Posted by: Democratic Thinker | March 13, 2015

Granville Sharp: The Ancient Common-Law Right of Association


At the height of the Revolutionary War, Englishman Granville Sharp—abolitionist and American supporter—publishes a tract concerning the local militias.


No Englishman, therefore, can be truly LOYAL, who opposes these essential principles of the English LAW, wherby the people are required to have “arms of defence and peace,” for mutual as well as private defence …


The Ancient Common-Law Right of Association with the Vicinage.

Copy from the John Adams Library.



In every County, District, or Town, to support the Civil Magistrate, in maintaining the Peace.



Granville Sharpe.

MAN being by nature a social creature, it is natural for him to associate with his brethren, and neighbours, for common defence against all unjust violence; and such association being just and reasonable, as well as natural, we have not only a right thus to associate, but are even bound to do it, by a branch of the common-law, which cannot legally be changed: for it is fixed upon all men, in their respective districts and countries, as an indispensable DUTY, by “THE LAW OF NATURE AND NATIONS, that we may become assisting” (says Cowel, tit. 2.) “both to our parents and country; and REPEL FORCE AND INJURY: and from hence it comes,” (says he,) “that whatsoever we do for the defence of our own bodies, is adjudged legal.” For which he cites Bracton, l. i. c. 6. num. 7.1 So the author of Doctor and Student, in his second chapter, concerning the law of nature and nations, and the law of reason, asserts, that, “by the law of reason, it is lawful to repel force with force; and that it is THE RIGHT OF EVERY ONE” (fas est unicuique se tueri, &c.) “TO DEFEND HIMSELF AND HIS PROPERTY AGAINST UNJUST VIOLENCE.”2 And again, in his fifth chapter, concerning the first foundation of English law, reason, he again repeats the maxim, that “it is lawful to repel force with force for the defence of the body, due circumstances being observed.”3 Now, as the laws of reason and nature are immutable,4 this natural right of associating for common defence and peace, and the natural right of every individual to repel force with force, in defence of himself and property, can never be annulled by any act of parliament, but must ever be esteemed as immutable rights of the common-law, and must always remain in force, unless the government should unhappily cease to be LEGAL, by setting aside the first foundations of the LAW! Ancient statutes, however, though not the foundation of these rights, yet bear ample testimony to the exercise or usage of them: for, what is “the power of the countie,” so often mentioned in the ancient low and statutes, but an armed association of the vicinage?—an association, from which no layman, from 15 to 60 years of age, was exempt. See Lambard’s Eirenarcha, third book, p. 316, title, “Power of the Countie.”—“That the justices of the peace, sherife, or under-sherife, ought to have the aide and attendance of all the KNIGHTES, GENTLEMEN, YEOMEN, LABOURERS, SERVAUNTS, APPRENTICES, and VILLAINES; and likewise of wardes; and that of other YONG MEN that be above the age of xv. years; for ALL of that age are bound to have harnesse5 by the statute of Winchester.” See also in page 479 of the Eirenarcha, a farther testimony that the law required all laymen not only to have arms, but; also to be well exercised therein. Sea title “Archerie.” “If any man, being the QUEEN’s subject,” (the author wrote in the reign of queen Elizabeth,) “and not have reasonable cause or impediment, and being within the age of 60 years, (except spiritual] men, justices of one bench or other, justices of assise, and barons of the exchequer) have not; a LONG-BOW AND ARROWES READIE IN HIS HOUSE, or have not USED SHOOTING THEREIN;” (which is a clear command to exercised in arms;) “ or have not, for EVERY MAN-CHILD IN HIS HOUSE, (betweene 7 yeeres and 17 of age,) a bow and 2 shafts; and for every such, being above 17 yeeres, a bow and 4 shafts; or have not BROUGHT THEM UP IN SHOOTING. &c. he loses 6s. 8d. for each month.” And, under the same head, he informs us, that, if any man, above the age of 24 years, “have shot at any marke under eleven score yards,” (viz. one furlong, or 220, yards,) “with any prick, shaft, or flight,” he shall “lose 6s. 8d. for every shot.” Also, “if the inhabitants of any towne have not made and continued their buts as they ought to do,”—“lose 20s. for; every 3 moneths;” (Eirenarcha, a book, p. 478, 479;) for which he cites 33 Hen. VIII. c. 9. in which, indeed, the obligation for every man to have arms, and be exercised therein, is expressed still in stronger terms, viz. “—that butts be made, on this side the feast of St. Michael the Archangel next coming, in every city, town, and place, by the inhabitants of every such city, town, and place, ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF ANCIENT TIMES USED, and that the said inhabitants and dwellers in every of them, be COMPELLED TO MAKE AND CONTINUE SUCH BUTTS, upon pain to forfeit, for every 3 months so lacking, 20s. And that THE SAID INHABITANTS SHALL EXERCISE THEMSELVES WITH LONG-BOWS IN SHOOTING AT THE SAME, and elsewhere, in holy days and other times convenient. And, to the intent that EVERY PERSON may have bows of mean price, be it enacted, &c.” § iv. and v. Thus the law not only permits, but absolutely requires, EVERY PERSON to have arms, and be EXERCISED in the use of them.

