The Writings of Samuel Adams— Volume 2

Author: Samuel Adams

Article Signed "Candidus."

[Boston Gazette, December 9, 1771.]


"Whene’er from putrid Courts foul Vapours rose, with vigorous wholesome Gales The Winds of OPPOSITION fiercely blew, Which purg’d and clear’d the agitated State"

If the liberties of America are ever compleatly ruined, of which in my opinion there is now the utmost danger, it will in all probability be the consequence of a mistaken notion of prudence, which leads men to acquiesce in measures of the most destructive tendency for the sake of present ease. When designs are form’d to rase the very foundation of a free government, those few who are to erect their grandeur and fortunes upon the general ruin, will employ every art to sooth the devoted people into a state of indolence, inattention and security, which is forever the fore-runner of slavery - They are alarmed at nothing so much, as attempts to awaken the people to jealousy and watchfulness; and it has been an old game played over and over again, to hold up the men who would rouse their fellow citizens and countrymen to a sense of their real danger, and spirit them to the most zealous activity in the use of all proper means for the preservation of the public liberty, as "pretended patriots," "intemperate politicians," rash, hot-headed men, Incendiaries, wretched desperadoes, who, as was said of the best of men, would turn the world upside down, or have done it already. - But he must have a small share of fortitude indeed, who is put out of countenance by hard speeches without sense and meaning, or affrighted from the path of duty by the rude language of Billingsgate - For my own part, I smile contemptuously at such unmanly efforts: I would be glad to hear the reasoning of Chronus, if he has a capacity for it; but I disregard his railing as I would the barking of a "Cur dog".

The dispassionate and rational Pennsylvania Farmer has told us, that "a perpetual jealousy respecting liberty, is absolutely requisite in all free states." The unhappy experience of the world has frequently manifested the truth of his observation. For want of this jealousy, the liberties of Stain were destroyed by what is called a vote of credit; that is, a confidence placed in the King to raise money upon extraordinary emergencies, in the intervals of parliament. France afterwards fell into the same snare; and England itself was in great danger of it, in the reign of Charles the second; when a bill was brought into the house of commons to enable the King to raise what money he pleased upon extraordinary occasions, as the dutch war was pretended to be - And the scheme would doubtless have succeeded to the ruin of the national liberty, had it not been for the watchfulness of the "intemperate patriots ", and "wrong-headed politicians" even of that day.

How much better is the state of the American colonies soon likely to be, than that of France and Spain or than Britain would have been in, if the Bill before mention’d had pass’d into an act? Does it make any real difference whether one man has the sovereign disposal of the peoples purses, or five hundred? Is it not as certain that the British parliament have assumed to themselves the power of raising what money they please in the colonies upon all occasions, as it is, that the Kings of France and Spain exercise the same power over their subjects upon emergencies? Those Kings by the way, being the sole judges when emergencies happen, they generally create them as often as they want money. And what security have the colonies that the British parliament will not do the same? It is dangerous to be silent, as the ministerial writers would have us to be, while such a claim is held up; but much more to submit to it. Your very silence, my countrymen, may be construed a submission, and those who would perswade you to be quiet, intend to give it that turn. Will it be likely then that your enemies, who have exerted every nerve to establish a revenue, rais’d by virtue of a suppos’d inherent right in the British parliament without your consent, will recede from the favorite plan, when they imagine it to be compleated by your submission? Or if they should repeal the obnoxious act, upon the terms of your submitting to the right, is it not to be apprehended that your own submission will be brought forth as a precedent in a future time, when your watchful adversary shall have succeeded, and laid the most of you fast asleep in the bed of security and insensibility. Believe me, should the British parliament, which claims a right to tax you at discretion, ever be guided by a wicked and corrupt administration, and how near they are approaching to it, I will leave you to judge, you will then find one revenue act succeeding another, till the fatal influence shall extend to your own parliaments. Bribes and tensions will be as frequent here, as they are in the unhappy kingdom of Ireland, and you and your posterity will be made, by means of your own money, as subservient to the will of a British ministry, or an obsequious Governor, as the vassals of France are to that of their grand monarch. What will prevent this misery and infamy, but your being finally oblig’d to have recourse to the ultima ratio! But is it probable that you will ever make any manly efforts to recover your liberty, after you have been inur’d, without any remorse, to contemplate yourselves as slaves? Custom, says the Farmer, gradually reconciles us to objects even of dread and detestation. It reigns in nothing more arbitrarily than in publick Affairs. When an act injurious to freedom has once been done, and the people bear it, the repetition of it is more likely to meet with submission. For as the mischief of the one was found to be tolerable, they will hope that the second will prove so too; and they will not regard the infamy of the last, because they are stain’d with that of the first.

