|1. [Two "scandalous" songs of October 1734 celebrating the Morrisite
victory in the Common Council elections. They were ordered to be
A Song Made Upon the Election of New Magistrates for This City
To the tune of, "To you Fair Ladies Now on the Land"
To you good lads that dare oppose
all lawless power and might,
You are the theme that we have chose,
and to your praise we write:
You dared to show your faces brave
In spite of every abject slave;
with a fa la la.
Your votes you gave for those brave men
who feasting did despise;
And never prostituted pen
to certify the lies
That were drawn up to put in chains,
As well our nymphs as happy swains
with a fa la la.
And though the great ones frown at this,
what need have you to care?
Still let them fret and talk amiss,
you'll show you boldly dare
Stand up to save your country dear,
In spite of usquebaugh and beer;
with a fa la la.
They begged and prayed for one year more,
but it was all in vain:
No wolawants you'd have, you swore;
by jove you made in plain:
So sent them home to take their rest,
And here's a health unto the best;
with a fa la la.
A Song Made Upon the Foregoing Occasion
To the tune of, "Now, Now, You Tories All Shall Stoop"
Come on brave boys, let us be brave
for liberty and law,
Boldly despise the haughty knave,
that would keep us in awe.
Let's scorn the tools bought by a sop,
and every cringing fool.
The man who basely bends's a fop,
a vile insipid tool.
Our country's rights we will defend,
like brave and honest men;
We voted right and there's an end,
and so we'll do again.
We vote all signers out of place
as men who did amiss.
Who sold us by a false address
I'm sure we're right in this.
Exchequer courts, as void by law,
great grievances we call;
Though great men do assert no flaw
is in them; they shall fall,
And be condemned by every man that's fond of liberty.
Let them withstand it all they can,
our laws we will stand by.
Though pettifogging knaves deny
us rights of Englishmen;
We'll make the scoundrel rascals fly,
and ne'er return again.
Our judges they would chop and change
for those that serve their turn,
And will not surely think it strange
if they for this should mourn.
Come fill a bumper, fill it up,
unto our Aldermen;
For Common Council fill the cup,
and take it o'er again.
While they with us resolve to stand
for liberty and law,
We'll drink their healths with hat in hand
whoraa! whoraa! whoraa!
2. Monday, November, 1733:
The liberty of the press is a subject of the greatest importance, and
in which every individual is as much concerned as he is in any other part
of liberty: Therefore it will not be improper to communicate to the public
the sentiments of a late excellent writer upon this point. Such is
the elegance and perspicuity of his writings, such the inimitable force
of his reasoning, that it will be difficult to say anything new that he
has not said, or not to say that much worse which he has said.
There are two sorts of monarchies, an absolute and a limited one.
In the first, the liberty of the press can never be maintained, it is inconsistent
with it; for what absolute monarch would suffer any subject to animadvert
on his actions when it is in his power to declare the crime and to nominate
the punishment? This would make it very dangerous to exercise such
a liberty. Besides the object against which those pens must be directed
is their sovereign, the sole supreme magistrate; for there being no law
in those monarchies but the will of the prince, it makes it necessary for
his ministers to consult his pleasure before anything, can be undertaken:
He is therefore properly chargeable with the grievances of his subjects,
and what the minister there acts being in obedience to the prince, he ought
not to incur the hatred of the people; for it would be hard to impute that
to him for a crime which is the fruit of his allegiance, and for refusing
which he might incur the penalties of treason. Besides, in an absolute
monarchy, the will of the prince being the law, a liberty of the press
to complain of grievances would be complaining against the law and the
constitution, to which they have submitted or have been obliged to submit;
and therefore, in one sense, may be said to deserve punishment; so that
under an absolute monarchy, I say, such a liberty is inconsistent with
the constitution, having no proper subject to politics on which it might
be exercised, and if exercised would incur a certain penalty.