The exercise of the Long-bow was formerly esteemed the most effectual military discipline for the defence of the kingdom, and is so declared in another act of parliament of the same year, cap. 6.6 and, therefore, as the law, at that time, required EVERY MAN to be exercised in the use of the then fashionable weapons, the reason of the law hold: equally good, to require the exercise of ALL MEN in the use of the present fashionable weapons, the musquet and bayonet.

But even, at that time, the use of musquets or guns, was allowed to the inhabitants of all cities, boroughs, and market-towns, and for the very same reason (the defence of the realm,) by a provisional clause of the last-mentioned act, § vi. “Provided alway, and be it enacted, &c. that it shall be lawful, from henceforth, to all gentlemen, yeomen, and serving-men of every lord, spiritual and temporal, and of all knights, esquires, and gentlemen, and to ALL THE INHABITANTS of cities, boroughs, and market-towns, of this realm of England, to shoot with any hand-gun, demihake, or hagbut, at any butt or bank of earth, only in place convenient for the same,” (whereby it appears that proper places for exercise should be appointed in every town,) “so that every such hand-gun, &c. be of the several lengths aforesaid, and NOT UNDER. And that it shall be lawful, to every of the said lord and lords, knights, esquires, and gentlemen, and the INHABITANTS of every CITY, BOROUGH, AND MARKET-TOWN, to have and keep in every of their houses any such hand-gun or hand-guns, of the length of one whole yard, &c. and NOT UNDER, to the intent to use and shoot in the same, at a butt or bank of earth only, as is above said, whereby they and EVERY OF THEM, BY THE EXERCISE THEREOF, in form above said, MAY THE BETTER AID AND ASSIST TO THE DEFENCE OF THIS REALM, WHEN NEED SHALL REQUIRE,” &c. This statute is still in force.

