Feudalism - Monarchies and ColoniesThe Fairfax Resolves 1-8 - RR144B4
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In considering the nature of the various American Colonies to the crown or to the King of England, it is important to realize that for them the relationship was essentially feudal. Now feudalism has a very long history, in fact we are still living to a great extent among the relics and forms of feudalism. Our federal structure is essentially a feudal structure. The United States is the most Feudal country in the world, in that our Government has various levels. Federal, State, County, municipal or township, all of which diversify, decentralize, and grade governments on various levels. Now for countless centuries the Kings of Europe were feudal monarchs. As feudal Monarchs they had an obligation to all the Lords and all those people who were under them to provide certain services and defenses and those under them had certain obligations to them as their feudal kings. However, as the renaissance developed and the modern age began to dawn, the theory of Kingship began to change from a feudal theory to a very different thing, and absolutist theory. Absolutism means that… or an Absolutist theory of monarchy means that the King is absolute Lord and sovereign, that there is no greater power than himself, his authority is total, his power is total, and he is like a God. Now a part of Absolutism was the theory of the divine right of Kings. The King was seen as a kind of God on earth, and if the King said that write was wrong and wrong was right, it was permissible for him to do so. The King could take your life without any need for justification, he could supersede all laws. Wipe out all your rights, he was like a God on earth, his power was total. But unlike God, [00:03:05]
His nature was not necessarily righteous...
His nature was not necessarily righteous. As a result of this change, the Kings increasingly began to exercise more and more power, and in England it led first of all to the civil war, and Cromwell, fighting against the absolutism of the crown, then when Charles the Second came to the throne, he did not attempt to exercise the absolutism of the throne, but when his brother, James the second who succeeded him began to rule as an absolutist monarch, the end result was the glorious revolution of 1688, the overthrow of James the second, William and Mary came in, 1688. And as a result the absolutist theory of Monarchy was overthrown in England. However absolutism was increasingly claimed by parliament instead. So that, in the 1940’s and 50’s, when the labor government took over in England, Sir Hartley Shawcross, the attorney general of Great Britain, actually made the statement that parliaments power was absolute. Parliament could order all blue eyed babies destroyed at birth. Then there was no power to overrule parliament. Absolutism is still with us, the Marxist countries are not only absolutist in theory but in practice. It means the totalitarian power of the government. Now as I indicated, the British Crown for some time claimed absolutist powers, very definitely this was true under the Tudor monarchs. Henry the 8th, Mary, Elizabeth, Then the Stuarts, James the 1st, Charles the 1st, Through James the 2nd. All the same however the elements of Feudal monarchy were not entirely gone. When the colonies were established, they were established on the pattern of feudalism. And their relationship to the crown was a feudal and chartered relationship. Now the colonies were English colonies in the sense that they were established by Englishmen. [00:06:07]
They were not England’s colonies, they were crown colonies...
They were not England’s colonies, they were crown colonies essentially in that they gained their charters from the crown. Now there are different kinds of colonies, and one form is crown colonies, but in a sense all were crown colonies in the sense that all of them derived their charter from the King. This meant that there was no connection between England and the colonies except they had the same King. At the time of the War of Independence, King George the 3rd was King of England, King of Scotland, King of Ireland, King of New York, King of Virginia, King of Massachusetts, King of North Carolina, South Carolina, and so on. As a result each of the Colonies was more or less an independent country. As an independent country, while they were sister countries to one another and to England, Their only legal relationship to each other was through the King. There was no Legal connection between Virginia and Pennsylvania, they were Independent, and they were separate from each other. But they both had the same king. And so they regarded themselves as the members of one family, a family of colonies a family of states. Now each of these various colonies governed itself, it taxed itself, in every respect it was an independent country. As a result each of them elected their own legislators or whatever they called their legislative body, each of them governed themselves and in some cases they even elected their own governor, although he was subject to royal approval, and there was also the power of a royal veto on all legislation. So that when any legislative act was passed it had to go to London to be approved or vetoed after the governor and the legislators approved of it. Thus, when the United States declared its independence it did not declare its independence from England, they were not under England, but under George the 3rd. We shall deal with the Declaration of Independence, but not this morning, and we shall see wherein it was not a declaration of Independence from Parliament. They did not recognize the authority of parliament, but a declaration of independence from George the 3rd. Now one of the problems that preceded the War of Independence was precisely the fact that King George the 3rd was turning over some of his powers to parliament, and parliament was passing taxes on the colonies. The reason for the taxes was the French and Indian war. The attitude of the people in England and of parliament was this: “This war has been very expensive for us. And we’ve been fighting a war over there in the colonies against the French. Why shouldn’t the colonies pay their share of the expenses? After all the colonies are paying very little in the way of taxes, locally (which was true) and their burden of taxation is so small that its practically nothing, (which was true) therefore let us pass some taxes and impose them upon the colonies and make them help pay for their share of the war.” [00:10:58]
Now of course the colonies objected to this on two...