But in a limited monarchy, as England is, our laws are known, fixed,
and established. They are the straight rule and sure guide to direct
the king, the ministers, and other his subjects: And therefore an offense
against the laws is such an offense against the constitution as ought to
receive a proper adequate punishment; the several constituents of the government,
the ministry, and all subordinate magistrates, having their certain, known,
and limited sphere in which they move; one part may certainly err, misbehave,
and become criminal, without involving the rest or any of them in the crime
But some of these may be criminal, yet above punishment, which surely
cannot be denied, since most reigns have furnished us with too many instances
of powerful and wicked ministers, some of whom by their power have absolutely
escaped punishment, and the rest, who met their fate, are likewise instances
of this power as much to the purpose; for it was manifest in them that
their power had long protected them, their crimes having, often long preceded
their much desired and deserved punishment and reward.
That might overcomes right, or which is the same thing, that might
preserves and defends men from punishment, is a proverb established and
confirmed by time and experience, the surest discoverers of truth and certainty.
It is this therefore which makes the liberty of the press in a limited
monarchy and in all its colonies and plantations proper, convenient, and
necessary, or indeed it is rather incorporated and interwoven with our
very constitution; for if such an overgrown criminal, or an impudent monster
in iniquity, cannot immediately be come at by ordinary Justice, let him
yet receive the lash of satire, let the glaring truths of his ill administration,
if possible, awaken his conscience, and if he has no conscience, rouse
his fear by showing him his deserts, sting him with the dread of punishment,
cover him with shame, and render his actions odious to all honest minds.
These methods may in time, and by watching and exposing his actions, make
him at least more cautious, and perhaps at last bring down the great haughty
and secure criminal within the reach and grasp of ordinary justice.
This advantage therefore of exposing the exorbitant crimes of wicked ministers
under a limited monarchy makes the liberty of the press not only consistent
with, but a necessary part of, the constitution itself.
It is indeed urged that the liberty of the press ought to be restrained
because not only the actions of evil ministers may be exposed, but the
character of good ones traduced. Admit it in the strongest light
that calumny and lies would prevail and blast the character of a great
and good minister; yet that is a less evil than the advantages we reap
from the liberty of the press, as it is a curb, a bridle, a terror, a shame,
and restraint to evil ministers; and it may be the only punishment, especially
for a time. But when did calumnies and lies ever destroy the character
of one good minister? Their benign influences are known, tasted,
and felt by everybody: Or if their characters have been clouded for a time,
yet they have generally shined forth in greater luster: Truth will always
prevail over falsehood.
The facts exposed are not to be believed because said or published;
but it draws people's attention, directs their view, and fixes the eye
in a proper position that everyone may judge for himself whether those
facts are true or not. People will recollect, enquire and search,
before they condemn; and therefore very few good ministers can be hurt
by falsehood, but many wicked ones by seasonable truth: But however the
mischief that a few may possibly, but improbably, suffer by the freedom
of the press is not to be put in competition with the danger which the
KING and the people may suffer by a shameful, cowardly silence under the
tyranny of an insolent, rapacious, infamous minister.
Monday, November 19, 1733 (The remainder of the letter concerning
the liberty of the press begun in our last [issue].)
Inconveniences are rather to be endured than that we should suffer an
entire and total destruction. Who would not lose a leg to save his
neck? And who would not endanger his hand to guard his heart?
The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the
liberty of the press; for as it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps
it is the best preservation of the whole. Even a restraint of the
press would have a fatal influence. No nation ancient or modern ever
lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing, or publishing their sentiments
but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves. LIBERTY
and SLAVERY! how amiable is one! how odious and abominable the other!
Liberty is universal redemption, joy, and happiness; but servitude is absolute
reprobation and everlasting perdition in politics.
All the venal supporters of wicked ministers are aware of the great
use of the liberty of the press in a limited free monarchy: They know how
vain it would be to attack it openly, and therefore endeavor to puzzle
the case with words, inconsistencies, and -nonsense; but if the opinion
of the most numerous, unprejudiced and impartial part of mankind is an
argument of truth, the liberty of the press has that as well as reason
on its side. I believe every honest Briton of whatever denomination,
who loves his country, if left to his own free and unbiased judgment is
a friend to the liberty of the press and an enemy to any restraint upon
it. Surely all the independent whigs, to a man, are of this opinion.