Every temporal person was (formerly) liable to pecuniary penalties; “if he have not” (says Lambard) “and keep not in readinesse, such horses, geldings, weapon, armourn, or othe furniture for the wars, as, after the proportion of his abilitie, he ought to have and keepe.” (Eirenarcha, book iv. c. 4, p. 489.) Thus stood the law so late as the latter end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, when the book last-cited was published; and the general tenor of the doctrine, respecting the right of Englishmen to have arms, hath since been confirmed by the Declaration of Rights in the Act of Settlement, (1 Wm. and Mary, st. 2, c. 2,) though it seems now to be limited to Protestant subjects, viz. “That the subjects which are Protestants MAY HAVE ARMS FOR THEIR DEFENCE, suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.”—This latter expression, as allowed by law,” respects the limitations in the above-mentioned act of 33 Hen. VIII. c. 6, which restrain the use of some particular sorts of arms, meaning only such arms as were liable to be concealed, or otherwise favour the designs of murderers, as cross-bows, little short hand-guns, and little hag-buts,” and ALL GUNS UNDER CERTAIN LENGTHS specified in the act; but proper arms for defence (provided they are not shorter than the act directs) are so far from being forbidden by this statute, that they are clearly authorised, and “the exercise thereof” expressly recommended by it, as I have already shown. And indeed the laws of England always required the people to be armed, and not only to be armed, but to be expert in arms; which last was particularly recommended by the learned chancellor Fortescue:—“et revera, non minime erit regno accommodum, ut incolœ ejus in armis sint experti:—“Indeed, it will be of no small advantageto the kingdom, that the inhabitants be EXPERT IN ARMS.” (De Laudibus Legum Angiæ, c. xliv. p. 106.) And, in the notes and remarks on this book, by the learned Mr. Justice Aland, we find the following observations to the same purpose. ‘1n the Confessor’s laws’ (says he) ‘it is,’ “DEBENT7 UNIVERRSI LIBERI HOMINES, &c. ARMA HABERE, ET ILLA SEMPER PROMPTA CONSERVARE AD TUITIONETN REGNI, &c. “See” (says he) “the laws of the Conqueror TO THE SAME PURPOSE. The custom of the nation” (continues this learnedjudge) “has been to TRAIN UP THE FREEHOLDERS TO DISCIPLINE; v. 13 and 14. ii. c. iii. and ib. § 20, and title, WAR, in the table to the statutes.”

Among the ancient constitutions, or ordinances, of the kingdom, recorded in the Myrror of Justices, chap. i. § 3. we tend that it was ordained, “that every one of the age of 14 years and above, should prepare him” (se apprestat) “to kill mortal offenders in their notorious crimes, or to follow them from town to town with hue and cry,” &c.

The true purpose and advantage of having all the inhabitants of this kingdom trained to arms is further manifested in our old law books and statutes; as in the Westminster Primer, cap. xvii. on the case when any cattle are unlawfully taken and driven into any castle or strong-hold, &c. “Le’Visç.- cu le Bailife prise ove luy POYAR DE SON COUNTIE, on de sa Bail’, er voile assaier de l’aire de ceo repl’ des overs a celuy qui les aver prise,” &c. “That the sheriff or the bailiff shall take with him THE POWER OF HIS COUNTY, or of his bailiwick, and shall endeavour to make replevin” (or recovery) “of the cattle from him that hath taken them,” &c. And lord Coke remarks on this:—“Nota, EVERY MAN is bound by the common-law to assist not only the sherife in his office for the execution of the king’s writs, (which are the commandments of the king,) ACCORDING TO LAW;8 but also his baily, that hath the sheriffe’s warrant in that behalfe, hath the some authority,” &c. (2 Inst. p. 193.)

The attack of a castle or place of arms, must require disciplined troops; and therefore it was certainly necessary that “EVERY MAN” so bound by the common-law to assist, should be trained to arms, in order to fulfil his duty. And the learned Nathaniel Bacon, in his historical Discourse of the Uniformity of the Government of England, (1st part, p, 64.) remarks, that “the strength consisted of the freemen; and, though many were hound by tenure to follow their lords to the wars, and many were voluntiers, yet, it seems, ALL WERE BOUND UPON CALL, UNDER PERIL OF FINE, AND WERE BOUND TO KEEP ARMS, for the preservation of the kingdom, their lords; and their own persons; and these they might neither pawn nor sell, but leave them to descend to their heirs,” &c.

The common-law right of the people of England to have arms is also clearly expressed by the great and learned judge Bracton, one of the most ancient writers of our common-law, who is justly esteemed of uuexceptionable authority. “Ei qui juste possidet, licitum erit cum armis contra pacem venientem ut expellat, cum armis repellere, ut per ARMA TUITONIS ET PACIS, quæ sunt justitiae, repellat injuriam et vim injustam, et arma injuriæes,” &c. (Bract. lib. iv. c. 4.) that is, “to him who justly possesses it SHALL BE LAWFUL with arms to repel him who cometh to expel, with arms against the peace, that, by ARMS OF DEFENCE AND PEACE, which are of justice, he may repel injury and unjust violence, and arms of injustice,” &c.