Now of course the colonies objected to this on two counts: First, Parliament had not right to tax them. Only their own legislatures had the right to pass taxes over them and so the various acts, the stamp act, and other acts of taxation were bitterly resented by the colonists. Just as we would resent it today, if say the Canadian parliament decided that Americans should pay a tax. It was a foreign body. Parliament was not their legislative body. And so, they fought bitterly against the tax. They resented it. They denied the right of Parliament to tax them. And they spoke against taxation without representation. It was not that they wanted representation in parliament, they were saying that any taxation they had should come from their own representatives. Their representatives in the Virginian house or the Massachusetts house, not in parliament. That was one very serious aspect of contention. Second the colonists felt that the idea that they had gotten off free was ridiculous. Where was the fighting? It was right here, a great deal of the fighting in the French and Indian war, it was not only abroad, but it was here. And the English were getting a great deal, they were conquering French territories, which we weren’t getting necessarily. [00:12:43]
They were, capturing and confirming their hold on Canada...
They were, capturing and confirming their hold on Canada, and on various territories in the middle west. And perhaps we were not paying as much taxes but we did a great deal of the fighting. It was our men as well as troops from Britain. And It was our women and children who were scalped and killed. When the French turned loose the Indians allies they had against us. And so the American Colonies were intensely bitter. What makes the English think we are getting away cheaply? How would they like it if the French and their Indian allies came swooping down on their towns, burned their homes, killed their wives and children, and left them as scalped remains. Would they feel that it was an easy thing just because our taxes were not as great as their taxes? And if we governed more efficiently than they do and have lower taxes, is that something we should be punished for? [00:13:58]
As a result, the colonies resisted the attempt to tax...
As a result, the colonies resisted the attempt to tax them. When they finally declared their independence it was of King George the 3rd and they never mentioned parliament directly in the Declaration of Independence. Now we are going to turn to another document for the rest of this morning. And we are going to consider it rather carefully and in great detail, because in some respects it’s the best single document for understanding the constitutional and legal issues between the colonies and England. This is the document that was composed right here in this county. Does anyone know the name of it? What? No. Anyone else know? The sad fact is that it’s one of the most important documents in American History, and it is rarely ever considered, and yet to understand the war of Independence you need to know this. The Fairfax County Resolves. The Fairfax County Resolves. And men like George Washington and George Mason, and other men of Virginia gathered together right here in Fairfax in the court house, and they met, and they drew up a legal bill of complaints, going into why it was necessary to declare their independence. Now of course they did not at this point declare their independence, but you cannot understand the Declaration of Independence without the Fairfax County Resolves. [00:16:10]
In which they set forth their legal arguments...
In which they set forth their legal arguments. Now the Resolves begin thus:
Fairfax County Resolves [July 18, 1774</audiopointer>
At a general Meeting of the Freeholders and Inhabitants...
At a general Meeting of the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the County of Fairfax on Monday the 18th day of July 1774, at the Court House, George Washington Esquire Chairman, and Robert Harrison Gent. Clerk of the said Meeting.
1. Resolved that this Colony and Dominion of Virginia cannot be considered as a conquered Country; and if it was, that the present Inhabitants are the Descendants not of the Conquered, but of the Conquerors.
That the same was not settled at the national Expense of England, but at the private Expense of the Adventurers, our Ancestors, by solemn Compact with, and under the Auspices and Protection of the British Crown; upon which we are in every respect as dependent, as the People of Great Britain, and in the same manner subject to all his Majesty's just, legal, and constitutional prerogatives.” (In other words, it’s not an absolute monarchy.) “That our Ancestors, when they left their native Land, and settled in America, brought with them (even if the same had not been confirmed by Charters) the Civil-Constitution and Form of Government of the Country they came from; and were by the Laws of Nature and Nations, entitled to all its Privileges, Immunities and Advantages; which have descended to us their Posterity, and ought of Right to be as fully enjoyed, as if we had still continued within the Realm of England.”