By an Independent Whig, I mean one whose principles lead him to be
firmly attached to the present happy establishment, both in church and
state, and whose fidelity to the royal family is so staunch and riveted
as not to be called in question, tho' his mind is not overswayed, or rather
necessitated, by the extraordinary weight of lucrative posts or pensions.
The dread of infamy hath certainly been of great use to the cause of virtue,
and is a stronger curb upon the passions and appetites of some men than
any other consideration moral or religious. Whenever, therefore,
the talent of satire is made use of to restrain men by the fear of’ shame
from immoral actions, which either do or do not fall under the cognizance
of the law, it is properly, and justly, and commendably applied: On the
contrary, to condemn all satire is in effect the same thing as countenancing
vice by screening it from reproach and the just indignation of mankind.
The use of satire was of great service to the patriot whigs in the reign
of King Charles and King James the second, as well as in that of Queen
Anne. They asserted the freedom of writing against wicked ministers;
and tho' they knew it would signify nothing to accuse them publicly whilst
they were in the zenith of their power, they made use of satire to prepare
the way and alarm the people against their designs. If men in power
were always men of integrity, we might venture to trust them with the direction
of the press, and there would be no occasion to plead against the restraint
of it; but as they have vices like their fellows, so it very often happens
that the best intended and the most valuable writings are the objects of
their resentment, because opposite to their own tempers or designs.
In short, I think, every man of common sense will judge that he is an enemy
to his king and country who pleads for any restraint upon the press; but
by the press, when nonsense, inconsistencies, or personal reflections are
writ, if despised, they die of course; if truth, solid arguments, and elegant,
just sentiments are published, they should meet with applause rather than
censure; if sense and nonsense are blended, then, by the free use of the
press, which is open to all, the inconsistencies of the writer may be made
apparent; but to grant a liberty only for praise, flattery, and panegyric,
with a restraint on everything which happens to be offensive and disagreeable
to those who are at any time in power, is absurd, servile, and ridiculous;
upon which, I beg leave to quote one observation of the ingenious Mr. Gordon,
in his excellent discourses upon Tacitus. "In truth," says he,
where no liberty is allowed to speak of governors besides that of pralsina
them, their praises will be little believed; their tenderness and aversion
to have their conduct examined will be apt to prompt people to think their
conduct guilty or weak, to suspect their management and designs to be worse
perhaps than they are, and to become turbulent and seditious, rather than
be forced to be silent.9
I shall conclude with a citation from Tacitus, pat to the purpose:
Socordiam eorum inridere libet, qui praesenti potentia credunt extingui
posse etiam sequentia aevi memoriam: Nam contra punitis ingeniis gliscit
auctoritas, neque aliud externi reges, aut qui eadem saevitia usi sunt,
nisi dedecus sibi, atque illis gloriam peperere.
3. Monday, December 17, 1733:
It is agreed on all hands that a fool may ask more questions than a
wise man can answer, or perhaps will answer if he could; but notwithstanding
that, I would be glad to be satisfied in the following points of speculation
that the above affidavits afford. And it will be no great puzzle
to a wise man to answer with a yea, or a nay, which is the most that will
be required in most of those questions.
Q. 1. Is it prudent in the French governors not to suffer a Englishman
to view their fortifications, sound their harbors, tarry their country
to discover their strength?
Q. 2. Is it prudent in an English governor to suffer a Frenchman to
view our fortifications, sound our harbors, etc.?
Q. 3. If the above affidavits be true, had the French a bad harvest
in Canada? Or do they want provisions?
Q. 4. Was the letter from the Governor of Louisburgh to our Governor
Q. 5. Might not our Governor as easily have discovered the falsehood
of it as anybody else, if he would?