The late unhappy tumults prove, that these principles of the English constitution are as necessary to be enforced at present as ever they were; for, had they. not been fatally neglected and disused, the abandoned rioters would have been quelled and secured by the neighbouring inhabitants of Westminster, &c. in their first attempts; or, in case they had advanced towards the city, if the proper barriers had been reserved, the citizen would have had time to get under arms, to support their own magistrates in securing the peace of the city; for any attack upon the gates or posterns would have justified an immediate discharge of firearms, or other weapons, against the assailants, without waiting. for the command of a peace-officer: and, as the inhabitants of each city and county are required to make good the damages sustained on such occasions by private individuals, it is plain that the inabitants themselves, in their collective caspacity, do form that proper POWER, from which the law requires the prevention of such damages, and the support and defence of the civil-magistrates: for, otherwise, the law ought to have directed the damages to be deducted from the last preceding parliamentary grants to the army.

If it be alleged that there can be no occasion, in these modern times, to arm and train the inhabitants of England, because there is an ample military force, or standing army, to preserve the peace; yet let it be remembered, that, the greater and more powerful the standing army is, so much more necessary is it that there should he a proper balance to that power, to prevent any ill effect from it: though there is one bad effect, which the balance (howsoever perfect and excellent) cannot prevent; and that is the enormous and ruinous expence of maintaining a large number of men, without any civil employment for their support; an expence, which neither the land not trade of this realm can possibly bear much longer, without public failure!

No Englishman, therefore, can be truly LOYAL, who opposes these essential principles of the English LAW,9 wherby the people are required to have “arms of defence and peace,” for mutual as well as private defence: for a standing army of regular soldiers is entirely repugnant to the constitution of England, and the genius of its inhabitants.10

Standing armies were not unknown, indeed, to our ancestors in very early times, but they were happily opposed by them, and declared illegal. A remarkable instance of this is related by Sir Edward Coke, in his 7th rep. p. 443, (Calvin’s case,) but with a very erroneous application of the doctrine, (as there is 1n many other instances of that particular report,) for which the chancellor or judges, probably, who spoke, and not the reporter, must one day be answerable. “It appeareth, by Bracton, lib. iii. tract 2. c. 15. fol. 134. that Canutus, the Danish king, having settled himself in this kingdom in peace, kept, notwithstanding, (for the better continuance thereof) great armies within this realm.” [Yet Bracton was more wise and honourable than to conceive or hint that great armies, so kept by the king, were proper instruments “for the better continuance of peace;” for he says no such thing, this being only a disloyal conceit of some modern judge, concerned in the argument of Calvin’s case: but to return to the words of the reporter.] “The peers and nobles of England, distasting THIS GOVERNMENT BY ARMS AND ARMIES,11 (ODIUMS ACCIPITREM, QUIA SEMPER VIVIT IN ARMIS,) wisey and politiquely persuaded the king, that they would provide for the safety of him and his people, and yet his armies, carrying with them many inconveniencies, should be withdrawn,” &c. (This would he a proper language and true policy for a free British parliament to adopt.) “Hereupon” (says the reporter) “ Canutus presently withdrew his armies, and within a while after he lost his crown,” &c.

