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Johannes in Eremo to the Publick



Massachusetts, January 1, 1776.

There are two or three questions, which I pray the publick would give their attention unto, viz: In what sense it must be taken, that the King can do no wrong? What is rebellion in a State? And whether, all things considered, it is not the indispensable duty of the United Colonies of America, immediately, to form themselves into an independent Constitution, or a Republick State?

As to the first of these questions, it has been answered by some to this effect, viz: That the King does nothing, as King, but by his Ministers, and, therefore, whatever wrong is done by the Administration of the King, must be attributed to his Ministers, not to him. But, according to this, what does the King do, as King? Why, nothing, neither right nor wrong. And what is the King, but an absolute nothing? But are there not some Royal acts, which are not properly Ministerial? What are the Royal Charters to the American Colonies, but such acts, seeing they contain the sacred compact between the King and them, by virtue of which he is their King, and they his subjects; and, also, the King' s oath to protect them in the enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of Englishmen, and their oath of allegiance to obey him as King? What was the present King' s coronation oath, to maintain the British Constitution of Government and the Protestant religion inviolate in his empire, but another such act? And what is the King' s assent to acts of Parliament, but a Royal act, not Ministerial? And what if the King should give his Royal assent to an act of Parliament to establish the French laws and the Popish religion in (a part of) his empire, would he not violate his coronation oath? And would not this be doing wrong? Or, what if he should give his Royal assent to an act to raise a revenue on the Colonies without their consent; to an act claiming supreme authority over the Colonies, to make laws binding on them, in all cases whatsoever; to an act to send ships-of-war to block up our harbours, restrain our trade, put a stop to bur fishery, and destroy our seaport towns; and armed men, by fire and sword, to carry into execution a number of acts of Parliament, contrived and framed to deprive the Colonies of their essential and constitutional rights and liberty? Would he not break his compact with, and violate his Royal faith to, the Colonists? And would not this be doing wrong? But, if it be granted (as to Administration) that the King does nothing, but by his servants or Ministers, how does such a distinction between the King and his Ministers, follow from thence, as to infer that, if there is any wrong done, it must not be attributed to the King, but to his Ministers only? In ancient times, some were called good Kings, because they reigned well, did that which was right, ruled in righteousness. Others were called wicked Kings, because they did not do the thing that was right, did evil, made their people sin, cruelly oppressed their subjects; but now, it seems, Kings are neither good nor wicked, neither reign well nor ill, neither do what is right nor what is wrong-because they do all by their Ministers! And why have we ascribed blame to Kings of the Stuart race, and pronounced some others of blessed memory?

But the proposition supposes that Kings do something, and what they do, they do by their Ministers; then, it must follow that, whatever they do by their Ministers, is to be ascribed to them as their doing. And, if Kings do nothing but by their Ministers, then Ministers do nothing, as Ministers, but the Royal pleasure; therefore, if Ministers, as Ministers, do wrong, the King does wrong, because he acts by them, and they do his pleasure in doing wrong. The King chooses his own Ministers, and they do all his pleasure; and, by the character of the men he chooses, and by the measures pursued in their administration, we are to judge and determine whether he is a good King or a wicked King. If he chooses none but friends to the British Constitution of Government and Protestant religion, men of wisdom and integrity; and, if all the measures they pursue in their administration tend to protect the people in the enjoyment of their laws, rights, and liberty; to discountenance vice; to encourage learning, virtue, and industry; to maintain the Protestant religion; to increase the wealth of the empire, and diffuse happiness to every part of it; such a


one is a good King, he rules in righteousness. But, if he chooses such men, only, as are enemies to the British Constitution and laws, (and the Protestant religion,) and the measures they pursue in their administration tend to deprive the people of their constitutional rights and liberty; to make the King an absolute despot; to involve the empire in confusion, contention, civil war, and bloodshed; to plunge the nation in debt; to protect murderers; to encourage vice and Popery, and discourage learning, virtue, and industry; such a one is a wicked King. He does wrong with a high hand, even though he does all by his Ministers.