Q. 6. Ought he not to have endeavored to do it?
Q. 7. Did our Governor endeavor to do it?
Q. 8. Was it not known to the greatest part of the town, before the
sloop Le Caesar left New York, that the French in the sloop Le Caesar had
sounded and taken the landmarks from without Sandy Hook up to New York?
Had taken the view of the town? Had been in the Fort?
Q. 9. Might not the Governor have known the same thing, if he would?
Q. 10. Is there not great probability that he did know it?
Q. 11. Was it for our benefit or that of the French these soundings
and landmarks were taken, and views made?
Q. 12. Could we not, by seizing their papers and confining their persons,
have prevented them in great measure from making use of the discoveries
Q. 13. Ought they not to have been so prevented?
Q. 14. Was it prudent to suffer them to pass through Hellgate, and
also to discover that way of access to us?
Q. I5. If a French governor had suffered an English sloop and company
to do what a French sloop and company has done here would he not have deserved
to be - -?
Q. i6. Since it appears by the affidavits there was no such scarcity
of provisions as by the letter from the Governor of Louisburgh to our Governor
is set forth, since the conduct of the French to the English that happen
to go to Canada shows they think it necessary to keep us ignorant of their
state and condition as much as they can. Since the sounding our harbors,
viewing our fortifications, and the honorable treatment they have received
here (the reverse of what we receive in Canada) has let them into a perfect
knowledge of our state and condition. And since their voyage must
appear to any man of the least penetration to have been made with an intent
to make that discovery, and only with that intent. Whether it would
not be reasonable in us to provide as well and as soon as we can for our
Q. 17. Whether that can be done any way so well and effectually as
by calling the Assembly very soon together?
Q. 18. If this be not done, and any dangerous consequences follow after
so full warning, who is blamable?
4. Monday, October 7th, 1734:
I have received a copy of a letter of thanks from the people of Goshen
to their representative, who lives in that neighborhood, which I think
deserves to be made public, with an account of true circumstances that
rarely attend addresses of this nature. I am told that only one man
refused, and that all the freeholders have signed who were not absent at
the time of signing. You will see by the list of names that about
78 have signed, which proves that very few were absent, I am told not above
3 or 4. This address came from those persons who had opposed Col. Mathews’
election, and who can be least suspected to have done it from private views
to serve him; on the contrary, everyone (with the former single exception)
laid aside their private resentments to show their public gratitude: When
this is compared with what has happened in other parts of this province
it will be seen how justly the people are said to be fickle and changeable,
and whether the people have deserted their patriots, or their patriots
have deserted them; for to me the people seem steadily to pursue the same
maxims of liberty.
Goshen, August 21, 1734-
To Col. Vincent Mathews.
We the subscribing freeholders, inhabitants of the precinct
of Goshen and Minisink, in the County of Orange, take this opportunity
of returning you our hearty thanks for your conduct in the last sessions
of the Assembly, while matters of the greatest consequence for the security
of our lives, liberty, and property were under your consideration: But
we are surprised those things could have admitted so much debate among
the representatives of a free people, that they could not be brought to
a conclusion before you parted. For supposing the arguments on both
sides of the question were otherwise of equal force, can the lovers of
liberty hesitate in determining in favor of liberty, and in opposition
to what may be introductory of arbitrary power? The laws themselves
being a dead letter, which can do neither good nor hurt, but as they have
life and force given them from those who are entrusted with the execution
of them; it seems to us essential to our freedom that the authority by
which our laws receive their life do not depend upon the will and pleasure
of any man, or upon a mere opinion of the judges, who are only entrusted
to execute the laws, or any other than the plain and positive authority
of those who make them.
The accounts we have of your conduct, so conformable to the
sentiments of the people you represent, and of your zeal to remove from
all trust in the execution of justice such persons whose characters and
actions have laid them under the just suspicion of the people of this province,
has endeared you to your constituents. The love and esteem of your
neighbors will give more real satisfaction and pleasure than the favor
of any man however great, and we hope you will find it a greater security.