Here again the judge, whoever he was that spoke, betrayed a most disloyal prejudice in favour of “a government by arms and armies,” which led him into a notorious falsehood! for, though the former part of the sentence is true, that king Canute “withdrew his armies,” yet the latter part, that, “within a while after, he lost his crown,” is totally false; and the judge, by asserting that groundless circumstance, seemed inclined to insinuate, that the withdrawing the armies occasioned the (supposed) loss of the crown, which was far from being the case. The great and noble Canute reaped the benefit of his prudent and generous conformity to the free constitution of this limited monarchy; for he enjoyed a long and glorious reign, after he sent back his Danish soldiers; which, according to Matthew of Westminster, (p. 403,) was in the year 1018; and he held the crown with dignity and glory to the end of his life, in the year 1035, when he was buried at Winchester with royal pomp (regio more, ib. p. 409): and his two sons also, who separately succeeded him, died likewise kings of England, for they lost not the kingdom but by natural deaths, and the want of heirs.

Happy would it have been for England, had all succeeding kings been as wise and truly politic as the great Canute, who feared not to commit the care of his own person, and those of his foreign friends that attended him, to the free laws and limited constitution of this kingdom!

The old English maxim, however, against “a government by arms and armies,” ought never to he forgotten: “Odimus accipitrem, quia semper vivit in armis.”

(June, 1780.)


1. This c. 6. seems to be an error of the press, instead of c. 5. num. 7. the proper reference to Bracton’s declaration concerning the NATURAL RIGHT of all men to resist violence and injury.—“Hoc autum jus gentium solum hominiburs commune est, veluti erga Deum religio, ut parentibus et patriæ pareamus ut vim atque INJURIAM PROPULSEMUS, nam DE JURE hoceventis, ut quod quis ob siu tutelam corporis secerit, JURE fecisse existimetur. Item cùm inter homines cognationem quandam costituit naturae, consequens est hominem homini insidiari nepha esse.” But this noble constitution of nature, whereby we ought to esteem all mankind as brethren, is utterly corrupted by the hardened iniquity of temporal governments! The laws of nature and sound policy require every industrious citizen to be exercised and expert in “Arms of Defence and Peace,” for mutual protection; but these, alas! are too generally discouraged and neglected, whilst arms of offence and robbery are eagerly preparing in every port! The unprincipled and abandoned part of mankind, that lay aside all dlscernment between right and wrong, are prompted, by royal Proclamations, not merely to “to covet their neighbours goods,” but to lay wait for and take them; whereby war is more notoriously declared, and is infinitely more active against trade, and the honourable merchants of the world, than against the standing armies and navies of our enemies! Thus the seas swarm with piratlcal banditti, carrying letters of dispensation for dishonesty, and “the earth is filled with violence!” Have we not cause to expect some tremendous vengeance to vindicate the righteousness of God? or that the Almighty will once more command the elements to sweep corrupted man from the face of the earth? We are secured indeed, by divine promise, from any future general destruction, by a deluge of water; but the elements of tempest and fire are still reserved to execute the wrath of Goo, and are frequently mentioned as the instruments of his vengeance. Isaiah xvii. 13. Psa. lxxxiii. 13-15. cxlviii. 8. Dan. ii. 35. 2 Thess, i. 8. 2 Pet. iii. 7.

2. Lex rationis permittat plurima fieri, ut feilicet quod licitum est vim vi repellere, et quod fas est unicuique se tueri, et rem fuam defendere contra vim injustam. Doct. et Stud. c. ii p. 8.

3. —“Quad licitum est vim vi repellere pro tuitione u corporis, debitis circumstantiis servatis.” C. 5. p. l4. b.

4. “Et quod LEX RATIONIS in corde feribitur, ideo deleri non potest, nec etiam recipit mutationem ex loco nec tempore, fed ubique, et inter omnes homines, servari debt. Nam JURA NATURALIA IMMUTABILIA SUNT, ET RATIO IMMUTATIONIS EST, QUOD RECIP1UNT NATRAM PRO FUNDAUMENTO, quæ semper eadem est, et ubique, &c.”—“Et contra eam” (legem rationis vel nature) “non est præscriptio, vel ad appositum statutum five consuetudo. Et si aliqua fiat, non funt statuta, five consuevtudinest sed corruptelæ.” Doct. et Stud. c. ii. p. 5.

