Background of the American Revolution
Samuel Adams—in his typical style—questions the wisdom of quartering troops among the civil population.
But, to be called to account by a common soldier, or any soldier, is a badge of slavery which none but a slave will wear.
Article Signed “VINDEX.”
Boston Gazette, DECEMBER 5, 1768.
Messieurs EDES & GILL,
Please to insert the following.
I CAN very easily believe that the officers of the regiments posted in this town, have been inform’d by our good friends that the inhabitants are such a rude unpolish’d kind of folks, as that they are in danger, at least of being affronted during their residence here; and therefore their placing centinels at their respective dwellings seems to be a natural precaution, and under that apprehension may be a necessary step to guard their persons from injury. Or if it be only a piece of respect or homage every where shown to the superior officers of the army, it is a matter which concerns no other persons that I know of, I am sure it is no concern of mine: In this view it is a military custom, in no way interfering with, obstructing or infringing the common rights of the community.—But when these gentlemens attendants take upon them to call upon every one, who passes by, to know Who comes there as the phrase is, I take it to be in the highest degree impertinent, unless they can shew a legal authority for so doing.—There is something in it, which looks as if the town was altogether under the government & controul of the military power: And as long as the inhabitants are fully perswaded that this is not the case at present, and moreover hope and believe that it never will, it has a natural tendency to irritate the minds of all who have a just sense of honor, and think they have the privilege of walking the streets without being controul’d.
I have heard that some of these attendants, when question’d by gentlemen who have tho’t themselves affronted in this manner, have pleaded orders from their officers: This I am not apt to believe; but should I be under a mistake, the question still occurs, What right have their officers to give them such orders in this town? It is a question which appears to me to be of present importance, and ought to be decided: For if the gentlemen of the army should differ in their sentiments respecting this matter, from the inhabitants and freemen of the town, the posting a standing army among us, especially as it is without and against our consent, instead of preventing tumults, which it is said was the profess’d design of the troops being sent for, and ordered here, it is to be feared, will have a tendency quite the reverse I am informed that not less than nine gentlemen of character, some of them of the first families in this province, were stop’d and put under guard the other evening, for refusing to submit to this military novelty: And still more alarming, that one of his Majesty s Council, was stop’d in his chariot in the daytime, when going out of town, under a flimsy pretence that possibly he might have conceal’d a deserter in his chariot, and was treated with insolence. The hon. gentleman I dare say felt his resentment kindle; and every one who hears of so high handed an insult must feel anger glowing in his breast. I forbear to mention the constant practice of challenging, as it is called, the country people when passing and repassing, upon their lawful business, thro’ the gates of the city, where a guard house is erected, upon land belonging to the publick, and it is commonly said, without the leave, or even asking the leave of the publick!
Are we a garrison’d town or are we not? If we are, let us know by whose authority and by whose influence we are made so: If not, and I take it for granted we are not, let us then assert & maintain the honor—the dignity of free citizens and place the military, where all other men are, and where they always ought & always will be plac’d in every free country, at the foot of the common law of the land.—To submit to the civil magistrate in the legal exercise of power is forever the part of a good subject: and to answer the watchmen of the town in the night, may be the part of a good citizen, as well as to afford them all necessary countenance and support: But, to be called to account by a common soldier, or any soldier, is a badge of slavery which none but a slave will wear.
It was an article of complaint in the memorable petition of rights, in the reign of King Charles the first, that certain persons exercis’d “a power to proceed within the land according to the justice of martial law,” even against soldiers, “by such summary course and order as is agreeable to martial law, and as is used in armies in the time of war.” And by the bill of rights it is declared that “the raising and keeping a standing army within the kingdom in a time of peace is against law.” It seems that in the reign of K. Charles the first it was look’d upon to be “against the form of the great charter and law of the land” that any man within the land, tho’ a soldier or mariner, should be judg’d and executed by the martial law; “lest by color thereof, any of his Majesty’s subjects be destroy’d or put to death contrary to the law or franchise of the land”: and therefore the lords and commons, the guardians of the people, demanded of the King as their right, and according to the laws and statutes of the realm, the revoking and annulling of the commissions which he had illegally issued for such purpose, and even that Prince revok’d and annull’d them.
Is there anyone who dares to say that Americans have not the rights of subjects? Is Boston disfranchised? When, and for what crime was it done? If not, Is it not enough for us to have seen soldiers and mariners forejudg’d of life and executed within the body of the county by martial law? Are citizens to be called upon, threatned, ill used at the word of the soldiery, and put under arrest, by pretext of the law military, in breach of the fundamental rights of subjects, and contrary to the law and franchise of the land? And are the inhabitants of this town still to be affronted in the night as well as the day by soldiers arm’d with muskets and fix’d bayonets? Are these the blessings of government? Is this the method to reconcile the people to the temper of the present administration of government in this province? Will the spirits of people as yet unsubdued by tyranny, unaw’d by the menaces of arbitrary power, submit to be govern’d by military force? No, Let us rouze our attention to the common law, which is our birthright—our great security against all kinds of insult & oppression—The law, which when rightly used, is the curb and the terror of the haughtiest tyrant—Let our magistrates execute the good and wholesome laws of the land with resolution and an intrepid firmness—aided by the posse comitatus, the body of the county, which is their only natural and legal strength, they will see their authority revers’d: The boldest transgressors will then tremble before them, and the orderly and peaceable inhabitants will be restored to the rights, privileges and immunities of free subjects———