The Great Doctor writes, in a well-known passage:
How any man can have consented to institutions established in distant ages, it will be difficult to explain. In the most favourite residence of liberty, the consent of individuals is merely passive; a tacit admission, in every community, of the terms which that community grants and requires. As all are born the subjects of some state or other, we may be said to have been all born consenting to some system of government. Other consent than this the condition of civil life does not allow. It is the unmeaning clamour of the pedants of policy, the delirious dream of republican fanaticism.
Quite right, and the pedants of policy and the delirious dreamers are still clamouring, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now the rest of Taxation No Tyranny is, undeservedly, less read. We suppose that some people think that the question of American independence is settled. In any case, the following acerbic passage is worthwhile:
[The Americans'] next resolution declares, that "Their ancestors, who first settled the colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother-country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects within the realm of England."
This, likewise, is true; but when this is granted, their boast of original rights is at an end; they are no longer in a state of nature. These lords of themselves, these kings of ME, these demigods of independence sink down to colonists, governed by a charter. If their ancestors were subjects, they acknowledged a sovereign; if they had a right to English privileges, they were accountable to English laws; and, what must grieve the lover of liberty to discover, had ceded to the king and parliament, whether the right or not, at least, the power of disposing, "without their consent, of their lives, liberties, and properties." It, therefore, is required of them to prove, that the parliament ever ceded to them a dispensation from that obedience, which they owe as natural-born subjects, or any degree of independence or immunity, not enjoyed by other Englishmen.
Parenthetically we observe that advocates of human rights ought to read more Johnson. And the coinage of the phrase "these kings of ME" is alone worth the price of this pamphlet. He continues:
They say, that by such emigration, they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights; but, that "they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy."
That they who form a settlement by a lawful charter, having committed no crime, forfeit no privileges, will be readily confessed; but what they do not forfeit by any judicial sentence, they may lose by natural effects. As man can be but in one place, at once, he cannot have the advantages of multiplied residence. He that will enjoy the brightness of sunshine, must quit the coolness of the shade. He who goes voluntarily to America, cannot complain of losing what he leaves in Europe. He, perhaps, had a right to vote for a knight or burgess; by crossing the Atlantick, he has not nullified his right; but he has made its exertion no longer possible. By his own choice he has left a country, where he had a vote and little property, for another, where he has great property, but no vote. But as this preference was deliberate and unconstrained, he is still "concerned in the government of himself;" he has reduced himself from a voter, to one of the innumerable multitude that have no vote.
In 1775 there was no answer to that, except the taking of arms. But it is no longer true that the innumerable multitude have no vote. We may regret that state of affairs: to speak plainly, we do regret it. But the doctrine of virtual representation has been killed off by successive generations of republican fanatics and their so-called reforms. Multiplied residence is now very common, and Englishmen are now permitted to exercise their votes at a distance. The advantages of climate and freedom from taxation can now be had without forfeiting the privileges of political participation.
The French are ahead of us, with eleven new constituencies for French residents overseas sending members to the Assembly this year. This new colonisation, part of President Sarkozy's fairly successful attempt to become like Louis XV, has not pleased the Canadian government. But they are powerless to stop it.
Since a boundary review of UK constituencies is under way, this is the perfect time for knights and burgesses to be added for British subjects overseas. Ten members would adequately represent the three-quarters of a million Britons in the United States, and we can safely leave the details to the Deputy Prime Minister, who likes this kind of thing.
In time, we are sure, the electorate would be swollen by Americans returning to their natural allegiance; fleeing, without any apparent sense of irony, the high and arbitrary taxation imposed by an high-handed government of imperial pretensions. And when we are united once more,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
God Save the King.
For more of Taxation No Tyranny, see here. Readers will, I think, particularly enjoy Johnson's prescient enthusiasm for Mebyon Kernow. Also of interest may be Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland's Islands, as true today as it was when it was written, and, sadly, as necessary.