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His Holiness the Pope, by virtue of being Christ’s Vicegerent upon earth, piously assumed to himself a right to dispose of the territories of infidels as he thought fit. And in process of time all Christian princes learned to imitate his example, very liberally giving and granting away the dominions and property of Pagan countries. They did not seem to be satisfied with the title which Christianity gave them to the next world only, but chose to infer from thence an exclusive right to this world also.
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The high prices of goods are held up, to make you dissatisfied with the non-importation. If the argument on this head were true, it would be much better to subject yourselves to that disadvantage for a time, than to bring upon yourselves all the mischiefs I have pointed out to you. Should you submit to the claim of the Parliament, you will not only be oppressed with the taxes upon your lands, etc., which I have already mentioned, but you will have to pay heavy taxes upon all the goods we import from Great Britain. Large duties will be laid upon them at home; and the merchants, of course, will have a greater price for them, or it would not be worth their while to carry on trade. The duty laid upon paper, glass, painters’ colors, etc., was a beginning of this kind. The present duty upon tea is preparatory to the imposition of duties upon all other articles. Do you think the Parliament would make such a serious matter of three pence a pound upon tea if it intended to stop there? It is absurd to imagine it. You would soon find your mistake if you did. For fear of paying a somewhat higher price to the merchants for a year or two you would have to pay an endless list of taxes, within and without, as long as you live, and your children after you.
In a single state the sovereign has the whole legislative power as well as the command of the national forces—of course an immediate control over the persons and property of the subjects; every other power is subordinate and dependent. If he undertakes to subvert the constitution, it can only be preserved by a general insurrection of the people. The magistrates of the provinces, counties, or towns into which the State is divided, having only an executive and police jurisdiction, can take no decisive measures for counteracting the first indications of tyranny; but must content themselves with the ineffectual weapon of petition and remonstrance. They cannot raise money, levy troops, nor form alliances. The leaders of the people must wait till their discontents have ripened into a general revolt, to put them in a situation to confer the powers necessary for their defence. It will always be difficult for this to take place; because the sovereign, possessing the appearance and forms of legal authority, having the forces and revenues of the state at his command, and a large party among the people besides—which with those advantages he can hardly fail to acquire—he will too often be able to baffle the first motions of the discontented, and prevent that union and concert essential to the success of their opposition.
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What you say concerning the lumber exported from Canada is totally false. That country labors under many inconveniences which have hitherto prevented the exportation of that article, but in very small quantities, and of a particular kind. The places where the lumber grows are so far distant from the seaports that the expense of transportation is too great to make it worth while to ship any other than butt staves, and these must be brought quite from Lake Champlain. This disadvantage, together with the number of hands it would require, and the time necessary to enter extensively into any branch of trade, and to remove all the impediments naturally in the way, would render the situation of the West Indies truly pitiable, were they once necessitated to depend upon Canada only, for supplies of lumber.
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We do not expect, nor require, that all should depend upon our integrity or generosity, but only a part; and this, every rule of equity entitles us to. We have assented to the exercise of a power which gives a certainty to Great Britain of a vast annual income; any further aids that may be necessary ought to be intrusted to our fidelity. When the circumstances of two parties will not admit of precise boundaries to the duty of each, it is not a dictate of justice to put one entirely into the power of the other. If the mother country would desist from grasping at too much, and permit us to enjoy the privileges of freemen, interest would concur with duty, and lead us to the performance of it. We should be sensible of the advantages of a mutual intercourse and connection, and should esteem the welfare of Britain as the best security for our own. She may, by kind treatment, secure our attachment in the powerful bands of self-interest. This is the conduct that prudence and sound policy point out; but, alas! to her own misfortune as well as ours, she is blind and infatuated.
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The attention of Great Britain has hitherto been constantly awake to expand her commerce. She has been vigilant to explore every region with which it might be her interest to trade. One of the principal branches of her commerce is with the colonies. These colonies, as they are now settled and peopled, have been the work of near two centuries. They are blessed with every advantage of soil, climate, and situation. They have advanced with an almost incredible rapidity. It is, therefore, an egregious piece of absurdity to affirm, that the loss of our trade would be felt for a time (which must only signify for a short time). No new schemes could be pursued that would not require, at least, as much time to repair the loss of our trade, as was spent in bringing it to its present degree of perfection, which is near two centuries. Nor can it be reasonably imagined, that the total and sudden loss of so extensive and lucrative a branch would not produce the most violent effects to a nation that subsists entirely upon its commerce.