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No Standing Army in the British Colonies; or, An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colony of New-York Against Unlawful Standing Armies



"Resolved, nemine contradicente, That the keeping a Standing Army in these Colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the Legislature of the Colony in which such Army is kept, is against law." — Proclamation of the Continental Congress.

Brethren, Friends, and Countrymen:

The sanguinary schemes of the present Administration have been sealed with the approbation of the late ministerial Parliament. Every vessel that came to this or the neighbouring ports, since the proceedings of our late Congress were published in London, brought us fresh intelligence of the hostile measures resolved on against us. More regiments are to be sent over, some of which will be stationed in this metropolis and in New-Jersey, to support the King' s friends, to intimidate and divide us, to be a check on the Southern Colonies, and, if judged practicable, to prevent their relieving our suffering brethren of the Massachusetts-Bay.

These particulars; and many more, have, doubtless, come to the knowledge of that body, commonly styled our Representatives; and yet, amongst the objects of real complaint, resolved as such by that Assembly, in their late catalogue of grievances, we do not read any of the ruinous consequences of an act of Parliament, which was solely machinated to extort the submission of all the British Colonies to every parliamentary, or, what is synonymous, to every ministerial mandate, though ever so ruinous. But it may be predicted that, sooner or later, this act will have the intended effect, should its not appearing to press upon us in a direct manner render us so inattentive, or so very selfish as to suffer its continuing to be enforced with impunity.

This introduction must point out to you, that the act, or rather edict here alluded to, is that which was made for extending to all the British Colonies on this Continent the acts of Parliament relating to mutiny and desertion in Great Britain, as likewise to maintain the discipline of His Majesty' s Army, so styled, instead of its true descriptive name, the British, or National Army — an impropriety of the greatest importance to a free people, justly jealous of their honour, and conscious of their real dignity! But, to the manifest danger of the national liberty, this is little attended to by military men; too many of whom, from a field-marshal to a drummer, mistake the true sense of that phraseology, which, when at first used, was meant but as a complaint, and appeared, as it really was, perfectly harmless, before our Kings kept a Standing Army. Erroneous notions on this head arc now big with ruin, it being not unfrequent to find in the military order a commissioned, as well as a non-commissioned varlet, ignorant enough to believe that he eats the King' s bread, and is bound, for that very reason, implicitly to obey any command he receives from his superiours, who eat the same bread! As men of this stamp never inquire with whose bread the King himself is fed, it is judged very necessary, at this critical juncture, to awaken the attention and sensibility of many men of liberal principles, who serve in the British Army and Navy, some of whom inadvertently mention the King, and even address him, as their master.

The enemies to our Constitution, well knowing the fatal effects of the illusion which this old prejudice never fails to produce in the minds of the vulgar, surreptitiously provided themselves with the Extension Edict, before (though not long before) the late Parliament issued their inquisitorial sentences against the people of the Massachusetts-Bay. That edict demonstrates to you by what means the Ministry have determined to conduct their conspiracy against our liberty. Surely, this is a grievance of the first magnitude.

The American newspapers have informed you since that time, that Courts-Martial have dared to decree various punishments, which have been inflicted on soldiers in America; but, though such Courts-Martial acted under colour of that same illegal edict, we do not learn that any of their members, or the deluded victims that became their accomplices by executing the felonious sentences, have been indicted for their respective crimes! Nay, have not such


unlawful Courts-Martial been suffered in our metropolis to exercise the same illegal authority?

About the beginning of the last war, an Administration, which had formed no design against our liberty, acted on very different principles, to prevent the mutiny and desertion of the British forces in North America, The Minister sent circular directions to most of the American Governours, for procuring temporary acts, which, as they manifestly tended to the welfare and safety of the whole British Empire, were cheerfully granted, The Legislatures to which such applications were made, extended to their respective territories the acts of Parliament for punishing mutiny and desertion, &c. Those acts afterwards received the Royal assent; but the legal force of every such temporary act has long since expired. They were granted with the same caution that acts of a similar nature pass in Great Britain, where the Lords and Commons know, that the national liberty might be easily destroyed should they declare acts of such importance, perpetual. The Legislature can give no lawful authority to such acts of perpetual duration, any more than they can lawfully surrender the liberties of the people. These have, in reserve, an inalienable right to ratify, or annual every act of their delegates to legislative assemblies.

The fair proceedings of the Administration above mentioned, are of publick notoriety. They not only prove, in the most authentick manner, that Administration then believed the British Parliament had no right to bind us in all cases whatsoever, but that the King and his Ministers were solicitous to demonstrate the uprightness of their intentions — that they would not violate any of our constitutional rights, by attempting to bind us in any case whatsoever, without our legal consent.