Governors often smile one day and frown the next; nay, they may make a
sacrifice of those that have lost all others' friendship by courting theirs;
and at best they are here today and gone tomorrow: But you we hope will
remain long with us, and your posterity with ours. Your interest
is the same with that of the people amongst whom you live, and therefore
the most certain security to preserve what you have and transmit it to
your latest posterity is got by preserving and increasing the love, virtue,
and freedom of the people where you live.-As we doubt not that you will
continue in a dutiful execution of the trust reposed in you, so we assure
you that you may depend on all the kind and grateful returns that can be
expected from a people sensible of your many services.
5. Monday, January 28, 1733:
To the authors of the letter to Mr. Bradford, in his Gazette of January
Your appearance in print at last gives a pleasure to many, tho' most
wish that you had come fairly into the open field and not appeared behind
retrenchments made of the supposed laws against libeling and of what other
men have said and done before: These retrenchments, gentlemen, may soon
be shown to you and all men to be weak, and have neither law nor reason
for their foundation, so cannot long stand you in stead. Therefore
you had much better as yet leave them, and come to what THE PEOPLE of this
city and province think are the points in question, to wit:
They think, as matters now stand, that their LIBERTIES and PROPERTIES
are precarious, and that SLAVERY is like to be entailed on them and their
posterity, if some past things be not amended. And this they collect
from many past proceedings.
You gentlemen think that things past are right, and that things may
go on in the same way without such consequence.
These points, gentlemen, highly concern the PEOPLE of this province,
and you as well as the rest; it is your interest as well as theirs to have
them fairly searched into by enquiry into facts, and by plain and fair
arguments upon them without passion. If you are right in your thoughts,
then there will be no harm by or from the fair and thorough enquiry: But
should you be wrong, and the consequence dreaded follow for want of a timely
enquiry and remedy, your posterity as well as ours will be sufferers; nay,
you have most reason to fear that your posterity will be the first that
will fall by establishing UNBRIDLED POWER.
As the liberty of the press is now struck at, which is the safeguard
of all our other liberties: This starts another point worth discussing,
which by many was thought would never have needed to have been handled
here more than it has been: And undoubtedly it is one of the first things
that ought to be examined into fairly before the world.
What other men have said and done (unless right) can be no justification
for following their example; these men ought, and we believe soon will,
severally justify what they have said and done, or confess wherein they
have erred, and make all reasonable satisfaction for their errors.
If anything has been too stinging in what has been printed here, it
is believed your delaying so long in coming to the press in order to a
fair enquiry was the cause, and will excuse it.
These are the sentiments of many of this city and province, and it
is hoped that passions of neither side will draw the disputants off from
the points in question.
6. Monday, April 8th, 1734:
I was at a public house some days since in company with some persons
that came from New York: Most of them complained of the deadness of trade:
Some of them laid it to the account of the repeal of the Tonnage Act, which
they said was done to gratify the resentment of some in New York in order
to distress Governor Burnet; but which has been almost the ruin of that
town, by paying the Bermudians about 12,000 a year to export those commodities
which might be carried in their own bottoms, and the money arising by the
freight spent in New York. They said that the Bermudians were an
industrious frugal people who bought no one thing in New York, but lodged
the whole freight money in their own island, by which means, since the
repeal of that Act, there has been taken from New York above 90,000 and
all this to gratify pique and resentment. But this is not all; this
money being carried away which would otherwise have circulated in this
province and city, and have been paid to the baker, the brewer, the smith,
the carpenter, the shipwright, the boatman, the farmer, the shopkeeper,
etc., has deadened our trade in all its branches, and forced our industrious
poor to seek other habitations; so that within these three years there
has been above 300 persons have left New York; the houses stand empty,
and there is as many houses as would make one whole street with bills upon
their doors: And this has been as great a hurt as the carrying away the
money, and is occasioned by it, and all degrees of men feel it, from the
merchant down to the carman. And (adds he) it is the industrious
poor is the support of any country, and the discouraging the poor tradesmen
