Friday, December 17, 2021

Hamilton Cited Blackstone For The Opposite Position

"Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.

"This is what is called the law of nature, 'which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original.' Blackstone."

-- Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted.

Very few people who read this appreciate the irony that Hamilton was citing Blackstone for the opposite conclusions to which Blackstone endorsed: Absolute Parliamentary Supremacy.
When inquiring on the "Christian nation" debate, I've seen some Christian nationalists try to dig further into that quotation from Blackstone and note how Blackstone, writing further, elevated revealed law (revelation) over natural law (reason). The problem for the Christian nation proposition is that Hamilton doesn't invoke revealed law in The Farmer Refuted, but only natural law. And he does so in a way to reach the opposite position that Blackstone did or would have reached on the American Revolution.
Blackstone died in 1780 after the American Revolution began. I know he was a Tory who taught absolute Parliamentary supremacy. Though I haven't yet come across any quotations of his where he directly addressed the American Revolution. I know when in Parliament, he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act that was directed against the Americans.
Blackstone may have been an orthodox Anglican -- though I don't see him as a very zealous one. Though I have concluded that when Hamilton wrote The Farmer Refuted, he was a theist, though not an orthodox Christian. He became orthodox later on in life shortly before he died. But in any event, Hamilton is citing theistic natural law, not the Bible or revealed law against "The Farmer," who was a Bishop of impeccable (Anglican) orthodoxy: Samuel Seabury.


Tom Van Dyke said...

This would be true except Hamilton is arguing against Seabury's position of the absolute authority of the Crown [like Hobbes*]. Hamilton rejects the authority of Parliament completely, infra:

Admitting, that the King of Great Britain was enthroned by virtue of an act of parliament, and that he is King of America, because he is King of Great-Britain, yet the act of parliament is not the *efficient* cause of his being the King of America: It is only the *occasion* of it. He is King of America, by virtue of a compact between us and the Kings of Great-Britain. These colonies were planted and settled by the Grants, and under the Protection of English Kings, who entered into covenants with us for themselves, their heirs and successors; and it is from these covenants, that the duty of protection on their part, and the duty of allegiance on ours arise.

So that, to disclaim, the authority of a British Parliament over us, does by no means imply the dereliction of our allegiance to British Monarchs. Our compact takes no cognizance of the manner of their accession to the throne. It is sufficient for us, that they are Kings of England.

The most valid reasons can be assigned for our allegiance to the King of Great-Britain; but not one of the least force or plausibility for our subjection to parliamentary decrees.

We hold our lands in America by virtue of charters from British Monarchs; and are under no obligations to the lords or commons for them: Our title is similar and equal to that, by which they possess their lands; and the King is the legal fountain of both: this is one grand source of our obligation to allegiance.

*There is so strong a similitude between your political principles and those maintained by Mr. Hobbs, that, in judging from them, a person might very easily mistake you for a disciple of his."

Tom Van Dyke said...

[cont'd] This was 1775. It will wait until 1776 to declare that the Crown has itself breached the contract with the colonies, rendering it void.

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well Hamilton certainly isn't following Blackstone's lead here. As Blackstone said of Parliament:

"It can, in short, do every thing that is not naturally impossible; and therefore some have not scrupled to call it’s power, by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of parliament. True it is, that what they do, no authority upon earth can undo."

And as Gary North summarized the irony: “Blackstone was wrong: beginning eleven years later, the American colonies undid a lot of what Parliament had done.”

Tom Van Dyke said...

Then North misses Hamilton entire argument: Parliament has no legitimacy in the colonies because they are not represented--the taxation without representation argument.

The colonies have their OWN government[s].

The resolves of our Assembly, the last day of December 1771, about three years afterwards, will serve as a full explanation. “As it is, not only, the common birthright of all his Majesty’s subjects, but, is also essential to the preservation of the peace, strength and prosperity of the British empire, that an exact equality of constitutional rights, among all his Majesty’s subjects, in the several parts of the empire, be uniformly and invariably maintained and supported; and as it would be inconsistent with the constitutional rights, of his Majesty’s subjects, in Great-Britain, to tax them, either in person, or estate, without the consent of their representatives, in Parliament assembled. It is therefore

“Resolved *nemine contradicente*,

“That it is the opinion of this committee, that no tax under any name, or denomination, or on any pretence, or for any purpose whatsoever, can, or ought to be imposed, or levied upon the persons, estates, or property of his Majesty’s good subjects within this colony, but of their free gift, by their representatives lawfully convened, in General Assembly.

“That it is the opinion of this committee, that this colony lawfully and constitutionally has and enjoys an internal legislature, in which, the crown and the people of this colony are constitutionally represented; and that the power and authority of the said legislature cannot lawfully or constitutionally be suspended, abridged, abrogated or annulled by any power or prerogative whatsoever, the prerogative of the crown, ordinarily exercised, for prorogations and dissolutions, only, excepted.”

A supreme authority, in the Parliament, to make any special laws for this province, consistent with the internal legislature here claimed is impossible; and cannot be supposed, without falling into that solecism, in politics, of *imperium in imperio.*

Our Founding Truth said...

"It can, in short, do every thing that is not naturally impossible; and therefore some have not scrupled to call it’s power, by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of parliament. True it is, that what they do, no authority upon earth can undo."

I believe you are reading into this isolated quote. It seems impossible to prove Blackstone believed as you say because the text doesn't describe that assumption.

Blackstone is only stating a point of fact. The text doesn't say he's advocating parliament's supremacy. He even goes so far as to say those who advocate that are "too bold" implying that position is not practical, which supports the view that Blackstone believed the opposite. Maybe there's more text to support your contention.

He was a natural law lawyer and spoke of Christianity in that context, therefore he was highly influenced by the enlightenment. I would say the same for Hamilton except that he was never orthodox.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr OFT: Founder James Wilson also held that view:

"But even if a part was to be given up, does it follow that all must be surrendered? Man, says Mr. Burke, cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. By an uncivil contradistinguished from a civil state, he must here mean a state of nature: by the rights of this uncivil state, he must mean the rights of nature: and is it possible that natural and civil rights cannot be enjoyed together? Are they really incompatible? Must our rights be removed from the stable foundation of nature, and placed on the precarious and fluctuating basis of human institution? Such seems to be the sentiment of Mr. Burke: and such too seems to have been the sentiment of a much higher authority than Mr. Burke -- Sir William Blackstone."

he continued:

"And must we surrender to government the whole of those absolute rights? But we are to surrender them only -- in trust: -- another brat of dishonest parentage is now attempted to be imposed upon us: but for what purpose? Has government provided for us a superintending court of equity to compel a faithful performance of the trust? If it had; why should we part with the legal title to our rights?"