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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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tween the mother country and the colonies might be effected.  He thinks ‘taxation’ the chief bar, and that in everything else the colonies would be willing to yield a supremacy, reserving at the same time to their own legislatures the disposal of the sums levied within them respectively for the regulation of trade, duties, and customs.  ‘What will the Americans accept? To answer this question, let the state of the two countries be considered.  I build on three facts; first, that reunion between the two is essential to both, I say essential; secondly, that in every state there must be of necessity one legislature, which is supreme; thirdly, that in every society the members have an antecedent right to the utmost liberty, which can be enjoyed consistent with the general safety.  Is taxation an unalienable branch of the supreme legislature?  Reason and experience both tell us that it is not.  The King of France might invest his parliaments with this right, and yet be supreme in every other instance.  In all governments there must be trust somewhere, and there would be no temptation to tyrannize, I believe, when the right of taxation is ceded.  Nor will I mention the dernier resort, because I think government should be founded on stationary and not revolutionary principles.’

He mentions also a plan of ‘uniting the whole continent in one grand legislature,’ and thinks such a scheme would be fortunate, if practicable, but he looks upon it as hopeless, both from the opposition which would be made to it by persons already in power on the one band, and by the Americans on the other, since its tendency would be to give greater influence to the crown, diminish the importance of each colony, and restrain the democratic spirit, which the constitutions and local circumstances of the country had so long fostered in the minds of the people.

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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 27. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to


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