The anti-British junto, being sensible the legal expiration of those temporary acts of the Colonies was an invincible obstacle to their projects of depredation, so artfully conducted themselves in, and out of Parliament, that their dark designs were not suspected. For this reason, the patriotjck minority, who did not think that more regiments were intended to be sent over to America, made little or no opposition to the Extension Edict. This shows you, my brethren, how cautious you ought to be of your friends themselves. They may be sincere, but they do not feel!

Let us see now what our late venerable Congress did for us — they who felt with us the innumerable evils that are inseparable from a Standing Army not dependant on ourselves. Their ninth resolve expressly declares, that to keep such Army is unlawful, and consequently proclaims the nullity of the Extension Edict, in the comprehensive words which are prefixed to this address, although the consequence which results from the truth contained in them, being founded on the self-evident principles of universal jurisprudence, that respectable authority might have been omitted here, without the least danger. This consequence is acknowledged by the uniform proceedings of every civilized Country relative to distributive justice, as well as in the judgment of every person who is not in a state of insanity. Whatever is done any where against law, cannot be supported there, by law. It is a mere nullity.

We have often been astonished at the superlative effrontery of ministerial hirelings; and yet, it is improbable any caviller of that tribe will be so irreverent and scurrilous as to urge, that the ninth resolve of the Congress does not affect the extension edict. However, should you meet with that wretch, read to him, and intrench yourselves within the tenth resolve in their Bill of Rights, from which the following quotation is inserted here, to support the ninth resolve, and several other parts of this address, to wit:

"All and each of which," that is to say, the rights mentioned in the nine preceding resolves, "the aforesaid Deputies, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties, which cannot be legally taken from them, altered, or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their Representatives, in their several Provincial Legislatures.

"In the course of our inquiry we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire that harmony and a mutual intercourse of


affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America."

Now, can a fair reasoner assert that, notwithstanding the declared illegality of the infringements alluded to in the preceding quotation, the declaration implies, that the Congress admitted the legal operation of any such act, till it should be repealed? That it is to be so understood, though the whole of the proceedings shows that it is feared there will be a civil war, unless they be repealed? Though the repeal he solicited, not to annul such acts, (they being all illegal, and every one of them, whether enumerated or not, being consequently null and void,) but "to restore harmony," that is, to prevent that civil war which is justly feared, unless the violences which have been already committed to enforce those unlawful, illegal, and null facts, be discontinued?

If those men who, solemnly appealing to God and the equity of mankind for the justice of our cause, declared to you and the other members of the British Nation that "to keep a Standing Army in these Colonies without our consent, is against law," had justified the least suspicion of their admitting that it was not against law to punish, without our consent, mutiny and desertion in such unlawful Standing Army: Believe me, my dear, devoted countrymen, the most iniquitous Administration that can be conceived, the present Administration itself, never would wish to obstruct their proceedings.

The Extension Act is unlawful, illegal, and null, being made to support the discipline of an unlawful Standing Army: and should a Standing Army be made lawful in any Colony, (which God avert,) the Extension Act would, nevertheless, remain unlawful, illegal, and null in that Colony, until the Legislature should have given it their local lawfulness, legality, and therefore existence. But you have no reason to fear this; for self-preservation will effectually prevent the most abandoned traitor from making a motion of that tendency in any American legislative assembly, against the safety of a people protected by the British Constitution.

Regardless of every principle of justice and policy, the British Parliament are trying against our liberty experiments which, if hazarded against the people under their immediate legislative authority, would infallibly involve Great Britain in a civil war, and might produce another revolution there. The King is vested with the supreme command of all the forces of the Nation, wherever they may be stationed; but he has no legal coercive authority any where over the soldiers or sailors, otherwise than by local laws, made from time to time, to that effect. And, as the safety of every constitutional right depends on the limitation of that authority, the other branches of the Legislature grant him but temporary acts, for maintaining the discipline of the army and navy, by coercive laws, and for restraining or enlarging the power of Courts-Martial in both these departments, within the limits of that Legislature by which they are granted.

