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Salus Populi to the People of North-America



I beg leave to lay before you such objects as, if properly attended to, will enable you to secure that to your offspring, for which you at present contend, and put it out of the power of any set of men, however cunning and ambitious, to rise into power and importance at your expense. The subject which I propose to discuss, however ill qualified, is of very great consequence to America; it being impossible to make the best of our present advantages, unless old prejudices are effectually removed.

I wish it to be examined with care, and received, with impartiality; as truth is my object, and the happiness of mankind, without regard to sect, party, province, or district, the end of my labour.

Pure Monarchy is that form of Government which is framed for the exaltation of the Prince alone, and his interest and grandeur are of primary consideration; the people are only of consequence so far as their welfare is involved in his. The grand monarch is the only being known to the Constitution; who, like the Divinity, (pardon the comparison,) derives every power from himself; from whom the other members of the community derive every privilege they possess, and on whose will they depend for their continuance. Aristocracy divides all the privileges of the State among the grandees of the nation; and constituting them the sole legislators and executors, lodges all power in their hands; Oligarchy distributes the powers of Government into a few hands, who are generally the leaders of so many factions, which exist in the State. In all these forms the people are but of small, if of any consideration, and the farther they diverge from pure Monarchy, the more intolerable they become. Popular Government — sometimes termed Democracy, Republick, or Commonwealth — is the plan of civil society wherein the community at large takes the care of its own welfare, and manages its concerns by representatives elected by the people, out of their own body.

Seeing the happiness of the people is the true end of Government; and it appearing by the definition, that the popular form is the only one which has this for its object; it may be worth inquiring into the causes which have prevented its success in the world. In this inquiry it would ill become us to sit down contented with the accounts given by Royal ambassadors, or men of ambition, who can never arrive to the height they aspire to in a Republick. With such men, it is impossible for a Commonwealth to confer happiness on its members. Were they honestly to investigate the subject, perhaps they would alter their opinions. The necessity of mutual defence first gave rise to social connections, which were, consequently, of the military kind. Thus very great distinctions between the members of the same community were incorporated into the very Constitution of the State, and formed an insuperable obstacle to a perfect Republick. Every nation which has hitherto attempted to set up a Republick, entered on the measure too late. They were the convulsed remains of some Government erected upon military principles; and finding it hard to content those with the simple rights of freemen who were once possessed of all power, they too easily gave way to claims of a superior nature, whereby, they admitted an interest separate and distinct from, and inconsistent with, the general welfare of the people. This interest forever clashing with that of the community, produced continual confusions, until the people, wearied out with the struggle, gave up to the aristocratical party, or blindly following some popular leader, in confidence of his attachment to their interest gave all power into his hands, which generally ended in tyranny.

The inexperience of mankind was another cause of the decay of popular Governments. Being unacquainted with legislative representation, established on the principles of a free, uninfluenced, and general election, they met in large and, consequently, tumultuous assemblies. This gave ambitious


and designing men, to whom such a form of Government is always unfavourable, great opportunities of breeding disturbance, and creating factions, which generally terminate in its dissolution. Besides this manner of conducting publick affairs, not suiting extensive dominion, the privileges of the society were continually confined to the precincts of the capital; and as soon as their territories extended beyond these bounds, slavery took place; which, inducing the necessity of standing armies, laid a foundation for overturning itself. The feuds and animosities attendant on this mode of managing publick affairs, gave great opportunities to those whose ambitious designs were incompatible with the good of the society, to bring it into dislike and contempt. Far from trying to remedy any defects in the system, or to put an end to factions and disturbances, they used their utmost abilities and cunning to heighten the old, or excite new; until the minds of the people were so torn to pieces and worn out by feuds and confusions, that they were ready to submit to anything which could relieve them from their unhappy situation. Then artfully charging the troubles themselves had occasioned to the fault of the Constitution, they easily obtained such a change in its form as was more favourable to their designs.

Political writers, either mistaking the true causes of the uneasinesses which are found in ancient popular Governments, or willing to make court to Princes, have greatly contributed to bring the Republican forms of Government into discredit. This has been carried to such a length with many, that the mentioning a Democracy constantly excites in them the idea of anarchy; and few, except such as have emancipated themselves from the shackles of political bigotry and prejudice, can talk of it with patience, and hearken to anything offered in its defence.

One or all of the foregoing causes have, to one time or other, contributed to the destruction of Republicks; but of all others, the first has done most. Where two or more separate interests exist in a Government, there contention will remain until one becomes master. A nation must consist of all Kings, all nobles, or all simple freemen, to prevent such confusions, and preserve its privileges. Every attentive reader of history must perceive this. The history of the Roman Commonwealth, abating for its foreign wars, is little else but a relation of feuds, factions, and animosities, occasioned by the existence of a rank of nobles, whose interest was unconnected with the plebeians. They formed schemes, and adopted plans, to balance the powers, and reconcile the interests of these two ranks. But all to no purpose; tyranny at last destroyed them both. The irreconcilableness of these two interests did more to prevent the formation of a Republick in Great Britain, than all the ambition of a Cromwell; and, if I mistake not, Ludlow, in his Memoirs, charges its failure to this cause alone. Where no King is, that body must enjoy his power, or be annihilated: they must and will hang together. To a man of reflection, this will readily appear, and fully explain the reasons why a Parliament that dethroned a King, voted a House of Lords useless. They will be an everlasting plague to the society which has not a King; for they will always be aiming at kingly authority. And where there is a King, their dignity and consequence will flow from him, and they will be his tools, if he makes no attack on their peculiar privileges.