In other words, right off the bat, the men of the Fairfax County declared: We are not conquered territories, how can we be treated as though we are conquered? We are the conquerors. Our fore-fathers came here at their own expense, they conquered this wilderness, and they brought with them all the rights of Englishmen. Their only relationship to England is that King George the 3rd is their legal sovereign and monarch. But, they have full rights under him, they are feudal, they are contractual, they are constitutional. So that England has no more right to rule of Virginia, Than Virginia has the right to rule over England. [00:19:07]
As a result, they saw themselves as a sister dominion...
As a result, they saw themselves as a sister dominion to England. And subject together with England to the British Crown in terms of a constitution. Then they went on to say:
“2. Resolved that the most important and valuable part of the British Constitution, upon which it's very existence depends, is the fundamental principle of the people's being governed by no Laws, to which they have not given their Consent, by Representatives freely chosen by themselves; who are affected by the Laws they enact equally with their Constituents; to whom they are accountable, and whose Burthens they share; in which consists the Safety and Happiness of the Community: for if this Part of the Constitution was taken away, or materially altered, the Government must degenerate either into an absolute and despotic Monarchy, or a tyrannical Aristocracy, and the Freedom of the People be annihilated.” [00:20:29]
Now this is plain language...
Now this is plain language. Very important language. Now isn’t it interesting that you don’t ever get this in the history books today. Here it is, one of the most important documents, and it gives the legal basis of the American Resistance. What they are saying “We are not revolutionists, we are men who have a constitutional right to our freedom. And no one has the right to pass laws over us that our own representatives did not enact.” The resolves do not ask for representation in Congress. What they are saying is “We have our own representatives here in Virginia, and Virginians can only obey laws passed by Virginians. Not by Parliament.” Then the third of the Fairfax Resolves:
“3. Resolved therefore, as the Inhabitants of the American Colonies are not, and from their Situation cannot be represented in the British Parliament, that the legislative Power here can of Right be exercised only by (our) own Provincial Assemblies or Parliaments, subject to the Assent or Negative of the British Crown, to be declared within some proper limited Time. But as it was thought just and reasonable that the People of Great Britain should reap Advantages from these Colonies adequate to the Protection they afforded them, the British Parliament have claimed and exercised the Power of regulating our Trade and Commerce, so as to restrain our importing from foreign Countries, such Articles as they could furnish us with, of their own Growth or Manufacture, or exporting to foreign Country’s such Articles and Portions of our Produce, as Great Britain stood in Need of, for her own Consumption or Manufactures. Such a Power directed with Wisdom and Moderation, seems necessary for the general Good of that great Body-politic of which we are a Part; although' in some Degree repugnant to the Principles of the Constitution. Under this Idea our Ancestors submitted to it: the Experience of more than a Century, during the government of his Majesty's Royal Predecessors, hath proved it's Utility, and the reciprocal Benefits flowing from it produced mutual uninterrupted Harmony and Good-Will, between the Inhabitants of Great Britain and her Colonies; who during that long Period, always considered themselves as one and the same People: and though' such a Power is capable of Abuse, and in some Instances hath been stretched beyond the original Design and Institution. Yet to avoid Strife and Contention with our fellow-Subjects, and strongly impressed with the Experience of mutual Benefits, we always Cheerfully acquiesced in it, while the entire Regulation of our internal Policy, and giving and granting our own Money were preserved to our own provincial Legislatures. “ [00:23:57]
Now we discussed mercantilism last night, and we saw...
Now we discussed mercantilism last night, and we saw that mercantilism was a kind of socialistic economic structure that required the colonies to provide their raw materials to the mother country, and the mother countries goods to the colony, and the colony therefore should not by from foreign countries. In this third resolve, Washington and the other men from Fairfax county said “We don’t like this necessarily. But since we are a part of Great Britain, as a Sister country to England, we have submitted to it even though we have felt it is unjust. We have not been happy with it, we feel some times that it has been unfair, but we’ve done it because in spite of these things because we are more or less one community. And we have helped our mother country. But. This does not give parliament any right beyond that. It has no power over our internal affairs. Only over things external.” And even there, while they say “to a degree we will submit to these mercantilist policies, we’re not saying they’re altogether just. What we are emphatically saying is that anything within Virginia can only be governed by Virginians. Never by Parliament.“ Then the fourth resolve. We’re going to go through these resolves carefully, because you cannot understand the War of Independence apart from these resolves.
