A letter from Samuel Adams which applies to today

Posted by  $  blarman 1 month, 1 week ago to History
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Found this while going through some other items. What is interesting is that this document was written prior to the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence, but its arguments come directly from Locke and exhibit a moral claim to the rights of Englishmen under the English Constitution.
SOURCE URL: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/mass_circ_let_1768.asp


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  • Posted by Dobrien 1 month, 1 week ago
    I particularly liked this argument

    Therefore, his Majesty's American subjects, who acknowledge themselves bound by the ties of allegiance, have an equitable claim to the full enjoyment of the fundamental rules of the British constitution; that it is an essential, unalterable right in nature, engrafted into the British constitution, as a fundamental law, and ever held sacred and irrevocable by the subjects within the realm, that what a man has honestly acquired 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 and subjects, assert this natural and constitutional right.
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    • Posted by  $  1 month, 1 week ago
      Agreed. This was the one which stuck out to me as well. I'm sure that had he been around Sam Adams would have been vociferously opposed to the Sixteenth Amendment.
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  • Posted by ewv 1 month, 1 week ago
    It's commonly understood that the American colonists saw themselves as British, and that the revolution was originally conceived as on behalf of natural rights of Englishmen they thought they already had under Enlightenment principles common in Britain.

    Even as late as the Declaration the general conception was of a revolt based on commonly accept ideas against a particular government violating the rights they believed they had already had and had been living under. The ideas for the form of the limited constitutional government protecting those rights came later.

    Carl Becker, in his 1922 The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas, wrote:

    "[t]he strength of the Declaration was precisely that it said what everyone was thinking. Nothing could have been more futile than an attempt to justify a revolution on principles which no one had ever heard of before." (p24)

    and

    "So far as the 'Fathers' were, before 1776, directly influenced by particular writers, the writers were English, notably Locke. Most Americans had absorbed Locke's works as a kind of political gospel; and the Declaration, in its form, its phraseology, follows closely certain sentences in Locke's second treatise on government." (p.26)

    and

    "It was Locke's conclusion that seemed to the colonists sheer common sense, needing no argument at all. Locke did not need to convince the colonists because they were already convinced; and they were already convinced because they had long been living under governments which did, in a rough and ready way, conform to the kind of government for which Locke furnished a reasoned foundation." (p.72)

    Becker quotes from a 1764 pamphlet, The Rights of the Colonies Examined, on the commonly accepted principle that colonies have "as much freedom as the mother state", by Stephen Hopkins (who later signed the Declaration) and Thomas Hutchinson (who later became a self-exiled loyalist). (p.82)

    There is much more on the pre-revolutionary period in Bernard Bailyn's 1967 The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.

    That common understanding and emphasis on natural rights is what is missing today.
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  • Posted by philosophercat 1 month, 1 week ago
    The wonder of Samuel Adams:
    His words: "therefore, exclusive of any consideration of charter rights, with a decent firmness, adapted to the character of free men and subjects, assert this natural and constitutional right.".
    In this sentence is the age of reason and the confidence of being responsible for one's self and sovereignty: these are the heritage of JOhn Locke but the character is pure Sam Adams. The statue of Sam in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston says simply, "He Caused the Revolution" Locke's principles with the confident force of Adam's wisdom and character gave us freedom and we will never know his like again until reason once more becomes an age.
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 month, 1 week ago
    Avalon is a great resource. I use it often.They have original documents going back millennia. All of the colonial charters, etc., are there, of course. The thing with this is that the colonies were LONG interested in independence and they had a lot of practice writing charters. There is a compact between several of them from about 1680 for common defense.

    I learned in a high school history class that the "American Revolution" took place in the minds of the people between 1753 and 1767. The War for Independence was a consequence of that.

    Do you know the PINE TREE SHILLINGS? Massachusetts used a fake date when the throne was empty to continue striking their own coins, normally a royal perogative. http://amhistory.si.edu/coins/printab...

    Also, Massachusetts invaded and captured MAINE, a French colony.They always thought of themselves as an independent nation... or at least some people did...
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    • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 month, 1 week ago
      Me dino still laughing at the reason behind placing 1652 on the Pine Tree Shilling.
      Such was the stuff of The American Spirit way back when before it began to be choked off.
      Modern Massachusetts, what did you do to yourself?
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    • Posted by  $  1 month, 1 week ago
      Man, sounds like your American History class actually taught you something useful. I didn't benefit from the same in my public schooling and now I'm learning all kinds of things that should have been taught to me in the first place.

      Thanks very much for sharing and feel free to start your own thread on the Shillings. That was pretty cool. Massachusetts has a lot of colonial history worth reviewing in my book.
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  • Posted by Casebier 1 month, 1 week ago
    All revolutions, whether for good or ill, grow from those of strong will and intellect in response to repression. Had the crown been responsive to the reasonable demands of its American jewel, we probably could have remained part of the United Kingdom for another century or more. Canada became independent in 1867, and probably would have remained longer had it not been adjacent to an independent United States. Australia became independent in 1901, New Zealand in 1907, India and Pakistan in 1847, and its 70+ other smaller colonies were all granted independence during the 20th century.
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    • Posted by  $  1 month, 1 week ago
      One note: I think you meant 1947 for independence of India and Pakistan. ;) Several regiments of Indian regulars fought as British Troops during WW II. I would also point out that Pakistan broke off from what was originally India due to religious differences (Indians were predominantly Sikh or Hindu while those in the Pakistani regions were predominantly Muslim). Those religious differences still present real problems even today, especially in the disputed Kashmere region. What is scarier is that both nations have nuclear weapons.
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      • Posted by Casebier 1 month, 1 week ago
        You're correct - the 1847 was a typo. Should have been 1947. You are also correct that India and Pakistan were one country (British India) until they split apart and were simultaneously granted independence from the 1947 UK Parliament's India Independence Act that dissolved the British Raj. India became the Republic of India, and Pakistan the Republic of Pakistan which in 1947 also included what would later become Bangladesh. One of the more interesting aspects of the act is that it left to India's former 570 "Princely States" their ability to each determine their futures to be independent states or join either India or Pakistan, whereupon all but a handful immediately acceded to India. Of those that didn't, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir and Jammu which border both countries, initially elected to remain independent but when the Pakistani army invaded, occupied and claimed for Pakistan their northern areas, they joined India 2 months later in October 1947 to get Indian troops to repel the invasion. The dividing line between what was taken by Pakistan in 1947 and what was then acceded to India is still in dispute 70 years later, and has been the firing pin for almost every India-Pakistan and Hindu-Muslim bloody conflict that has occurred since. The only other 2 remaining Princely States also joined India in 1948, one after a referendum of its citizens, and the other following a revolt of its Hindu majority against its Muslim ruler that precipitated an Indian invasion.
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