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Explanatory Remarks on the Assembly's Resolves - 1

Explanatory REMARKS on the ASSEMBLY’S RESOLVES, published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 1840.

Resolves of Assembly being short Resolutions, formed after Debate and full Consideration of any particular Matter, they are generally very concise, and seldom contain the Reasons at large upon which they are founded; and although they are always to full and expressive, as to be clearly understood by those who have attended to the Subject, yet, to enable others rightly to comprehend their Meaning, an explanatory Account of the Facts seems necessary. It is with this View the following Remarks are submitted to the Consideration of the Publick.

Remarks on Resolve the First. As this Resolve is the first in Order, so it is the most important, and is intended to point out the deepest Wound which has been made, by an undue Attachment to Proprietary Interest, in the original Constitution of this Government. By the Royal Grant, “free, fulland absolute Power,” is given to the Proprietary “Lieutenants” and Governors, “to ordain, make, and enact Laws, for the Raising of Money, &c. according to their best Discretion, with the Advice, Consent and Approbation of the Freemen of the Country, or of their Delegates and Deputies.” The Powers of Legislature being thus fully granted by the Crown, to the Governor for the Time being, and the Peoples Representatives, ’tis evident the Proprietaries can have no Constitutional Share in Legislation, or Right to give Instructions to their Governor, whereby his “Discretion” must be totally destroyed. And therefore all such Instructions are a manifest Violation of the Royal Favour to the good People of this Province, and a most dangerous Invasion on the Rights of the Subject. They not only destroy the Exercise of Judgment in the Governor, but render the Representative Body of the People mere Cyphers in the Constitution. And vain is it for the People to send their Delegates to the Seat of Representation, as all they can do when met, is to give up their Freedom and Exercise of Judgment, betray those very Rights they were sent to preserve, and servilely submit to Proprietary Will and Pleasure. Much better will it be for the Inhabitants of Pennsylvania to invest the Proprietaries with absolute Power at once, permit them to ordain and enact Laws at Three Thousand Miles Distance, and only transmit them here for Publication and Execution. For whose Interest they will in that Case be calculated, and of what Spirit they will partake, modern Measures have fully demonstrated.

Remark on the Second and Third Resolves. The first Attempt to enforce his mischievous Claim, happened about Fifty Years past, when William Penn, in Governor Evans’s Commission, inserted a Clause, reserving “to himself and his Heirs, their final Assent to the Laws” which should be passed; and thus assumed the Royal Power, which by the original Charter was reserved to the Crown. How evidently does this demonstrate, that Men of the fairest Characters are not to be trusted, when under the Influence of private Interest. A virtuous Opposition, however, both in the Proprietary Council, and Assembly, repelled this Invasion of their Rights, and the Reservation was declared illegal and void. And from this Time Proprietary Instructions never appeared, till in the Beginning of the late War. A Time when the Frontiers were bleeding in every Quarter, and the unhappy Inhabitants reduced to every Kind of Misery and Distress that the deepest Want, and the most relentless Barbarities of a savage Enemy could devise and inflict. This it seems was thought the most convenient Time to enforce those Claims, and reduce the People to a Subjection to them. And certainly a Time like this was necessary to their Success. For, upon their being laid before the Assembly, they plainly appeared to be formed solely with a View to increase the immense Wealth of the Proprietaries, and to oblige the People to bear their Burthens; and were found equally regardless of the Orders of the Crown, as of the Good and Safety of the distressed Inhabitants.

Influenced by these illegal Instructions, what unjust Claims have the Governors of this Province made in Favour of their Principals! They first insisted that the Proprietaries should not be taxed at all, although their Property was to receive equal Protection from it; then that their Quitrents should not be rated; next that their located and uncultivated Lands should be exempted; and lastly, that the Bills of Credit, issued as well for the Protection of their Property as that of the Inhabitants, should not be a Tender in the Payment of their Rents, contrary to all Justice and good Conscience. The Assembly, consistent with that Duty they indispensably owed to their Constituents, could not agree to these unjust Demands. This created Disputes; those Disputes created Delays, which greatly obstructed His Majesty’s Measures; and whether the Proprietary Pretensions, or the Assembly’s Opposition, were most just and well founded, is submitted to the Candid and Impartial.

Resolve the Fourth. It is certainly an high Presumption in the Proprietaries, to give Instructions inconsistent with the Royal Grant; to take Bonds to enforce a strict Execution of them, and to adhere to them without the least Abatement, when His Majesty’s Subjects are in the greatest Danger and Distress from the Incursions of a savage Enemy; and especially, by those Instructions, to delay and prevent those Aids His Majesty demands of this Province, for the Preservation of his Colonies, and the Safety of his People.

Resolve the Fifth. In the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-one, an Enquiry was made, by Order of Assembly, into the State of Provincial Taxes. And it appeared that the Proprietaries whole Estate paid no more than Five Hundred Sixty-six Pounds, Four Shillings and Ten-pence, when the Tax of one of the Members amounted to more than One Third of that Sum, though not possessed of a One-fiftieth Part of the Property owned by them; although it was asserted before the Privy Council, in a Debate on that very Bill by which the Tax was laid, that the Proprietaries would be obliged to pay more than all the People of Pennsylvania together.

Resolve the Sixth. By Contract with the first Adventurers, the Quitrents were settled, as the certain Support of the Government, as is the Case in those Colonies immediately under the King. On this Income the Governor was supported many Years. When the Proprietor returned to England, he had Occasion for those Rents to support his Family there; to which Purpose, and to distress the Province, they have been ever since carefully applied. Upon this Misapplication of the first Revenues of the Government, the Assembly were at that Time, by the most artful Management, and undue Influence, prevailed on to grant the Monies arising by Tavern Licences to support his Deputy. The Monies received from this Source, and the Sums given to the Governors for Forty Years past, will amount to more than the Sum mentioned in the Resolve.

Resolve the Seventh, appears to be just, from many of the other Resolves.

Resolve the Eighth. It is notorious, the Number of Taverns, Ale-houses and Dram-shops, have encreased beyond all Measure or Necessity. That they are placed so near to each other, that they ruin one another; and Two Thirds of them are not merely useless, but are become a Pest to Society. There are very few of them that are able to provide the necessary Conveniences for entertaining Travellers, or accommodating the People either in Country or City;

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