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There is in that pamphlet absolutely nothing which cannot be proved to rest on British precedent.
“The Rights of British America Asserted," a pamphlet by the impetuous James Otis, of Massachusetts, published in 1766, is more general than the pamphlet by Dummer. It touches the questions of original compact, compact between sovereign and people, and kindred topics, but it refers those "who want a full answer” to these questions to“ Mr. Locke's discourse on Government, M. de Vattel's law of nature and nations and their own consciences." He holds that the theory of the British Constitution “comes nearest the idea of perfection of any that has been reduced to practice." He hopes for British ascendency in European politics. He quotes “the great, the incomparable Harrington.” He alludes once, also, to the “celebrated Rousseau,” but only incidentally. He quotes him, not to state a principle but to confute Grotius. He alludes to Locke, however, and cites Locke again and again, as one would cite a master. The gist of the American's argument can be found in few words. “The colonists, being men,” says Otis, “have a right to be considered as equally entitled to all the rights of nature with the Europeans."
Dummer based his arguments for the charters on precedents; Otis defended America with citations from Locke. Jefferson in his pamphlet, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” issued in 1774, was not a whit more Gallican than his predecessors. He spoke with pride of his "Saxon ancestors.” He pleaded for law, natural justice and equality with a moderation equaled only by Locke. His foot-notes were dotted with British precedents. He was firm and bold even when addressing his sovereign. “Let those flatter who fear. It is not an American art.” Thus, two years before the Declaration, in 1774, Jefferson, the pamphleteer, did not give the faintest indication of being the advocate of any doctrines, did not show himself the imitator of any phrase or expression that could not have been cuiled from Harrington or Sidney, Somers or Locke.
A man, especially a young man, who admires an author, quotes that author or imitates his manner or propagates his doctrine. Jefferson did not quote Rousseau, nor allude to him, nor disseminate his views more than those views were Locke's. He was, in 1776, an Englishman of the opposition, as Anglican, at bottom, as was John Adams. “The first time that you and I differed on any material question," the Massachusetts man wrote, in 1813, to the Virginian, “was after your arrival from Europe; and that point was the French Revolution;" and in his reply to this letter the Virginian acknowledged as much. “I have never read reasoning more absurd, sophistry more gross," continued Adams
“than the subtle VOL. XII --No 1.-4
labor of Helvetius and Rousseau to demonstrate the natural equality of mankind." "I agree with you," replied Jefferson, " that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents." He did not as much as defend the Rousseau of whom, in the year of the Declaration, he is alleged to have been the disciple.
The “Common Sense" of Thomas Paine, published in 1776, was the most popular pamphlet of the day. Did it contain the phrases and doctrines of Rousseau? Did it contain a single allusion to a school which, influential in Europe, has by some been assumed to have been equally influential in America ? Let us see.
Paine was an English Radical who had chosen to settle in the Colonies, and who soon perceived that the traditions of Anglican liberty could there be more widely interpreted than in the mother country.
He saw about him a simple, agricultural community, with few social, and less political, distinctions. This community was slightly, dependent on the parent state. Paine boldly pronounced for independence and a broader liberty. He backed his arguments in this cause, not with the opinions of the French philosophic school, but with those of the English. He quoted but one continental writer, Dragonetti, while he quoted several that were household words to his American readers—the Bible, Milton and Hume. The principle of equal representation he seems to have taken from Burgh, and Thomson, the poet of Liberty, who, according to Taine, “thirty years before Rousseau, had expressed all Rousseau's sentiments, almost in the same style,” furnished him with the epigraph which he placed on his titlepage:
“Man knows no master save creating Heaven,
It is indeed somewhat surprising that the political literature of the Colonies did not glow with the words of Rousseau. He was famous. His “ Discourse on Inequality "and his “Social Compact" were adapted to revolutionary times. His style was impassioned and apt to move the masses. He was, in a word, eminently a quotable author. Yet the fact remains, as far as we have been able to see, that none of the prominent advocates of American rights strengthened their argument with any of those striking passages which they might have have taken verbally from the gloomy philosopher who was even then causing kings to tremble on their thrones.
There is in the “Common Sense" of Paine, published in 1776, none of the French political philosophy so noticeable in his “Rights of Man" issued in 1791. The Paine of the early days of the American Revolution was, in
fact, as little the Paine of the French Revolution as Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, was the Jefferson who from 1785 to 1789 represented the United States at the Paris Legation. Both these men grew more radical and became more susceptible to foreign influence as they advanced in years. There is no evidence in the works of either of them that in 1776 they were anything but liberal English Whigs who construed English political principles in as broad a manner as possible, who adjusted what Adams called the “revolution principles" to the new conditions under which they lived.
The tracts of Sewell and Wise, and the pamphlets of Dummer, of Otis, of Jefferson and of Paine-productions typical of that time--we have seen, do not bear the impress of French influence, while, on the contrary, they clearly point to English influence by their reproductions of the English Bible or their quotations from British publicists.
An examination of the periodical writings of Franklin, Adams and Dickinson will, perhaps, discover traces of Gallican origin.
