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I have been charged with desertion from my office. To this charge I can give a very sufficient answer. I renounce that office, and I argue this cause from the same principle; and I argue it with the greater pleasure, because it is in favour of British liberty, at a time when we hear the greatest Monarch upon earth declaring from his throne, that he glories in the name of Briton, and that the privileges of his people are dearer to him than the most valuable prerogative of his crown; and as it is in opposition to a kind of power, the exercise of which, in former periods of English history, cost one King of England his head, and another his throne. “I have taken more pains in this cause than I ever will take again, although my engaging in this and another popular cause, has raised much excitement. But I think I can sincerely declare, that I cheerfully submit myself to every odious name for conscience sake, and from my soul I despise all those whose guilt, malice, or folly, has made them my foes. Let the consequences be what they will, I am determined to proceed. The only principles of public conduct that are worthy of a gentleman, or a man, are to sacrifice
estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of his country. These manly sentiments in private life make the good citizen, in public life the patriot and the hero. I do not say that when brought to the test, I shall be invincible. I pray God, I may never be brought to the melancholy trial; but if ever I should, it will then be known how far I can reduce to practice principles which I know to be founded in truth. In the meantime, I will proceed to the subject of this writ.
“In the first place the writ is universal, being directed 'to all and singular, the justices, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and subjects, so that, in short, it is directed to every subject in the King's dominions. Every one with this writ may be a tyrant, if this commission be legal ; a tyrant in a legal manner also may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm. In the next place it is perpetual, there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the archangel shall excite different
emotions in his soul. In the third place, a person with this writ in the daytime may enter all houses, shops, &c., at will, and command all to assist him.
Fourthly, by this writ, not only deputies, &c., but even their menial servants are allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to have the curse of Canaan, with a witness, on us, to be the servant of servants, the most despicable of God's creatures.
“Now one of the most essential branches of English history is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and while he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would entirely annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please. We are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way, and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.
“ This wanton exercise of this power is not a chimerical suggestion of a heated brain. I will mention some facts. Mr. Pew had one of these
writs, and when Mr. Ware succeeded him, he endorsed this writ over to Mr. Ware, so that these writs are negotiable from one officer to another, and so your Honours have no opportunity of judging the persons to whom this vast power is delegated. Another instance is this; Mr. Justice Wally had called this same Mr. Ware before him by a constable, to answer for a breach of Sabbath-day acts, or that of profane swearing. As soon as he had finished, Mr. Ware asked him if he had done. He replied yes. Well, then, said Mr. Ware, I will show you a little of my power. I command you to permit me to search your house for uncustomed goods, and went on to search his house from garret to cellar, and then served the constable in the same manner. “But to show another absurdity in this writ, if it should be established, I insist upon it, every person, by the 14th Charles II, has this power as well as custom-house officers. The words are: ‘It shall be lawful for any person or persons authorized,’ &c. What a scene does this open Every man, prompted by revenge, illhumour, or wantonness to inspect the inside of his neighbour's house, may get a writ of assistance. Others will ask it from self-defence; one arbitrary exertion will provoke another, until society be involved in tumult and blood.” Notwithstanding these and many more arguments were enforced, with a zeal peculiar to the spirit of the occasion, and the manners of the pleaders, the writ of assistance was granted. In the midst of these disputes occurred the peace of 1763, which, though it produced a temporary calm, ultimately transferred hostilities from the confines to the very heart of the colonies.