The limited duration of those laws being as short as it appears, from occasional circumstances, to be consistent with the publick safety, the treasonable designs of Administration may be counteracted with more facility than if such laws were perpetual. After the legal expiration of those acts, the King' s lawful authority over the national forces expiring of course, can he punish, or detain any body in that service, since Courts-Martial are abolished by law, as they now are in the British Colonies? And if the King would attempt to retain them in his own service, how could he accomplish it before he had usurped an arbitrary power over the purses of the people? Could he satisfy capricious demands, which would increase in proportion to the knowledge that every man in his army and navy would have of the embarrassments of their master? No! for those salutary limitations are solely intended to preserve inviolate our rights of opening or shutting up our purses, as we think fit. They have till now prevented such usurpations, which, to exercise with safety, is the ultimate end of every other usurpation that ever was exercised by any tyrant in the world. It was but to attain that end the selfish Parliament of Great Britain have so flagitiously exceeded the limits of lawful power.


If you admit, as lawful, the extension illegally decreed by a ministerial Parliament, and machinated but as a provisional edict to insure the success of measures resolved on, relatively to the proscription of the Bostonians, and other proscriptions in petto; if you only tolerate its illegal operation any longer, the King will not experience those difficulties which would thwart his arbitrary projects in Great Britain, were his usurpations to begin there. His Parliament might pay us the compliment of renewing the extension and other temporary acts of their own sole legislation, for the sole purpose of raising a revenue to lighten their own burdens, which luxury and corruption have already prodigiously increased, and which your lameness will increase to a degree which it is now beyond the power of calculators to ascertain. But you may rest assured that, in a very short time, Administration will sport with your liberties, and, soon after, with those of the whole British Empire. The opprobrious and degrading denomination of Province, which now is but an innocent and unmeant misapplication of a foreign word adopted in our language, will significantly describe the real state of every British Colony, and, indeed, of every Shire in Great Britain and Ireland. Never forget that about two years ago a crowned miscreant compelled the states of Sweden, the Parliament of that Country, to release him from his coronation oath! His success may tempt others to commit the same sacrilege.

Our enemies are now terrified at the superiority of strength which the justice of our cause gives us over them in the present contest. They will be amazed at the effect of their flimsy artifices, if, by tolerating the extension edict, we stupidly subject ourselves to a set of men upon whom we can have no check; who, having exempted themselves and their tools from the power of our tribunals, will drag before theirs, such of us who may indicate the least inclination to a better change. Then, our disguised friends, and our open foes, united in the British Parliament, will, with iron hands and unfeeling hearts, "bind us in all cases whatsoever." We shall be in the condition of the Swedes, French, Spaniards, and most other Nations, where, now and then, an honest man may regret the loss of his natural rights, but where an attempt to recover them would be next to madness.

It will be a melancholy reflection to us, perhaps for many years, that no strictures have yet been tendered respecting the destructive tendency of the extension edict. It is expected that the tried patriotism of our ablest writers will inspire them to hold it up to publick view in its most minute circumstances. The silence now complained of dismays our friends, and secretly elates our enemies on the other side of the water; it may, in some measure, exculpate the Magistrates and Grand-Juries, who have not yet brought to justice any of the persons who are liable to be prosecuted in their respective districts for crimes committed there, under the unlawful sanction of Parliamentary edicts.

But, every such edict, or illegal act of Parliament, being void and null in law, respecting its operation amongst us, it clearly follows, that all the robberies and burglaries committed by Custom-House Officers and others, under colour of several edicts of a similar nullity; that all the murders and violences perpetrated under the directions of illegal Courts-Martial; that the oppression of the soldiers, who now are legally under the sole protection of the civil power of the British Colonies on this Continent, where they are unlawfully stationed by a despotick Administration; and that the enormities which Custom-House Officers, and illegal Courts of Admiralty or Vice-Admiralty, or which the deluded soldiery in the ministerial service, have already committed, or may hereafter commit, shall be wholly chargeable to the pusillanimous, or treasonable connivance of the Colonists themselves, if such crimes remain unnoticed by those whose sworn, and therefore whose indispensable duty it is, to bring them to light and trial.

0 my countrymen, will you cease to incur the contempt of the world? Will you no longer continue the jest of your enemies? Listen no more to trembling delinquents, who artfully whisper to you, that your Courts of Justice would quash such indictments. For God' s sake, do justice to the understanding and integrity of your Judges. Consider, and you will clearly see, that were they as corrupt as we know them to be otherwise, they


would not dare, at this juncture, to betray their iniquitous partiality. Nay, the most profligate member of our Assembly, though he could depend on the concurrence of a majority of the same corrupt principles, would not dare now to abuse representation so far as to move for a bill tending to screen, directly or indirectly, under the illusory declaration of your assent, manifested by them only, any of the obnoxious acts which the late Congress reprobated, as demonstratory of "a system formed to enslave America."

