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act of independent legislation, like the adoption of an organic law as a State, than by any new form of declaring personal rights or the popular will. In 1767 and in 1774, laws against the slave trade and slavery had been passed by the Legislature, which were defeated by the Governors acting under instructions from home, – both Governors Hutchinson and Gage refusing, for that reason, to sign such bills. This is what the counsel for the slave in the case of Quork alluded to, when they insisted that slavery had always been opposed here “in the General Court, the courts of justice, and elsewhere.” And this is further illustrated by the fact, that while the New Hampshire courts, construing a similar provision in the Constitution of that State, are said to have adopted the views contended for by the counsel for the master in the case in our courts, viz., that it only emancipated such as were born after its adoption, our courts made no such distinction, but held the declaration as of universal application. Nor could this have been done hastily or unadvisedly. Both of the counsel for the slave, though neither of those for the master, and one of the Judges of the Inferior Court and all the Judges of the Superior Court who sat in the case, as well as the Chief Justice, had themselves been members of the Convention which formed the Constitution, and must have understood the intention of its framers upon a subject that had so often and so recently been agitating the public mind. And their decision assumes a more than ordinarily authoritative character, inasmuch as it utters not only a judgment founded upon the language of that instrument, but speaks the sentiment which dictated that language itself. And I may perhaps be pardoned in alluding to one other point, in this discussion, of the binding obligation of the laws of slavery; and that is, this early and most marked resort to the “higher law,” as it has been called in modern phrase. No more direct appeal to such a law could well be made, than that in which eminent counsel indulged, in this language I have quoted, in connection with the paramount obligation of the Constitution, in the formation of 4TH s.—Vol. Iv. 44
which he had taken a part, and in the presence of judges who had shared with him in that office. In conclusion I have only to add, that I have been induced to present these original memoranda of this cause, in connection with the circumstances under which it arose and was decided, that the true relation which our fathers held to slavery in Massachusetts, might be understood, and not from any wish to utter a word upon a subject which could add to the excitement which it has already awakened. It is simply the detail of an historic fact, which it is due to the historic fame of Massachusetts, should be fully known and understood. If it does no more, it shows that descendants of Africans had the rights of free citizens in Massachusetts, years before the Constitution of the United : States had been framed, or even conceived of; and history would confirm the position, that many of this very class voted as citizens, upon the election of the members of the Convention which adopted it, and in that may have been the means of securing its adoption.
LETTE R S OF TH O M A S CUSHING,
The following letters of Thomas Cushing are printed from the originals in the archives of the Society. “He was sent representative from his native town for a number of years, and, A. D. 1763, when the Governor negatived Mr. Otis, who had been chosen Speaker, he was elected in his place; and he continued to fill the chair, till he was chosen one of the members of the Congress which met at Philadelphia, 1774.”—Eliot's Biographical Dictionary. R. F., J.R.
Boston, Jan. 17, 1767. SIR, I now inclose you four depositions relative to the interruption our fishery has met with on the coast of Labrador, in addition to those sent before, which will be a further confirmation of the conduct of Commodore Palliser, with respect to our American vessels.
I am, in behalf of the House of Representatives, your
most humble servant, THOMAS CUSHING, Speaker. To Dennys De Berdt, Esq.
Boston, May 9th, 1767. SIR, Your letters of the 10th January and 14th February last, directed to the Speaker, have been duly received, and will be communicated to the House as soon as the Court meets. I am glad to find the representation of the difficulties our trade labors under was drawn in such a manner as to be agreeable, and hope through the interest of Lord Shelburne, you will be able to obtain the necessary relief. We have had a variety of accounts relative to troops being sent to America; some to be stationed at New York and some at Boston. Anonymous letters have been sent from your side the water to gentlemen of character here, threatening this very hard, in order, I take it, to create an uneasiness among the people. I have, therefore, in order to quiet their minds, taken the liberty to publish an extract of your letter, and hope it will have a good tendency. A strict union and harmony betwixt Great Britain and her Colonies, is what is much desired by the people here, and ought by all means to be promoted and maintained. Reason, religion, duty and interest dictate this. It can never be violated without mutual destruction. It is with concern observed by the discerning here, that some, on both sides of the water, are and have been endeavoring, on the one hand, to represent the Colonies as setting up for independency, as turbulent, factious and disloyal; and on the other hand, are insinuating to the people here, as if those at [the] helm on your side the water were disposed to treat the Colonies with severity, and to deprive them of their most invaluable rights and privileges ; in short, it seems [the] design of some people, to set us at variance, and engage us [. | hostilities with one another. May the Supreme Ruler of the Universe defeat the designs of these enemies to Great Britain and the Colonies; may he give wisdom and steadiness to the present Administration, and dispose the people here to such a dutiful behavior and conduct, as will prove the falsehood of all such idle suggestions, and convince the Ministry of their affection to their mother country, and of their loyalty to the King. It would be a fatal thing for us to get into a state of disaffection. Nothing would have so direct a tendency to bring us into such a state, as sending troops here, to enforce acts of Parliament; nothing would so soon throw the people into a flame. No one measure I could think of, would so effectually drive them into resolutions, which in the end would prove detrimental to Great Britain. I mean, living as much as possible within ourselves, and using as few as possible of your manufactures. It would discover such a want of confidence in the duty and loyalty of the people, as would occasion great disgust.
As to imposing duties, so long as they are confined to the regulation of trade, and so conducted as to be of equal advantage to all parts of the empire, no great exception could be taken to it; but when duties are laid with a view of raising a revenue out of the Colonies, and this revenue also to be applied to establish a civil list in America, and by this means (as the report goes) the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary, Judges, &c. &c., are to have their salaries fixed from home and paid out of the monies that shall be from time to time collected, by virtue of Act of Parliament already passed, or to be passed ;—this is looked upon to be unconstitutional, and it is apprehended cannot be done without vacating our charter, and in effect overthrowing our present constitution. If [an]y scheme of this nature should be on foot, I should be glad you would advise of it and let me know particularly what the scheme is, and how extensive : at the same time I doubt not, from the regard you have discovered for our interest, that you would use your influence to prevent any such measures being pursued.
The House, at their session, made you a grant of two hundred pounds sterling for your services, and the Council concurred with the House; but His Excellency took some exceptions to the wording of it, and did not give his consent to it. I hope the House will reassume the consideration of this matter at their next sessions, and so conduct it as will be agreeable both to His Excellency and yourself.
You will please to consider I write now only as a private friend, and not in my public character, and therefore have expressed myself with more freedom and with less reserve, than, perhaps, I should otherways have done. When you favor me with a reply to this letter, please, therefore, to avoid directing to me as Speaker, and write to me only in my private character.
I am, with esteem, your most humble servant,