A Short Discourse

Keith

1726

… When either by Conquest or Encrease of People, Foreign Provinces are possessed, & Colonies planted abroad, it is convenient & often necessary to substitute little Dependant Governments, whose People by being enfranchised, & made Partakers of the Priviledges & Liberties belonging to the Original Mother State, are justly bound by its Laws, & become subservient to its Interests as the true End of their Incorporation. Every Act of Dependant Provincial Governments ought therefore to Terminate in the Advantage of the Mother State, unto whom it ows its being, & Protection in all its valuable Priviledges, Hence it follows that all Advantageous Projects or Commercial Gains in any Colony, which are truly prejudicial to & inconsistent with the Interests of the Mother State, must be understood to be illegal, & the Practice of them unwarrantable, because they Contradict the End for which the Colony had a being, & are incompatible with the Terms on which the People Claim both Priviledges & Protection. Were these Things rightly understood amongst the Inhabitants of the British Colonies in America, there wou’d be less Occasion for such Instructions & Strict Prohibitions, as are daylysent from England to regulate their Conduct in many Points; the very Nature of the King wou’d be sufficient to direct their Choice in cultivating such Parts of Industry & Commerce only as wou’d bring some Advantage to the Interest & Trade of Great Britain, & they wou’d soon find by Experience that this was the solid & true Foundation whereon to build a real Interest in their Mother Country, & the certain Means to acquire Riches without Envy. On the Other Hand where the Government of a Provincial Colony is well regulated, & all its business & Commerce truly adapted to the proper End, & design of its First Settlement; Such a Province like a Choice Branch, springing from the Main Root ought to be carefully nourish’d, & its just Interest well guarded; No little Partial Projector Party Gain, shou’d be Suffered to affect it, but rather it ought to be considered & weigh’d in the General Ballance of the whole State as a useful & profitable Member… . From what has been said of the Nature of Colonies & the restriction that ought to be laid on their Trade, is in plain that none of the English Plantations in America can with any reason or good sence pretend to claim an Absolute Legislative Power within themselves; so that let their several Constitutions be founded on Ancient Charters, Royal Patent, Custom, Prescription or what other Legal Authority You please, yet still they cannot be possessed of any rightful Capacity to contradict or evade the force of any Act of Parliament wherewith the Wisdom of Great Britain may think fit to effect them from time to time, & in discouraging of their Legislative Power (improperly so called in a dependant Government) we are to consider them only as so many Corporations at a distance invested with Ability to make Temporary By Laws for themselves agreeable to their Respective Situations & Clymates, but no ways interfering with the Legal Prerogative of the Crown or the true Legislative Power of the Mother State.If the Governors & General Assemblys of the Several Colonies wou’d be pleas’d to consider themselves in this Light, one wou’d think it was impossible that they wou’d be so weak as to fancy, they represented the King, Lords & Commons of Great Britain within their little Districts; And indeed the useless or rather hurtfull & inconsistent Constitution of a Negative Council in all the Kings Provincial Governments has it is believed contributed to lead them into this mistake, For so long as the King as reserved unto himself in his Privy Council the Consideration of, & Negative upon all their Laws, the Method of appointing a few of the Richest & Proudest Men in a small Colony as an upper House, with a Negative on the Proceedings of the King’s Lieutenant Governor, & the People’s Representations seem not only to Cramp the natural Liberty of the Subject there, but also the Kings Just Power & Prerogative… .

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