But will it not be a more just answer to the question, to say, that the King, by the Constitution, is a nursing father to the people, a protector of their persons, their rights, their properties, and privileges? Therefore, he cannot, as King, do his subjects wrong; he has no constitutional authority to wrong any of them. As charity worketh no ill, it cannot do it; it is inconsistent with its nature. That is not charity which worketh ill or doeth wrong; so it is inconsistent with the constitutional authority or nature of the King to do wrong; it is not the constitutional King that does wrong-that robs the people of their rights-that destroys their liberty and property, and seeks to make them absolute slaves. No! No! Such a one is a tyrant, a character diametrically opposite to that of a constitutional King. The tyrant always does wrong, by every act of his tyranny, whether performed by himself immediately, or by his Ministers; and he may as really be a tyrant when he does all by his Ministers, as when he makes no use of them. This answer is the sense of the grand Congress, [a the following pertinent and comprehensive expressions, as I take it, viz: "We view him (i˙ e˙ the King) as the Constitution represents him; that tells us, he can do no wrong. The cruel and illegal attacks which we oppose, have no foundation in the Royal authority."

As to the second question, What is rebellion in a State? Since it is asserted, by persons of the most extensive knowledge, "that rebellion is a term undefined and unknown in the law," I shall only attempt to give that idea of it which I have conceived by my own private reflections upon the nature of things. The being of a State or Kingdom, as a body politick, is founded in the Constitution of that State or Kingdom. By the Constitution, all the constituent parts of the body politick are bound, in their several spheres, like the head and members of the human body, to seek the good of the whole; and, when this is the case with King and subjects, ruler and ruled, magistrates and people, the body politick enjoys a well-being, like a human body in a state of health. To rebel, literally signifies to make or levy war; and, properly, it signifies, that some of the constituent parts of the body politick are becoming inimical to the Constitution, and levy war against the well-being of the State. Like sickness in a human body, which assaults the constitution, to destroy the well-being of the body. If any number of the people oppose the constitutional laws of the State, and levy war against the constitutional authority of the King or magistrate, they declare themselves to be enemies to the well-being of the State, and are guilty of rebellion. So, likewise, if the King or magistrate degenerates into a tyrant, robs the people of their constitutional rights, and levies war against them, or any part of them, he declares himself to be an enemy to the well-being of the State, and is guilty of raising rebellion, tending to destroy, not only the well-being, but essential being of the State, as much as when a gangrene seizes any important member of the human body, it threatens the destruction of the whole body, if the infected member be not immediately amputated. And, in case of such a rebellion, the people are bound, by the Constitution, to take up arms, in defence of the State, against the rebels, and cut them off, and not to spare the crowned head, when found heading a rebellion against the Constitution, for he is an intestine enemy to the State. Will any say, did not David spare King Saul, his enemy, when he had an opportunity to have cut off his head, and contented himself with acting only on the defensive. Let such remember, that the reason David gives for it is, because Saul was the Lord' s anointed. But Protestants allow no King, now on earth, to be the Lord' s anointed; and we


ought to cut off a crowned head as soon as any other, when it becomes tyrannical, and raises rebellion in the State, tending to destroy its well-being.