Dr. Franklin, though more especially a scientist, early in his career threw himself into the politics of his country. Before the eventful year of 1776 we find him writing witty apologues, issuing almanacs, contributing to popular periodicals. The education of youth interested him. In a list of books which he drew up for academic use we come upon the writings of Addison and of Tillotson, Cato's Letters, the works of Algernon Sidney. Franklin, up to the very outbreak of the Revolution, was a Briton of the Britons.
A perusal of his essay “On Government" and his essay “On Freedom of Speech and the Press,” contributed to the Pennsylvania Gazette about 1736, amply proves this. He spoke of liberty, of “natural rights," of Sidney, “the sworn foe of tyranny," "a gentleman of noble family, of sublime understanding and exalted courage," " of that invaluable legacy his immortal discourses on government." Franklin was a man of wide reading, and it is natural to suppose that he was later acquainted with the works of Rousseau and his school, but there is no positive evidence that, prior to the Declaration, he had come under their sway. He alluded to Rousseau but once in his works, and then it was on a point of music and not a question of politics. The mind of Franklin was a practical not a speculative one. He would have agreed with Macaulay, “An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia."
The writings of John Adams, prior to the charter of 1776, like those of Franklin, bear witness to broad scholarship, wide interest, and admiration for English men and English ways.
In his Essay on Canon and Feudal Law, sent fo.th in 1765, amid many other authors he once referred to Rousseau, the opponent of feudalism,
but his frequent references to Sidney and Locke, when discussing great principles, give some clue to the bent of his mind and indicate that the works of Englishmen, and not those of the Frenchmen, were his political guides. In a series of articles contributed to the Boston Gazette, in 1774, and signed Novanglus, Adams, by his arguments and his quotations, showed himself a good Whig of the old school. “Surely Grotius, Pufendorf (sic.), Barbeyrac, Locke, Sidney and Leclerc are writers of sufficient weight to put in the scale against the mercenary scribblers in New York and Boston." Why did John Adams mention neither Raynal nor Rousseau ?
John Dickinson was a scholar. He had made a special study of history and political science. Montesquieu and Beccaria, the Scriptures and the Classics, Cato's Letters and Blackstone's Commentaries, Grotius and Machiavelli, Coke, Locke, and Hume were ever at his pen's end. But a careful collation of his various works has convinced me that British and classic authors are of most frequent and most striking occurrence in his notes. The English Bible and English history are his best-thumbed volumes. His sentences often sound as though they were taken entirely from the Scriptures, from Roundhead pamphlets, or from tracts like those of Sewell and Wise. Dickinson was, perhaps, the stanchest advocate of the abstract rights of the Colonists, and yet he went for his radicalism and his doctrines, not to Paris, but to Geneva; not to Rousseau, but the Bible; not to the popular writers of France, but to the classic authors of Greece and Rome. “To talk of your charters, gentlemen," he wrote in 1766, “is but weakening the cause by relying on false aids.
· Kings or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness, as you confess those invaded by the Stamp Act to be.
“We claim them from a higher source, from the King of kings and the Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchments and seals. They are created in us by the decrees of Providence which establish the laws of our nature.”
Such outspoken words, and more, were repeated by Dickinson in his famous Farmer's Letters, published in 1767 at Philadelphia, and in a translated form republished at Paris. He quoted French authorities when it suited his purpose, just as he quoted Dutch or English authorities, neither more nor less, as might be expected from a man of general culture. The French author whom he cited most frequently was Montesquieu, a writer who, even according to the historians of his own country, was imbued with Anglican ideas, and held up to admiration the Anglican system of government. It was probably for that very reason that the philosopher of the Spirit of the Laws was congenial to the Americans of the eighteenth century. Nor did Dickinson neglect the writers of classic antiquity. Like most of the educated gentlemen of England and the Colonies, he was well versed in his Plutarch, his Cicero, and his Tacitus, and he culled from them as bold thoughts as did Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, or Diderot.
In an essay published in 1774, Dickinson thus placed his arguments on the basis of abstract right, and quoted the lines from the Antigone of Sophocles:
“I could never think
Of yesterday, but made ere time began.” The writings of Dickinson, then, cannot be said to be inspired by French prophets. They broach old English arguments in a new dress. If the internal evidence of this did not strike the reader as sufficiently strong, let him read the words of Diderot, written when he saw the French translation of the Farmer's Letters. They are the words of a man who welcomes an original revelation. If the Farmer's Letters had been French in tone, we may be sure a Parisian would have been the first to discover and glory in the fact.
" I was a little surprised to see a translation of these letters appear here. I know of no work more apt to instruct the nations in their inalienable rights, and to inspire them with an ardent love of liberty." After quoting a few stirring sentences from the last “Letter,” he continues : “They allow us to read such things, and then they are astonished to find us at the end of ten years such changed men. Do they not feel with what facility generous souls drink in these sentiments and intoxicate themselves with them? Ah, my friend, happily tyrants are more stupid than they are wicked."
We have now glanced over the pages of tracts, pamphlets, and periodical writings dating from 1700 to 1776.
Had the influence of the French philosopher been as great as some would have us believe, quotations from and direct allusions to Rousseau should have been more frequent in the literature of the Colonies; as it is, the author most quoted will be found to have been John Locke.
If we examine the diaries and private correspondence of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Lee, Jay, we find just as little reference to the reading of French political writers as in their printed works we have found traces of the influence of these writers. College-bred Americans almost invariably alluded to French scientists, not to French politicians, when mentioning