Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams: Massachusetts Circular Letter, February 11, 1768


The House of Representatives of this Province have taken into their serious consideration, the great difficulty that must accrue to themselves & their Constituents, by the operation of several acts of Parliament imposing Duties & Taxes on the American Colonys.

As it is a Subject in which every Colony is deeply interested they have no reason to doubt but your Assembly is deeply impressd with its Importance & that such constitutional measures will be come into as are proper. It seems to be necessary, that all possible Care should be taken, that the Representations of the several Assembly upon so delicate a point, should harmonize with each other: The House therefore hope that this letter will be candidly considerd in no other Light, than as expressing a Disposition freely to communicate their mind to a Sister Colony, upon a common Concern in the same manner as they would be glad to receive the Sentiments of your or any other House of Assembly on the Continent.

The House have humbly represented to the ministry, their own Sentiments that His Majestys high Court of Parliament is the supreme legislative Power over the whole Empire: That in all free States the Constitution is fixd; & as the supreme Legislative derives its Power & Authority from the Constitution, it cannot overleap the Bounds of it without destroying its own foundation: That the Constitution ascertains & limits both Sovereignty & allegiance, & therefore, his Majestys American Subjects who acknowledge themselves bound by the Ties of Allegiance, have an equitable Claim to the full enjoymt of the fundamental Rules of the British Constitution. That it is an essential unalterable Right in nature, ingrafted into the British Constitution, as a fundamental Law & ever held sacred & irrevocable by the Subjects within the Realm, that what a man has honestly acquird is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but cannot be taken from him without his consent: That the American Subjects may therefore exclusive of any Consideration of Charter Rights, with a decent firmness adapted to the Character of free men & Subjects assert this natural and constitutional Right.

It is moreover their humble opinion, which they express with the greatest Deferrence to the Wisdom of the Parliament that the Acts made there imposing Duties on the People of this province with the sole & express purpose of raising a Revenue, are Infringments of their natural & constitutional Rights because as they are not represented in the British Parliamt His Majestys Commons in Britain by those Acts grant their Property without their consent.

This House further are of Opinion that their Constituents considering their local Circumstances cannot by any possibility be represented in the Parliament, & that it will forever be impracticable that they should be equally represented there & consequently not at all; being seperated by an Ocean of a thousand leagues: and that his Majestys Royal Predecessors for this reason were graciously pleasd to form a subordinate legislature here that their subjects might enjoy the unalienable Right of a Representation. Also that considering the utter Impracticability of their ever being fully & equally represented in parliamt, & the great Expence that must unavoidably attend even a partial representation there, this House think that a taxation of their Constituents, even without their Consent, grievous as it is, would be preferable to any Representation that could be admitted for them there.

Upon these principles, & also considering that were the right in Parliament ever so clear, yet, for obvious reasons it wd be beyond the rules of Equity that their Constituents should be taxed on the manufactures of Great Britain here, in Addition to the dutys they pay for them in England, & other Advantages arising to G Britain from the Acts of trade, this House have preferrd a humble dutifull & loyal Petition to our most gracious Sovereign, & made such Representations to his Majestys Ministers, as they apprehended wd tend to obtain redress.

They have also submitted to Consideration whether any People can be said to enjoy any degree of Freedom if the Crown in addition to its undoubted Authority of constituting a Govr, should also appoint him such a Stipend as it may judge proper without the Consent of the people & at their Expence; and whether while the Judges of the Land & other Civil officers hold not their Commission during good Behavior, their having salarys appointed for them by the Crown independent of the people hath not a tendency to subvert the principles of Equity & endanger the Happiness & Security of the Subject.

In addition to these measures the House have wrote a Letter to their Agent, Mr De Berdt, the Sentiments of wch he is directed to lay before the ministry: wherein they take Notice of the hardships of the Act for preventing Mutiny & Desertion, which requires the Govr & Council to provide enumerated Articles for the Kings marching troops & the People to pay the Expences; & also of the Commission of the Genn appointed Commissioners of the Customs to reside in America, which authorizes them to make as many Appointments as they think fit & to pay the Appointees what sum they please, for whose Mal Conduct they are not accountable--from whence it may happen that officers of the Crown may be multiplyd to such a degree as to become dangerous to the Liberty of the people by Virtue of a Commission which doth not appear to this House to derive any such Advantages to Trade as many have been led to expect.

These are the Sentiments & proceedings of this House; & as they have too much reason to believe that the Enemys of the Colonys have represented them to his Majestys Ministers & the parlt as factious disloyal & having a disposition to make themselves independent of the Mother Country, they have taken occasion in the most humble terms to assure his Majesty & his ministers that with regard to the People of this province & as they doubt not of all the colonies the charge is unjust.

The house is fully satisfyd that your Assembly is too generous and enlargd in sentiment, to believe, that this Letter proceeds from an Ambition of taking the Lead or dictating to the other Assemblys: They freely submit their opinions to the Judgment of others, & shall take it kind in your house to point out to them any thing further which may be thought necessary.

This House cannot conclude without expressing their firm Confidence in the King our common head & Father, that the united & dutifull Supplications of his distressd American Subjects will meet with his royal & favorable Acceptance.