of such masters! A clergyman, now dead, communicated to
The book is full of wildness. I never read it till a few days ago, for I seldom look into such things."
In some of his arguments he lays down general principles with a quaint extravagance which marks the peculiar humor of the man. "No government has the right to make hobby-horses, asses, and slaves of the subject; nature having made sufficient of the two former, for all the lawful purposes of man, from the harmless peasant in the field to the most refined politician in the cabinet; but none of the last, which infallibly proves that they are unnecessary." "The British constitution of government as now established in his Majesty's person and family, is the wisest and best in the world. The King of Great Britain is the best as well as the most glorious monarch upon the globe, and his subjects the happiest in the universe. The French King is a despotic, arbitrary prince, and, consequently, his subjects are very miserable." The last specimen which we shall quote comes from his defence of the objectionable passage in the remonstrance drawn up by Otis on behalf of the Assembly of 1762 against Governor Bernard's conduct in increasing the expenses of the colony without previously obtaining the consent of the Legislature. This passage was as follows: "No necessity can be sufficient to justify a House of Representatives in giving up such a privilege; for it would be of little consequence to the people, whether they were subject to George or Louis, the King of Great Britain or the French King, if both were arbitrary, as both would be, if both could levy taxes without Parliament." Afterwards in commenting on this passage he made the following defense of its apparent unpatriotic sentiment. "It may be objected, that there are some differences between arbitrary princes, in this respect, at least, that some are more rigorous than others. It is granted; but, then, let it be remembered, that the life of man is a vapor that soon vanisheth away, and we know not who may come after him, a wise man or a fool; though the chances, before and since Solomon, have ever been in favor of the latter."--"That I should die very soon after my head should be struck off, whether by a sabre or a broadsword, whether chopped off to gratify a tyrant by the Christian name of Tom, Dick, or Harry, is evident. That the name of the tyrant would be of no more avail to save my life, than the name of the executioner, needs no proof. It is, therefore, manifestly of no importance what a prince's Christian name is, if he be arbitrary, any more, indeed, than if he were not arbitrary. So the whole amount of this dangerous proposition may, at least in one view, be reduced to this, viz.: It is of little importance what a king's Christian name is. It is, indeed, of importance, that a king, a governor, and all good Christians, should have a Christian name; but whether Edward, Francis, or William, is of none, that I can discern."
A passage ascribed to Otis during a session of the legislature at Cambridge gives some idea of the character of his invective. It had been said in defence of some measure that it had been taken by the advice of Council, when Otis exclaimed, "Ay, by the advice of Council, forsooth! And so it goes, and so we are to be ruined! The Council are governed by his Excellency, his Excellency by Lord Hillsborough, Lord Hillsborough by his Majesty, his Majesty by Lord Bute, and Lord Bute by the Lord knows who. This recalls to mind what used to be said when I was a student in this place. It was observed at that time, that the President directed the scholars how they should act, madame directed the President, Titus, their black servant, governed madame, and the devil prompted Titus."
The most comprehensive and just appreciation of the character and work of Otis is given us by Francis Bowen in Jared Spark's Library of American Biography. In part he says: "The services which Mr. Otis rendered to this country were so conspicuous and important, that it is difficult to form an estimate of his character with the impartiality that history requires. Gratitude might justly efface the memory of his faults from the minds of those who have profited so largely by his patriotism and his virtues. But it is not necessary thus to seek excuses for his failings, or reasons for covering up the errors that he committed. The defects of his temperament and conduct may be freely mentioned, for they are not such as materially lessen our respect for him as a man. * * * * * * * * * * * "As the vindicator of American rights, during the period of colonial subordination, as the acknowledged leader, in Massachusetts, of the constitutional opposition to ministerial influence and parliamentary usurpation, the services of Mr. Otis cannot be too highly appreciated. * * * * * * * * * * * "He was not permitted to witness the grand result of his labors. He did not live to enjoy the final triumph; he can hardly be said to have survived till the opening of the struggle. But the historian who searches into the causes of this great event, and seeks to determine the comparative merits of the men who achieved it, will dwell long upon the services, and pay a just tribute of admiration and respect to the memory of James Otis."
THE USE AND ABUSE OF ARBITRARY POWER, Including Tracts from Burke, 0tis and Wilkes. By Charles K. Edmunds, Ph.D.
It is the honor of England that she had deposited in the virgin soil of her colonies the germ of freedom. Nearly all at their foundation, or shortly after, received charters which conferred the franchises of the mother country on the colonists. These charters were neither a vain show nor a dead letter, but really did establish and allow powerful institutions which impelled the colonists to defend their liberty, and to control the power by participating in it as constituted in the grant of supplies, the election of public councils, trial by jury, and the right of assembling to discuss the general affairs. To us of to-day these appear as common-sense or logically necessary rights; but we must remember that in those early days of colonization they were distinct privileges accorded in power to the colonists. And it is in these very privileges that we behold the germinating principle which was ultimately to bring to life the new republic then as yet unborn. For as Thomas Jefferson afterward wrote, "where every man is a sharer in the direction of his town-republic, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; when there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than allow his power to be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte. How powerfully did we feel the energy of this organization in the case of the embargo!"
Notwithstanding the widely different origin of the various colonists, the circumstances in which they were placed were so similar, that the same general form of personal character must inevitably have developed itself, and produced a growing consciousness of power and impatience of foreign imposition. The proximate independence of America need not have been a certainty, however, had the eyes of English statesmen not been blinded to the truth of the principles urged by such men as Otis in America and Burke in England. The causes which were to produce a final rupture were, to be sure, already at work (their full operation being delayed by the lack of union among the different provinces), but there was at the same time a warm hereditary attachment to the parent country, under whose wings the provinces had grown up, by whose arms they had been shielded, and by whose commerce, in spite of jealous restrictions, they had been enriched.
Indeed life in the Colonies was so closely related to that in the mother country that in a very marked degree, the history of the Colonies is only the more practical and laborious development of the spirit of liberty flourishing amid the conditions of life in the new country under the standard of the laws and traditions of the old country. As the eminent philosophical historian, M. Guizat, has said, "It might be considered the history of England herself." The resemblance is the more striking when we remember that the majority of the American Colonies and the more important of them were founded or increased the most rapidly at the very epoch when England was preparing to sustain, and in part already sustaining, those fierce conflicts against the pretensions of absolute power which were to obtain for her the honor of giving to the world the first example of a great nation free and well governed.