Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Brief w/ commentary: Jefferson's A Summary View of the Rights of British America

A Brief w/ commentary:
By: Douglas Dedrick 
A Summary View of the Rights
of British America
Set Forth in some Resolutions 
Intended for the Inspection of the Present Delegates 
of the People of Virginia Now in Convention
By: Thomas Jefferson

In this document Jefferson is addressing the harsh trade sanction imposed on the colonies by the king.  Jefferson address's that it was his ancestors and those of the colonists, with no assistance of the king, that established and settled the colonies.  It was not until the colonies were well settled that Britain sent assistance, which was requested by the colonists to fight "enemies".  As part of the agreement for support from Britain, the colonists agreed to trade as it was beneficial to England. Jefferson is speaking of how harsh the regulation of trade from Britain has been.  Trade has been so restricted Jefferson is calling it a violation of the right of the people of British America.  

As Jefferson addresses, British parliament session after session has restricted the trade of the colonies, in an effort to make them more dependent on the British empire. Trade is so regulated by the British parliament, that colonists have almost no choice but to trade directly with the English.  This brings the value they receive for their goods down, and the cost for imported goods up. Jefferson although grateful for the help received from Britain, is trying to set some boundaries and is calling the British parliament and his majesty, out on violations to basic laws of human nature. He is not only addressing the violations of the current king, but also his predecessors, stating that act after act of parliament has further restricted trade.  One of the more extreme prohibitions on trade was  an act past that outlawed a settler from making a hat of an animal they capture, even if it were caught on their own land.  If the settlers produced more tobacco than Britain demanded they were to sell it to the British merchant for whatever price they would offer, the British merchant would then sell the tobacco in foreign lands and he would profit.  

We can see clearly in this document why the American colonists had cause to be upset with the British empire.  Not only has the parliament limited the colonies trade with other nations, but even the internal affairs of the colonies themselves are severely limited  as well. It is amazing to see such a strong abuse of power taking place in an area so simply as limitations to trade.  With acts entitled things such as “An act for the better securing the dependency of his majesty's dominions in America upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain;”, it is all to clear the blatant abuse of power the king was trying to exercise.  Jefferson is under the impression that the king and parliament are on track to reduce the colonists to slaves of the British empire, after reading of the atrocities, I can say that those beliefs were defiantly not unfounded. 

We also find Jefferson's second hand account of the "Boston tea party", and we also find that the parliament in response to the "Tea Party" has since passed an act banning shipments in or out of the port of Boston. This document seems to be the outline of much of my old school history books.  In this short 23 page document we find mentions of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, violations of rights and definitions of them, mentions of the constitutions of the states and of Great Britain, we also find the king using and abusing his executive powers and mentions of the two other branches of legislature. Considering the atrocities by "his majesty" and the parliament, one can see why the founders of the Constitution of the US were so firm on human rights and why they were so adamant above creating a system that would preserve the rights, not just for a few folks, but for all people.  

This document shows a very unique and strong perspective on the building tensions in the preRevolution era. What I also find interesting is an individual, Thomas Jefferson, is challenging the jurisdiction of the British parliament, stating that the acts are void and that the parliament has "has no right to exercise authority over us.". Jefferson also states that the king is exercising law that is not derived of human nature, and thus has no real substance.     I think that this is an important document of the United States history, and of the formation of US Law, in a very short document much of the US's foundation is discussed, and we get a first hand perspective on the events that occurred and how it may have felt to be there.  

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