officers, both superior and inferior, which they shall find needful for the government and plantation of the said colony, and distinguishing and setting forth of several duties, powers, and limits of every such office and place, and the forms of such oaths, not being contrary to the laws and statutes of this our realm of England, to be administered for the execution of the said several offices and places.” Thus the colony of Connecticut could claim all the rights of native-born Englishmen, and all the additional rights conferred by the charter. The laws made by the colony were subject to this limitation, namely, that they must “not be contrary to the laws of England.” By the charter, the laws of England were paramount to the local laws of the colony. In practice, the laws of the colony were regarded by the colonists as paramount to the laws of England.
The emigrant ministers from England to Connecticut, and their successors, found their love of liberty increasing rather than diminishing from generation to generation. The liberty which they tasted in the New World gave them an appetite for more. In this "wilderness of free minds,” far removed from the inspecting eye of the mother country, their hopes of obtaining more grew stronger. Besides being educated in the Greek and Roman classics, which inspire the young student with a love of liberty, they were, many of them, while in professional life, familiar with the best writings of the English Puritans. They read more or less of Milton, the great Puritan poet, and they found in their experience, that “ books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them, to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are."
From him they caught something of his burning hatred of tyranny.
His hatred of tyranny was such that he put the tyrant in the same category with the devil, “and, with necessity, the tyrant's plea excused his devilish deeds.”
Such was his hatred of personal government, or arbitrary power, that he speaks of it as “the foul fiend discretion."
They studied Locke, the great apostle of liberty, in his day, with the same admiring spirit in which Dr. Watts describes him in his lyric poems:
“ Locke has a soul wide as the sea,
Calm as the night, bright as the day,
Nor feel a thought confined.” They read with enthusiasm the works of Dr. Watts, who, in one of his poems, could say,
“My soul can ne'er comport
And hug dear Liberty in both mine arms." It is remarkable that from the first to the last, while they were jealous of Parliament, the law-making power, they professed to entertain affection and loyalty for the king. King Charles II had granted the colony a very liberal charter, in which they rejoiced. In the correspondence between the king and the colonial legislature, there appears to be only mutual kindness and good-will. Thus, between that legislature and Charles II, William and Mary, William III, Queen Anne, and some of the Georges, the correspondence appears to have been entirely satisfactory on both sides.
The following is a specimen of that correspondence:
A Letter from His Majesty Charles II, to the Governor and Council of
the Colony of Connecticut, April 10, 1666: • Trusty and well beloved, we greet you well, having rec'd soe full and satisfactory an account from our commissioners, both of the good reception you have given them, and also of your dutifullness and obedience to us, we cannot but let you know how much we are pleased therewith, judging that respect of yours towards our officers, to be the true and naturall fruit which demonstrates what fidelity and affection towards us is rooted in your hearts, and although your carriage doth of itself most justly deserve our prayse and approbation, yet it seems to be sett off with the more lustre, by the contrary deportment of the Colony of the Massachusetts, as if by their refractorinesse they had designed to recommend and heighten the merit of your complyance with our directions, for the peacable and good government of our subjects in those parts.”
The following is an exact copy from Hinman's Antiquities of Connecticut, p. 366 :
Anno Regni Regis Georgii tertii 14th.
At a General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the English Colony of Connecticut in New England in America, holden at New Haven in said Colony on the second Thursday of October, being the 13th day of said month and continued by several adjournments to the fourth day of November next following Annoq. Dom. 1774.
By the House of Representatives of the English Colony of Connecticut, second Thursday of May 1774.
This House taking into serious consideration sundry acts of the British Parliament in which the power and right to impose duties and taxes upon His Majesties subjects in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, for the purpose of raising a Revenue only, are declared, attempted to be exercised and in various ways enforced and carried into execution, and especially a very late act, in which pains and penalties are inflicted on the capital of a neighboring Province, a precedent justly allarming to every British Colony in America, and which being admitted and established, their lives, liberties and properties are at the mercy of a Tribunal where innocence may be punished upon the accusation and evidence of wicked men without defence and even without knowing its accusers, a precedent calculated to terrify them into silence and submission, whilst they are stripped of their invaluable rights and liberties, do think it expedient and their duty at this time to renew their claim to the rights, privileges and immunities of free born Englishmen, to which they are justly entitled, by the laws of nature, by the Royal Grant and Charter of his late Majesty King Charles the second, and by long and uninterrupted possession, and thereupon do declare and Resolve as follows to wit
In the first place we do most expressly declare, recognize and acknowledge His Majesty George the Third to be the lawful and rightful King of Great Britain and all other his dominions and countries, and that it is the indispensable duty of the people of this Colony, as being part of his Majesties dominions, always to bear faithful and true allegiance to his Majesty, and him to defend to the utmost of their power against all attempts upon his person, crown and dignity.