As to the third question, Whether, all things considered, it is not the indispensable duty of the United Colonies of America, immediately to form themselves into an indeendent Constitution, or a Republick State? I must pray those men of Issachar, the Members of the honourable Continental Congress, that they have understanding of the times, to know what these Colonies ought to do; to consider whether the present lime is not the proper nick of time for it; whether the concurring circumstances in Divine Providence do not make it a present duty for laying a foundation of the well-being of the Colonies for many generations? Many things must be considered, in order to come to a determination; particularly, whether these Colonies are not broken off from the British empire, by the imperious, tyrannical, and usurping claim of the British Parliament, with the Royal assent to it, of supreme authority over the Colonies, to make laws binding on them, in all cases whatsoever; and by the grievous laws, and illegal attacks made, and cruel exertions put forth, in consequence of said claim, which stab, to the very heart, the sacred compacts between the King and the Colonies, in which their allegiance to the King, and union to the empire are founded? It must also be considered, whether, whilst the United Colonies have been crying and praying to the King, as children to a father, for redress of grievances, asking only for children' s bread, the stipulated rights and privileges of Englishmen, they have not had in return a stone, a serpent, and a scorpion — their petitions refused, themselves declared rebels — armed ships and troops sent to kill, destroy, lay waste, and spread desolation, by fire and sword, from one end of the Colonies to the other? It must also be considered, whether, there are not grounds to conclude that the King is obstinately set and resolute, and the Parliament determined to pour in troops in battle array against the Colonies next Spring, twenty, thirty, or fifty thousand, or as many as they can procure, of Russians, Hanoverians, and Irish Catholicks, which, if they do, will be followed with much bloodshed, for we will be free, or die? Whether we ought not to prevent the effusion of human blood as much as may be? And, if we should now enter into a Republick State, and declare our ports open for a free trade with every nation but that which is at war with us, whether the other nations will not, especially, such as suffer by the operation of these grievous acts of the British Parliament, cheerfully enter into an alliance with us, for the sake of enjoying our trade, which shall put an effectual stop to the hostile proceedings of the British Parliament against us? It is true, there are some movings in England; the City of London speaks well to the electors. But, what if they should proceed to instruct their Representatives, remonstrate, and petition for a repeal of all the grievous acts, &c˙, &c˙, and all the towns, cities, &c˙, in England should follow their example; it must be considered whether, in this case, we should have the least reason to expect that the Parliament, or the King, would be moved to do any thing to the purpose, so long as a majority of the Members are under the thumb of the Ministry, by virtue of Ministerial pensions or bribes? Whether the Ministers do not know that they will be immediately impeached, and their heads in danger, if the Parliament should redress the American grievances? They know, by experience, that money answers all things, and that they can carry what point they please in the Parliament by the force of it; and nothing there will put a stop to their measures and proceedings, but the rousing of the British Lion — the people' s rising and betaking themselves to arms; this would do the business! It must, therefore, be considered, whether we have any reasonable grounds to expect such an event will take place in the time of the present session of Parliament? and though the rising of the people is the only probable expedient for preventing the destruction of the Kingdom, have we not more grounds to fear that the Ministry will, by craft, falsehoods, and the force of money, keep the people quiet and easy till the Kingdom is destroyed, and the Colonies too, if they continue to wait on them? What wait ye for? Is not every month' s delay to look to ourselves, and to enter into such a state as proposed, dangerous?


But, if we should soon have intelligence of things in England taking such an unexpected turn, as to set on foot a negotiation for accommodating matters between Great Britain and the Colonies, I would, in that case, earnestly; entreat the Colonies to take heed, and beware of every plan that shall be proposed, to see if it be not calculated to weaken or break the present happy union of the Colonies; or to preserve alive, some way, their claim of supreme authority over the Colonies; as the proposal would, of dissolving the Colony-States, and uniting them all in one state with Great Britain, with liberty to send but an inconsiderable number of Representatives to the Parliament of Great Britain. As the King and Parliament have broken us off from the Britishempire — drawn the sword offensively, and shed much blood, destroyed our trade, fishery, and a number of our seaport towns, and put us to infinite trouble and expense; it is hoped these Colonies have wisdom and justice enough, for, and in behalf of themselves, not to sit down satisfied with only a repeal of the grievous acts, but insist upon reparation of the damage they have done us; and if the Colonies should ever think fit to enter into compacts again with the King of England, to become his subjects, by receiving Royal charters from him, that they will take care to have the right of choosing all their officers, of making all their laws, and of disposing of all their own property, and taxing themselves only, without being subject to the control of any State or Power on earth, whatsoever, stipulated to them in the most express terms. As they have forced us to draw the sword of defence, and make our appeal to Heaven, God forbid that we should sheath it again, but on conditions of enjoying the rights and privileges of men, and of Englishmen, free and clear of any control of the British Parliament,