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insured to our ancestors the right to partake of its protection, its remedial justice, and its extensive blessings. It is a well-settled doctrine of that law, that, if an uninhabited country is discovered and planted by British subjects, the laws of England, so far as they are applicable, are there held immediately in force ; for, in all such cases, the subjects, wherever they go, carry those laws with them. This doctrine has been adopted, to save the subjects, in such desert places, from being left in a state of utter insecurity, from the want of all laws to govern them, and from being thus reduced to a mere state of nature. On the contrary, where new countries are obtained by cession or conquest, a different rule exists. The Crown has the sole and exclusive right to abrogate the existing laws, and to prescribe, what new laws shall
prevail there ; although, until the pleasure of the Crown is made known, the former laws are deemed to remain in force. Attempts were made to hold the American Colonies to be in this latter predicament, that is, to be territories ceded by or conquered from the Indians. But the pretension was always indignantly ropelled ; and it was insisted, that the sole claim of England thereto being founded on the mere title of discovery, the colonists brought thither all the laws of the parent country, which were applicable to their situation.
§ 17. We may thus see, in a clear light, the manner, in which the common law was first introduced into the Colonies, and also be better enabled to understand the true nature and reason of the exceptions to it, which are to be found in the laws and usages of the different Colonies. The general basis was the same in all the Colonies. But the entire system was not introduced into any one Colony, but only such portions of it, as were adapted to its own wants, and were applicable to its own situation. Hence the common law can hardly be affirmed to have been exactly, in all respects, the same in all the Colonies. Each Colony selected for itself, and judged for itself, what was most consonant to its institutions, and best adapted to its civil and political arrangements ; and, while the main principles were every where the same, there were endless minute usages and local peculiarities, in which they differed from each other.
$ 18. Thus limited and defined by the colonists themselves, in its actual application, the common law became the guardian of their civil and political rights ; it protected their infant liberties ; it watched over their maturer growth ; it expanded with their wants ; it nourished in them that spirit of independence, which checked the first approaches of arbitrary power; it enabled them to triumph in the midst of dangers and difficulties ; and by the good providence of God, we, their descendants, are now enjoying, under its bold and manly principles, the blessings of a free and enlightened administration of public justice.
§ 19. Having made these preliminary observations, we may now advance to the consideration of the political state of the Colonies at the time of the Revolution ; and trace its origin and causes. The natural inquiries here are ; What, at this period, were their admitted rights and prerogatives ? What were their civil and political relations with the parent country? To what extent were they dependent upon the parent country? What were the limits of the sovereignty, which either Parliament, or the King, might rightfully exercise over them? These are questions of deep importance ; but they are more easily put, than answered. A full explanation of them is incompatible with the narrow limits prescribed to the present work; but a brief summary of some of the leading views may not be without use.
Origin of the Revolution.
$ 20. The Colonies, at the time of the Revolution, considered themselves, not as parcel of the realm of Great Britain, but as dependencies of the British Crown, and owing allegiance thereto, the King being their su
preme and sovereign lörd. In virtue of this supremacy, the King exercised the right of hearing appeals from the decisions of the courts of the last resort in the Colonies ; of deciding controversies between the Colonies as to their respective jurisdictions and boundaries ; and of requiring each Colony to conform to the fundamental laws and constitution of its own establishment, and to yield due obedience in all matters belonging to the paramount sovereignty of the Crown.
$ 21. Although the Colonies had a common origin and common right, and owed a common allegiance, and the inhabitants of all of them were British subjects, they rad no direct political connection with each other. Each colony was independent of the others ; and there was no confederacy or alliance between them. The legislature of one could not make laws for another, nor confer privileges to be enjoyed in another. They were also excluded from all political connection with foreign nations ; and they followed the fate and fortunes of the parent country in peace and in war. Still the colonists were not wholly alien to each other. On the contrary, they were fellow subjects, and, for many purposes, one people. Every colonist had a right to inhabit
, if he pleased, in any other Colony ; to trade therewith ; and to inherit and hold lands there.
$ 22. The nature and extent of their dependency upon the parent country is not so easily stated; or, rather, it was left in more uncertainty ; the claims on either side not being always well defined, nor clearly acquiesced in. The Colonies claimed exclusive authority to legislate on all subjects of local and internal interest and policy. But they did not deny the right of Parliament to regulate their foreign commerce, and their other external concerns, or to legislate upon the common interests of the whole empire. On the other hand, the Crown claimed a right to ex ercise many of its prerogatives in the Colonies; and the British Parliament, although it practically interfered little with their internal affairs, yet theoretically maintained the right to legislate over them in all cases whatsoever.
§ 23. As soon as any systematic effort was made by
the British Parliament practically to exert over the Colonies the power of internal legislation and taxation, as was attempted by the Stamp Act, in 1765, it was boldly resisted ; and it brought on the memorable controversy, which terminated in their Independence, first asserted by them in 1776, and finally admitted by Great Britain by the Treaty of 1783. At an early period of that contro rersy, the first Continental Congress, in 1774, drew up
d unanimously adopted a declaration of the rights of ne Colonies, the substance of which is as follows: (1., That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property ; and they have never ceded to any sovereign power, whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent. (2.) That our ancestors, who first settled the Colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects within the realm of England. (3.) That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights; but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enioy. (4.) That the foundation of English liberty is a right in the people
to participate in their legislative councils; and as the English colonists are not represented, and, from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented, in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial assemblies, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed. But from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interests of both countries, they cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British Parliament, as are bonâ fide restrain ed to the regulation of their external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members, excluding every action of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent. (5.) That the respective Colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially, the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law, (meaning the trial by jury.) (6.) That the Colonies are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes, as existed at the time of their colonization, and which they have, by experience, respectively found applicable to their several local and other circumstances. (7.) That they are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured to them by their several codes of provincial law. (8.) That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the King; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal. (9.) That the keeping of a standing army in these Colonies in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that Colony, in which such army is kept, is against law. (10.) That it is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other ; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several Colonies by a Council appointed during pleasure by the Crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.
$ 24. Such is, in substance, the Bill of Rights claim ed in behalf of all the Colonies by the Continental Congress, the violation of which, constituted the main grounds, upon
which the American Revolution was founded ; and the grievances, under which the Colonies labored, being persisted in by the British government, a resort to arms became unavoidable. The result of the contest is well known, and has been already stated ; and it belongs to the department of history, and not of constitutional law, 10 enumerate the interesting events of that period.