5. The word Harnesse was used to express all necessary accoutrments for war, according to the rank of the bearers, and comprehended not only belts and armour, but likewise arms and weapons, of every sort, that, for the time being, might be esteemed most usesul; so that in the old Dictionary, by Minsheu, (printed in the time of king James 1.) the word is explained by the Greek plural, τα όπλα, which signifies arm, or instruments of War of all sorts in general; and this is the sense also of the word Amuri, as used in the above cited statute of Winchesier, (13 king Edw. I.) which, in the old English version of it, is rendered Harneis, viz. “And further, it is commanded, that EVERY MAN have in his house his HARNEIS,” (in the original statute, written in old French, the word is “Armure,” which, by the context, must necessarily be understood to comprehend Arms as well as Armour) “for to keep the peace, after the ancient assiste: that is to say; (2) EVERY MAN, “ between 15 years of age and 60 years, shall he assessed and sworn to ARMOR, according to the quantity of their lands and goods: (3) that is to wit; from £15 lands and goods, 40 marks, AN HAUBERKE, A BREAST-PLATE OF IRON,” (“shapell de ferre,”) “A SWORD, A KNIFE, AND AN HORSE: And from £10 lands and 20 marks goods, AN HAUBERKE, A BREAST-PLATE OF IRON, A SWORD, AND A KNIFE (5) And from £5 lands, A DOUELET, A BREAST-PLATE OF IRON, A SWORD, AND A KNIFE: (6) And from 40s. land and more, unto 100s. of land, A SWORD, A BOW AND ARROWS, AND A KNIFE: (7} And he that hath less than 40s. yearly shall he sworn to keep GISARMS,* KNIVES, AND OTHER LESS WEAPONS: And all other that may shall have BOWS AND ARROWS out of the forest, and in the forest BOWS AND BOULTS, &c.” St. ii. c. 6. A. D. 1285.

* Gisarm, properly “GUTSARME,” (ou) “PERTUISANE, arme militaire fait comme une lance, ou comme une longue bayonnette.”
Dictionnaire du vieux Langage François, par M. Lacombe.

6. —“Divers gentlemen, yeomen, and serving-men, now of late have laid apart the good and laudable exercise of the Long-bow, which always heretofore hath been the surety, safeguard, and continual defence, of this realm of England, and an inestimable dread and terror to the enemies the same.” (Extract from the preamble to the act of 33 Hen. VIII. c. 6.)

Hence it is plain, that “gentlemen, yeomen, and serving-men,” were required, by law, to be exercised in the use of such arm as were esteemed the best for the safeguard and defence of the realm.

7. “All freemen OUGHT” (debent, it is their duty) “TO HAVE ARMS, and to keep them always ready for the defence of the kingdom,” &c.

8. “Commandment of the King, according to Law.” Any commandment of the king, which falls not within this description, is not binding or valid, in law; for the king’s commands ought only to proceed, by due process of the law, through the king’s courts of justice, which are the only proper channels in which “the executive power” of this limited monarchy can legally flow and be exerted; because it is one of the first principles of our constitution, that the king can do nothing on earth, as he it the minister and vicar of God, but that only which he may do by the law.” (“Nihil aliad potest rex in terris, cum fit Dei minister et vicaries, nisi id solum quod de jure potest.” Bract. lib. iii. c. 9.) And this teaches us how to understand the trite maxim, that “the king can do no wrong” i. e. he has no legal authority to do wrong;—“Potestas sua jurir est, et non injuriæ.” Bract. lib. iii. c. 9. He has not any peculiar perorogative, either to do wrong, or to decline from doing right and justic’. “NON EST ULLA REGIS PREROGATIVA que ex justia et equitate quiequam derogat.” Rot. Parl. 7 Hen. IV. num. 59. But, if any king of this limited monarchy should, nevertheless, wilfully “do wrong,” and presume to rule contrary to the laws and fundamental principles of the ancient constitution, he ceases to be “the minister and vicar of God,” and, in the eye of the law, immediately cormmences “Minister Diadoli”—“Potesta: enim juris est Dei, injuriævero DIABOLI; et CUJUS opera fecert:, EJUS ET MINISTER ERIT.” (Fleta, lib. i. cap. 17. p. 17.) See also in Bracton, (lib. iii. cap. 9. p. 107.) who, after reciting the same doctrine, concerning the effect of good or bad measures, adds, “Igitur dum facit” (rex) “JUSTITIAM, vicarius est REGIS ÆTERNI; minister autem DIABOLI, dum declinet ad injuriam;” and the consequence must be fatal, even to the temporal state of such an one, because all legal authority of the sovereign ceases, in this realm, if the king presumes to rule by V “will and pleasure” instead of law! “for there is NO KING, when will governs and not Law.” “Non estemim rex, ubi dominatur volatus et non lex.” (Bract. lib. i. c. 8.) The advisers, therefore, of illegal measures (or any measures that require an undue influence in parliament to make them pass) are so far from deserving the title of the king’s friend,” that they are really his most dangerous enemies; they are traitors, whose disloyal councils lead to certain destruction, as nothing but “righteousness can establish the throne.”