is the means of ruining any country. Another replies, it is the excessive
high wages you tradesmen take prevents your being employed: Learn to be
contented with less wages, we shall be able to build, and then no need
to employ Bermudians. Very fine, replied the first, now the money
is gone you bid us take less wages, when you have nothing to give us, and
there is nothing to do. Says another, I know nobody gets estates
with us but the lawyers; we are almost come to that pass that an acre of
land can't be conveyed under half an acre of parchment. The fees
are not settled by our legislature, and everybody takes what they please;
and we find it better to bear the disease than to apply for a remedy that's
worse: I hope (said he) our Assembly will take this matter into consideration;
especially since our late judge hath proved no fees are lawful but what
are settled by them." I own a small vessel, and there is a fee for a let-pass,
35 which I am told is taken by the Cannon Law, and by no other.-One of
our neighbors being in company, observing the strangers full of complaints,
endeavored to persuade them to remove into Jersey. To which it was
replied, that would be leaping out of the frying pan into the fire; for,
says he, we both are under the same Governor, and your Assembly have shown
with a witness what is to be expected from them. One that was then
moving to Pennsylvania (to which place it is reported several considerable
men are removing) expressed in terms very moving much concern for the circumstances
of New York. seemed to think them very much owing to the influence that
some men (whom he called tools) had in the administration; said he was
now going from them, and was not to be hurt by any measures they should
take; but could not help having some concern for the welfare of his countrymen,
and should be glad to hear that the Assembly would exert themselves as
became them, by showing that they have the interest of their country more
at heart than the gratification of any private view of any of their members,
or being at all affected by the smiles or frowns of a governor; both which
ought equally to be despised when the interest of their country is at stake.
You, says he, complain of the lawyers, but I think the law itself is at
an end: We see men's deeds destroyed, judges arbitrarily displaced, new
courts erected without consent of the legislature, by which it seems to
me trials by juries are taken away when a governor pleases; men of known
estates denied their votes contrary to the received practice, the best
expositor of any law: Who is then in that province that call anything his
own, or enjoy any liberty longer than those in the administration will
condescend to let him do it? For which reason I have left it, as I believe
more will. One of the company replied; if these are illegal impositions,
why don't your Assembly impeach the authors of them. Impeach! says
a Gentleman (once an officer of the Customs) would you have the mob and
canaiIle impeach gentlemen? American assemblies, that have only the
power to make little paltry bylaws, pretend to the power of a British Parliament!
But besides should they be mad enough to impeach, that impeachment cannot
be tried.--How! not tried! (replied the Gentleman) that's strange indeed!
I know this is a way of talking you courtiers have among you, to prevent
being dealt with as some of you very well deserve. Give me leave
to tell you, Sir, you talk indecently of those that differ from you: There
are many among them of equal if riot superior knowledge to any of your
party, and more of superior estates; and our assemblies are very far from
deserving the name of canaille or dregs of the people, as some of you,
who (bating your commissions, which you would never have had in any other
place) much better deserve, are fond of using to them: And should they
use their authority as they might, would make the proudest of you tremble.
Pray (in order to clear this matter up) let me ask a few questions.
Is there any British subject can commit a crime with impunity, and
is (if guilty of it) too big to be accused?
He answered, No.
Is the law and the administration of Justice so weak and defective
in the plantations that any British subject cannot be tried for any crime,
and condemned or acquitted according to the merits of his cause?
He answered, It is not.
Does not a Grand Jury (tho' chose by the Sheriff) represent the county?
Answ. They do.
Cannot a Grand jury indict (that is accuse) any man a subject within
their county (how great soever) of any crime?
Answ. They may.
Does not an Assembly represent the whole province, as much as a Grand
Jury does a particular county?
Is it unlawful for an Assembly to impeach (that is accuse) any person
of any crime?
Is the administration so weak as not to be able to try the supposed
criminal on the Assembly's accusation; tho' you have allowed they can that
of a Grand jury?
I don't suppose it is, answered the Courtier.
Then they can be tried, replied the Gentleman.
Courtier. But will they try?
Gent. I don't suppose they will or dare deny common justice.