Timid well-wishers to their Country may object, that our zeal will be frustrated by an unprincipled Governour; that, not daring with a high hand to impede the prosecution of criminals, protected by himself, he will stretch prerogative even to the pardon of irremissible crimes, none of which are more so than those by which our sacred Constitution is endangered. But, may not the well known fate of a Porteus check traitors, by convincing them that they cannot always shelter themselves under the wings of prerogative? And should this prove ineffectual, our holy religion teaches us, that no worldly consideration ought to deter the just from doing his duty. Our Committees, and, what is much safer, Colonial Conventions, vested with discretionary powers, will, at last, baffle the arts of ministerial tools, and work our political salvation.

If there be amongst us a conscientious lawyer, he certainly will point out to the officers of the unlawful Standing Army, stationed in the British Colonies, the imminent danger they run by detaining soldiers in North America, under the illegal extension edict. As to pettifoggers, we know they are seduced by the prospect of a plentiful harvest, and that self-interest, not justice, determines them to act, whatever side they undertake to defend. If the Minister do not value these enough to retain them in his service for supporting the unlawful acts, they will of course rejoice at the almost innumerable actions of a civil nature which may be grounded on the local nullity of Parliamentary edicts, and commenced by soldiers for unjust detention, loss of time, and unpaid labour; or for various trespasses, unjustifiable before tribunals which follow the British system of law.

All injuries sustained by any person in this Colony, in consequence of the same unlawful sanction, may be redressed, and the same offences will be prevented for the future, if we have but sense and firmness enough to apply as we should, and where we should. It is never too late to do our duty. Let us trust the event to the omnipotent Ruler of the universe, and He will reward our perseverance.

If, through ignorance or inattention, any of you ever gave a verdict in contradiction to the fundamentals of justice; if he admitted the force of any act of Parliament to which your own Colonial laws have given no such force, that man must be very unhappy whenever he reflects on the injustice he has occasioned ; but he is guiltless — he deserves compassion. It is far different with jurymen, who knew the local nullity of acts of Parliament, and by their verdicts authorized their illegal operation. Those jurymen, and the judges who designedly suffered it — who have suppressed the warnings and instructions which they ought to have given, and strengthened with their eloquence — have been bribed. Whether hope, fear, avarice, or any other worldly motive influences such judges and jurymen — they have been bribed. They stand guilty before God and man, of willful and corrupt perjury.

Do not believe, my dear countrymen, that, infatuated as the junto may be, they hope that the Continental Association can be dissolved by the external, the seeming defection of any Colony, were it even ours, which is nearly central, and the most liable to such suspicions. A Governour may bribe the majority of an Assembly, who fancy that they represent a people not virtuous enough to exercise their rights of choosing their representatives and elective officers by ballot. Illegal warrants may be issued, and remain unquashed for a considerable time, to bewilder the bulk of the people with the innumerable doubts which, it is evident, will arise from the untried illegality of those proceedings; to intimidate and oppress, till the bench determine the question; and, in the mean while, to deter the injured from prosecuting such daring conspirators.

He may bribe a few trading justices, and seduce other sons of corruption and power, who hold, or expect to hold


magistracy or other offices during pleasure, and are as much afraid of Colonial Conventions as the Minister is of Continental Congresses. But he cannot bribe the body of the people, in whom, originally and finally, lies the sovereign power, represented for their benefit only by one single person.

All the Colonies, nay, the internal force of any single Colony, can punish a few venal officers for abusing the authority with which they are entrusted by their superiours, who are themselves subordinate to another superiour, likewise entrusted by, and (as glorious experience shows) accountable, as well as every one of his dependants, to the people at large, whether they meet in one single spot, or in their respective Districts. The patriotick spirit of the American Britons cannot be subdued. They will exercise their constitutional right to hold Conventions for their safety; a right which cannot be questioned, without openly denying the legal title of the Hanoverian line of our Kings to the British Crown. Therefore, my dear countrymen, do not basely relinquish that sacred right, when you ought to exercise it. You know that, should you be oppressed by a wicked knot of traitors, you will be delivered by your happier neighbours as soon as their assistance is required.

The arch fiend to our Constitution knows all this. The Colonies which delegated members to the late Congress, have already appalled him, that insolent, cruel, and cowardly wretch, who, a year ago, declared by his wicked trumpet, that he would not relent "till he saw you prostrate at his feet!" Your Congress made him stoop to proposals, which he well knows you will reject with disdain. He means but to divide and betray you, whom he despairs to subjugate by force. However, he will send more Troops, more indeed than he thinks it is prudent now to divulge. But it is not solely in that re-enforcement he confides. Will you believe it, my dear devoted countrymen, it is in his opinion of your folly. I shall reveal to you his grand secret — the only resource left him to extort your compliance.