The beloved Patriot further observes, "In mixed governments, the very texture of their constitution demands a perpetual jealousy; for the cautions with which power is distributed among the several orders, imply, that each has that share which is proper for the general welfare, and therefore that any further imposition must be pernicious". The government of this province, like that of Great Britain, of which it is said to be an epitome, is a mixed government. It’s constitution is delicately framed; and I believe all must acknowledge, that the power vested in the crown is full as great as is consistent with the general welfare. The King, by the charter, has the nomination and appointment of the governor: But no mention being therein made of his right to take the payment of his governor upon himself, it is fairly concluded that the people have reserv’d that right to themselves, and the governor must stipulate with them for his support. That this was the sense of the contracting parties, appears from practice contemporary with the date of the charter itself, which is the best exposition of it; and the same practice has been continued uninterruptedly to the present time - But the King now orders his support out of the American revenue: Chronus himself, acknowledges that he is thereby "render’d more independent of the people." - Consequently the balance of power if it was before even is by this means disadjusted. Here then is another great occasion of jealousy in the people. No reasonable man will deny that an undue proportion of power added to the monarchical part of the constitution, is as dangerous, as the same undue proportion would be, if added to the democratical. Should the people refuse to allow the governor the due exercise of the powers that are vested in him by the Charter, I dare say they would soon be told, and very justly, of "the mischief that would be the consequence of it." And is there not the same reason why the people may and ought to speak freely & LOUDLY of the mischief which would be the consequence of his being rendered more independent of them; or which is in reality the same thing, his becoming possessed of more power than the charter vests him with? For the annihilating a constitutional check, in the people, which is necessary to prevent the Governor’s exercise of exorbitant power, is in effect to enable him to exercise that exorbitant power, when he pleases, without controul. A Governor legally appointed may usurp powers which do not belong to him: And it is ten to one but he will, if the people are not jealous and vigilant. Charles the first was legally appointed king: The doctrines advanced by the clergy in his father’s infamous reign, led them both to believe that they were the LORD’S anointed and were not accountable for their conduct to the people. - It is strange that kings seated on the English throne, should imbibe such opinions: But it is possible they were totally unacquainted with the history of their English predecessors. - Charles, by hearkening to the council of his evil ministers, which coincided with the principles of his education, and his natural temper, and confiding in his corrupt judges, became an usurper of powers which he had no right to; and exercising those powers, he became a Tyrant: But the end proved fatal to him, and afforded a solemn lesson for all succeeding usurpers and tyrants: His subjects who made him king, called him to account, dismiss’d and PUNISH’D him in a most exemplary manner! Charles was obstinate in his temper, and thought of nothing so little as concessions of any kind: If he had been well advis’d, he would have renounced his usurped powers: Every wise governor will relinquish a power which is not clearly constitutional, however inconsiderable those about him may perswade him to think it; especially, if the people regard it as a PART OF A SYSTEM OF OPPRESSION, and AN EVIDENCE OF TYRANNICAL DESIGNS. And the more tenacious he is of it, the stronger is the reason why "the SPIRIT OF APPREHENSION" should be kept up among them in its utmost VIGILANCE.



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Chicago: Samuel Adams, "Article Signed Candidus.," The Writings of Samuel Adams— Volume 2 in The Writings of Samuel Adams—Volume 2 Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2023,

MLA: Adams, Samuel. "Article Signed "Candidus."." The Writings of Samuel Adams— Volume 2, in The Writings of Samuel Adams—Volume 2, Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Adams, S, 'Article Signed "Candidus."' in The Writings of Samuel Adams— Volume 2. cited in , The Writings of Samuel Adams—Volume 2. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2023, from