2. That the subjects of his Majesty in this Colony ever have had, and of right ought to have and enjoy all the liberties, immunities and privileges of free and natural born subjects, within any of the dominions of our said King, his heirs and successors, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever as fully and amply, as if they and every of them were born within the realm of England, that they have a property in their own estate, and are to be taxed by their own consent only, given in person or by their Representatives, and are not to be disseized of their liberties or free customs, sentenced or condemned, but by lawful judgment of their Peers, and that the said rights and immunities are recognized and confirmed to the inhabitants of this Colony by the Royal Grant and Charter aforesaid, and are their undoubted rights to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever.
3. That the only lawful Representatives of the Freemen of this Colony, are the persons they elect to serve as members of the General Assembly thereof.
4. That it is the just right and privilege of His Majesties leige subjects of this Colony to be Governed by their General Assembly in the article of taxing and internal police, agreeable to the powers and privileges recognized and confirmed in the Royal Charter aforesaid, which they have enjoyed for more than a century past, and have neither forfeited nor surrendered, but the same have been constantly recognized by the King and Parliament of Great Britain.
5. That the erecting new and unusual courts of Admiralty, and vesting them with extraordinary powers above, and not subject to the controll of the common law courts in this Colony, to judge and determine in suits relating to the duties and forfeitures contained in said acts, foreign to the accustomed and established jurisdiction of the former courts of Admiralty in America, is in the opinion of this House, highly dangerous to the liberties of his Majesty's American subjects, contrary to the great Charter of English liberty, and destructive of one of their most darling rights; that of tryal by Jurors, which is justly esteemed one chief excellence of the British constitution, and a principal bulwark of English liberty.
6. That the apprehending and carrying persons beyond the sea to be tryed for any crime alleged to be committed within this Colony in a summary way without a jury, is unconstitutional and subversive of the liberties and rights of the free subjects of this Colony.
7. That any Harbors or Ports duly opened and constituted cannot be shut up and discharged but by an act of the Legislature of the Province or Colony on which such Port or Harbor is situated without subverting the rights and liberties and destroying the property of his Majesty's subjects.
8. That the late act of Parliament inflicting pains and penalties on the town of Boston by blocking their harbor is a precedent justly alarming to the British colonies in America, and wholly inconsistent with, and subversive of their constitutional rights and liberties.
9. That whenever his Majesties' service shall require the aid of the inhabitants of this Colony, the same fixed principles of Loyalty, as well as self preservation which have hitherto induced us fully to comply with His Majesties requisitions, together with the deep sense we have of its being our indispensable duty, in the opinion of this House, will ever hold us under the strongest obligations which can be given or desired most cheerfully to grant His Majesty, from time to time, our further proportion of men and money, for the defence, protection, security and other services of the British American dominions.
10. That we look upon the well being and greatest security of this Colony to depend (under God) on our connections with Great Britain which is ardently wished may continue to the latest posterity; and that it is the humble opinion of this House, that the constitution of this Colony being understood and practiced upon as it has ever since it existed till very lately, is the surest bond of union, confidence and mutual prosperity of our mother country and us, and the best test foundation on which to build the good of the whole, whether considered in a civil, military or mercantile light; and of the truth of this opinion, we are the more confident, as it is not founded on speculation only, but has been verified in fact, and by long experience found to produce according to our extent and other circumstances, as many loyal, virtuous, industrious and well governed subjects as any part of his Majesty's dominions, and as truly zealous, and as warmly engaged to promote the best good and real glory of the grand whole, which constitutes the British empire.
II. That it is an indispensible duty which we owe to our King, our Country, ourselves and our posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power, to maintain, defend and preserve these our rights and liberties, and to transmit them entire and inviolate to the latest generations, and that it is our fixed, determined and unaltered resolution faithfully to discharge this our duty.
In the Lower House the foregoing resolutions being read distinctly, three several times and considered, were voted and passed with great unanimity; and it is further voted and requested by this House, that the same be entered on the records and remain on the files of the General Assembly of this Colony.
Test: WILLIAMS, Clerk, H. R.
In the Upper House the consideration of the request of the Lower House, that the aforesaid resolutions should be entered on the records of the Assembly &c., is referred to the General Assembly to be holden at New Haven, on the second Thursday of October next.
GEORGE WYLLYS, Secretary.
In the Upper House on further consideration, &c., it is agreed and consented to, that the foregoing resolutions, according to the request of the Lower House be entered on the records, and remain on the files of the General Assembly of this colony.
GEORGE WYLLYS, Secretary.
This document, dated November 4, 1774, shows what were the views and temper of the colony at that time, which was only one year and eight months before the Declaration of Independence was published to the world.