Now that the vices of the Nation have reduced to a state of impotence the small portion of virtue which still remains in the British Parliament, he hopes that a superstitious reverence for that body, degenerate as it is, will continue to betray you into absurdities, and an inconsistent passiveness. He still hopes that your inattention to the extension edict will enable him at last to defeat your united forces. Your supineness justifies him in believing, and persuading his associates, that you will always tolerate the operation of that destructive edict, which is sufficient in itself to put all the others in force.

Can we, without feeling the severest stings of self-reproach, reflect on the many crimes which, since the extension act was quietly enforced, our inattention has emboldened Custom-House Officers and other sons of tyranny to commit? Oh! had criminal prosecutions been instituted in that Country where the first felony or the first degradation of human nature was committed, in defiance of our laws, and under the usurped authority of Courts-Martial, or rather, immediately after their first unwarrantable sentence was known! had soldiers been duly protected against their tyrannical masters, robberies and murders might have been prevented; our brethren at Boston could not be dragooned ; we might long ago have defied the combinations of the parricidal junto, whose aim is to destroy our Constitution! We should no longer fear their dethroning our King, and fixing his crown on the head of a race of tyrants whom a patriotick Parliament justly proscribed about ninety years ago, as irreconcilable foes to the natural rights of the British Nation! With truth and security we might tell the arch fiend, "What do you think of venal Parliaments now?"

Since no sophistry can delude an incorrupted American jury; since the joint efforts of the ministerial hirelings cannot, without our connivance, hold up before the eyes of the soldiers the veil which hides from them the knowledge of their civil rights, let us instruct those deluded victims; let us openly protect them against their oppressors. If we adopt this pacifick mode of resistance, which no political casuist who has subscribed to the Revolution creed can disapprove, the Minister may send over as many Regiments as he pleases; the intended instruments of our ruin will


but add to our strength and prosperity. As soon as they know it is against law to detain them in the Army, the ministerial army, there will be no obstacle to their desertion. Then, but not before, sycophants, paid to calumniate and betray the British Colonies, will in vain attempt to persuade the instructed and less credulous soldiers that we shall deliver them up to facilitate our reconciliation with the British Parliament, who will not hear of any proposal of accommodation, unless this, their sine qua non condition, be first complied with. If we adopt this generous measure, we shall enjoy the purest pleasure that can affect freemen — that of rescuing our fellow-creatures, our brethren, from disgraceful bondage. And if experience can teach us wisdom, we shall so cautiously grant temporary acts for preventing mutiny and desertion, should ever the safety of the British Empire make it again necessary to grant such acts, that the abominable project of reducing us into a state of slavery, by the means of a Standing Army, cannot enter the head of any future Minister.

The virtuous part of the British Officers themselves impatiently wait for this manifestation of our prudence. They will secretly rejoice, as Britons, at the mutiny and desertion of whole battalions, whatever they may do in their publick character to the contrary. And General Gage, whom his weakness and incapacity recommended to a perfidious Administration, who emulously extol his abilities, though they would not have employed him if a sensible man, of an established military reputation, had accepted the dishonourable command; that General, whom they have decorated but as a bound victim, may be brought to justice, and answer for the many crimes which his thirst of power inspired him to perpetrate, or patronize, as the most acceptable offerings which could propitiate to him his tutelar Diety at St˙ James' s.

It is not yet too late to pursue this plan of philanthropy and self-defense; but we must "exert ourselves with activity and constancy. If we lose time, the soldiers, not knowing thee local nullity of an edict made for the purpose of detaining them against law, on an unnatural service which they abhor, will be afraid of being treacherously delivered up, in case they desert. They will not cease to be awed by illegal Courts-Martial, though if they were properly instructed they would not fear, but despise, the authority usurped by those Courts; and the soldiers who have been injured by them, or by any military officer, would obtain legal redress, should they make proper application.

If we suffer them to be misled by a sacrilegious interpretation of their military, oath, from which they are released as soon as the Army is kept against law; if we scandalously forsake them, in vain shall we cry out to them in the strain of the Roman Patriot,

Whither, oh! whither do you madly run?
' Tis not that Britons, with avenging flame,
Might burn the rival of the British name;
But that the Stuarts should their vows enjoy,
And George, with impious hand, himself destroy!

When they are ordered to butcher us, and destroy our habitations, then they will not listen to us; self-preservation, and even revenge, must impel them to imbrue their hands in our blood and our destruction or slavery, attended with the curses of posterity, may be the fatal consequences of our infatuation, in neglecting to seize an opportunity to vanquish our enemies without shedding the blood of our friends.