Two or more distinct interests can never exist in society, without finally destroying the liberties of the people. The best plans will fail in accomplishing this, until mankind shall have learned to do to others as they would be done unto. The whole wisdom of the British nation, at a time when its virtue and wisdom was at the highest, exerted its utmost efforts to form a perfect plan of political freedom, and to preserve and secure the rights of the three distinct classes, of King, Lords, and Commons; and it was thought they had effected it; but later experience has proved the contrary. The Crown of Great Britain is now as absolute in the legislature as the Crown of France, and were it not for the Habeas Corpus Act, and Trial by Jury, the consequences of offending it would be full as fatal.

Kings and nobles are artificial beings, for whose emolument civil society was never intended; and notwithstanding they have had the good fortune to escape general censure from the world, yet I will boldly affirm that nine-tenths of all the publick calamities which ever befell mankind, were brought on by their means. The protest which the Almighty


entered against Kings, when the Jews demanded one, shows in what estimation they are held by the Divinity. Point me out the King that does not verify the description, and I will begin to suspect the divinity of the Bible. Wicked Kings and Governours make up the history of the Old Testament, and the chief part of the labour of the Prophets was to keep them within bounds. It is thought to be vastly in favour of Kings, that we are commanded to pray for them; but if the nature or design of prayer were attended to, it would certainly make against them. If the wickedest of men stand most in need of prayers, it is no wonder that so many clergymen are continually sending up petitions for Kings; but it is certainly much against them that all these prayers do them so little good.

Mankind never suffered so much during the existence of a Republick as they have suffered in the short reigns of many Kings. A Harry VIII. did more mischief to his subjects than any Republick ever did to its members, notwithstanding they were so illy constituted. But the true principles of republicanism are at present so well understood, and the mode of conducting such a Government so simple and easy, and America so fit for its reception, that a dozen of wise heads and honest hearts might, in one day, form a plan for the United Colonies which would as much excel any one now existing, as the British Constitution does that of Caffraria.

When I seriously consider this, and take a survey of the state of civil Government throughout the world, the modes whereby they acquired their present forms, and the causes which gave rise to them, I cannot help cherishing a secret hope that God has destined America to form the last and best plan that can possibly exist; and that he will gradually carry those who have long been under the galling yoke of tyranny in every other quarter of the globe, into the bosom of perfect liberty and freedom in America. Were the great men of the present day, and all those who choose to interfere in publick affairs, only to set before them the Godlike pleasure of conferring the most lasting and complete state of happiness human nature is capable of, in a state of civil society, on millions yet unborn, and the eternal reward which must attend the doing so much good; I cannot help thinking but contracted views, partial interest, and party factions, would sink under, and yield to considerations of so greatly superior a nature.

Few opportunities have ever been offered to mankind of framing an entire Constitution of Government, upon equitable principles. All modem authors on this subject agree, that mankind are entitled to freedom by birth, and that they are independent of, and on a level with, each other when they enter into society. This being the case, it is evident that where great distinctions exist in a community before its Constitution is formed, its members do not enter on equally advantageous terms; and it will be difficult, if not impossible to frame an equitable plan. Rome had her Patres, and Patres Conscripti, before she attempted it; and the consequence was, an eternal clashing of interest, which kept their Constitution so fluctuating, that they never could be said to have anything permanent, but their hatred to Kings; and this was the only stable principle which preserved the Commonwealth as long as it lasted.

Whenever any rank in society is invested with more than an equal share of the privileges and powers of that society, it must be at the expense of the other ranks. Men, naturally on a level, ought to remain so by the constitution of the society, if they will secure the liberty and welfare of the community, and every civil and necessary distinction, as that of legislator and magistrate; and the other civil officers should be so settled as never to remain long in one family, otherwise it will end in the enslaving of that people. All natural distinctions — such as weak and strong, wise and foolish; and every accidental or adventitious one — such as learned or unlearned, rich and poor; may safely exist in the community, without interrupting its peace and felicity; but every family distinction which a society creates, will finally prove destructive to that society. Princes of the blood, Princes of the empire, and Peers of the realm, ever have been, are now, and ever will be, the convenient and necessary tools of Royal tyrants, scattered up and down the community, for the more ready accomplishing his will who created them. All political distinctions ought to be the gift of the free people at large, and continually to revert to them at the


end of the political year, to be renewed or otherwise, as they shall think proper.

Almost every civil Constitution now existing in the world is partly the spurious offspring of some former very defective one. Perhaps America is the only country in the world wholly free from all political impediments, at the very time they are under the necessity of framing a civil Constitution. Having no rank above that of freemen, she has but one interest to consult, and that interest, (blessed be God for it,) is the true and only interest of men as members of society.