Saturday, September 10, 2011

John Quincy Adams, 1839 -- remarks on the 50th Anniversary of the Constitution

“She had established an uncontested monopoly of the commerce of all her colonies.  But forgetting all the warnings of preceding ages—forgetting the lessons written in the blood of her own children, through centuries of departed time, she undertook to tax the people of the colonies without their consent.

“Resistance, instantaneous, unconcerted, sympathetic, inflexible resistance like an electric shock startled and roused the people of all the English colonies on this continent.  This was the first signal of the North American Union.  The struggle was for chartered rights—for English liberties—for the cause of Algernon Sidney and John Hambden—for trial by jury—the Habeas Corpus and Magna Charta.  But the English lawyers had decided that Parliament was omnipotent—and Parliament in their omnipotence, instead of trial by jury and the Habeas Corpus, enacted admiralty courts in England to try Americans for offences charged against them as committed in America—instead of the privileges of Magna Charta, nullified the charter itself of Massachusetts Bay; shut up the port of Boston; sent armies and navies to keep the peace, and teach the colonies that John Hambden was a rebel, and Algernon Sidney a traitor.  English liberties had failed them.  From the omnipotence of Parliament the colonists appealed to the rights of man and the omnipotence of the God of battles.  Union! Union! was the instinctive and simultaneous cry throughout the land.  Their Congress, assembled at Philadelphia, once—twice had petitioned the king; had remonstrated to Parliament; had addressed the people of Britain, for the rights of Englishmen—in vain.  Fleets and armies, the blood of Lexington, and the fires of Charlestown and Falmouth, had been the answer to petition, remonstrance and address.  Independence was declared.  The colonies were transformed into States.  Their inhabitants were proclaimed to be one people, renouncing all allegiance to the British crown; all co-patriotism with the British nation; all claims to chartered rights as Englishmen.  Thenceforth their charter was the Declaration of Independence.  Their rights, the natural rights of mankind.  Their government, such as should be instituted by themselves, under the solemn mutual pledges of perpetual union, founded on the self-evident truths proclaimed in the Declaration.”

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