“4. Resolved that it is the Duty of these Colonies, on all Emergencies, to contribute, in Proportion to their Abilities, Situation and Circumstances, to the necessary Charge of supporting and defending the British Empire, of which they are Part; that while we are treated upon an equal Footing with our fellow Subjects, the Motives of Self-Interest and Preservation will be a sufficient Obligation; as was evident thro' the Course of the last War; and that no Argument can be fairly applied to the British Parliament's taxing us, upon a Presumption that we should refuse a just and reasonable Contribution, but will equally operate in Justification of the Executive-Power taxing the People of England, upon a Supposition of their Representatives refusing to grant the necessary Supplies.” [00:26:51]
Now here they say ...
Now here they say “We are part of the British Empire. We’re a sister country to all the others, Virginia is a sister country to New York, and England and to Scotland, and to Ireland and to Massachusetts. We are ready, anytime the British Empire is attacked to do our part to defend it. And we did in the last war. But we are on an equal footing with our fellow subjects. A Virginian is equal to a New Yorker, an equal to an Englishman. They have no right then in parliament to treat us as though we were subject.” And the fifth resolve.
“5. Resolved that the Claim lately assumed and exercised by the British Parliament, of making all such Laws as they think fit, to govern the People of these Colonies, and to extort from us our Money without our Consent, is not only diametrically contrary to the first Principles of the Constitution, and the original Compacts by which we are dependent upon the British Crown and Government; but is totally incompatible with the Privileges of a free People, and the natural Rights of Mankind; will render our own Legislatures merely nominal and nugatory, and is calculated to reduce us from a State of Freedom and Happiness to Slavery and Misery.” [00:28:31]
Thus, Parliament is unconstitutional...
Thus, Parliament is unconstitutional. If we allow parliament to govern the internal affairs of Virginia and of Fairfax County we will lose our freedom and we will become slaves. Then six:
“6. Resolved that Taxation and Representation are in their Nature inseparable; that the Right of withholding, or of giving and granting their own Money is the only effectual Security to a free People, against the Encroachments of Despotism and Tyranny; and that whenever they yield the One, they must quickly fall a Prey to the other.” No taxation without representation. [00:29:23]
The two must go together...
The two must go together. We have no representation in parliament and we do not want it. Therefore the only power that can tax us is the Virginia house, and no one else. And this is the fundamental principle of the American war of Independence. Number seven.
“7. Resolved that the Powers over the People of America now claimed by the British House of Commons, in whose Election we have no Share, on whose Determinations we can have no Influence, whose Information must be always defective and often false, who in many Instances may have a separate, and in some an opposite Interest to ours, and who are removed from those Impressions of tenderness and compassion arising from personal intercourse and Connections, which soften the Rigors of the most despotic Governments, must if continued, establish the most grievous and intolerable Species of Tyranny and Oppression, that ever was inflicted upon Mankind.” [00:30:35]
And so in the seventh they continue this point and...
And so in the seventh they continue this point and say if there is taxation without representation it is going to lead to tyranny. It means that anyone can govern over us who has no awareness of what our own form of life is, what our problems are. Can you see the importance of the Fairfax resolves? Why here you have the whole constitutional basis for the War of Independence. Can you begin to guess why it is no longer in our history books? It’s simply because we don’t care about constitutionalism any more. If we did, we would be studying the Fairfax resolves as much as we study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is that important to our history. And it was formed right here in the Fairfax county courthouse. I suspect that there isn’t even a sign to commemorate this. Does anyone know? No. Alright, the eighth resolve.
“8. Resolved that it is our greatest Wish and Inclination, as well as Interest, to continue our Connection with, and Dependence upon the British Government; but though' we are its Subjects, we will use every Means which Heaven hath given us to prevent our becoming it's Slaves.” [00:32:10]
That’s a beautiful statement...
That’s a beautiful statement. “We are ready to be faithful subjects of King George. We have no desire to start a revolution or anything. But we will use any means heaven provides us, to keep us from becoming slaves.” Now that’s the way the men of Fairfax county thought in 1774. “We are not going to become slaves, we are free men under God. And we will do everything possible to maintain our freedom. We are subjects, not slaves.” Well, before we continue the rest of the Fairfax resolves, we have time for a quick question before the end of the period in about a minute and a half or two minutes. Does anyone have a question? Yes. (Indiscernible question) No, all the colonies whatever went into their beginning, now Georgia had a different origin, ultimately became independent colonies. So that each of them had a charter form of Government. So that parliament actually had no legal right over any of them. Any other questions? Let’s see, I think, is there a bell that rings at 10 of? Or not? Well then you may go to your next class. [00:33:56]