9. ‘One of the articles against cardinal Wolsey, 21 Hen. VIII. was, for that he did endeavour to subvert “antiquissimas leges hujus regni, universumque hoc “ regnum Angliæ legibus imperialibus subjugare.” ‘Tis fit that those who attempt to subvert the laws should, according to the old writ, be carried ad golam de Newgate’ “Merito beneficium legis amittit, qui legem ipsam subvertere intendit.” Mr. justice Aland’s Notes on Fortescue de Laudibus Legum Ang. p. 75.

10. ‘No English king before Charles II. had any other guards than his pensioners and yeomen of the guard, (first appointed by that great oppressor of his people Henry VII.) save Richard II. who with the aid of 4000 profligate archers made himself absolute. The usurper’ (Cromwell,) ‘it is notorious, kept up an army in support of himself and his tyranny,’ “and Charles II. being connived at in keeping a few (additional) guards, he insensibly increased their number, till he left a body of men to his successor, great enough to tell the parliament he would be no longer bound by the laws he had sworn to.” In the year 1697, immediately after the conclusion of the war with France, it is well known how far the soldiery, against king William’s inclination and earnest endeavour’s, were reduced. On behalf of the court it was then declared that “the army was not designed to be made a part of our constitution, but to be kept only for a little time, till the circumstances of Europe would better permit us to be without them.” ‘To which it was answered, and reasons given to prove, that “these conspirators against their country were satisfied that their continuance then was an establishment of them for ever.” ‘And it was farther observed, that “the very discontents they might create would be made an argument for the continuing of them: but, if they should be kept from oppressing the people, in a little time they would grow habitual to us, and almost become a part of our constitution, and by degrees we should be brought to believe them not only not dangerous but necessary; for every body saw, but few understood, and those few would never be able to persuade the multitude that there was any danger in those men they had lived quietly with for some years.” ‘And moreover that “Without dear-bought experience any body may know before hand what will be the natural consequences of a standing army. From the day you set them up you set up your masters; you put yourselves wholly into their hands, and are at their discretion. It is the “ nation, in the silentest, shortest, and surest way. They are able to dispose of your lives and estates at will and pleasure; and what can a foreign conqueror do more? If after this we live and possess any thing, it is because they let us; and how long that shall be neither we nor they themselves know.”—Continued Corruption, standing Armies, &c. considered, 1768. p. 15-17.

11. And every Englishman, that has not the same distaste, is surely disaffected to the true constitution and laws of his country, and may justly be charged with disloyalty; for none but freemen ought to be trusted with arms in a free country, and not men that are enslaved under martial law, in regular armies, to yield an implicit active obedience to the word of command, whatever it may be, without distinction of good or evil!

A tip o’ the hat to Ironword Ranch.


The Ancient Common-Law Right of Association with the Vicinage.
Read the Tract.