“Friends and Fellow-subjects,
“We the delegates of the several towns and parishes of Cornwall, assembled to deliberate on our own state and that of our constituents, having, after serious debate and calm consideration, settled the scheme of our future conduct, hold it necessary to declare in this publick manner, the resolutions which we think ourselves entitled to form by the immutable laws of Nature, and the unalienable rights of reasonable Beings, and into which we have been at last compelled by grievances and oppressions, long endured by us in patient silence, not because we did not feel, or could not remove them, but because we were unwilling to give disturbance to a settled government, and hoped that others would in time find like ourselves their true interest and their original powers, and all co-operate to universal happiness.
“But since having long indulged the pleasing expectation, we find general discontent, not likely to increase, or not likely to end in general defection, we resolve to erect alone the standard of liberty.
“Know then, that you are no longer to consider Cornwall as an English county, visited by English judges, receiving law from an English Parliament or included in any general taxation of the kingdom; but as a state distinct and independent, governed by its own institutions, administered by its own magistrates, and exempt from any tax or tribute but such as we shall impose upon ourselves.
“We are the acknowledged descendants of the earliest inhabitants of Britain, of men who took possession of the island desolate and waste, and therefore open to the first occupants. Of this descent, our language is a sufficient proof, which, not quite a century ago, was different to yours.
“Such are the Cornishmen; but who are you? Who but the unauthorized and lawless children of intruders, invaders and oppressors? Who but the transmitters of wrong, the inheritors of robbery? In claiming independence we claim but little. We might require you to depart from a land which you possess by usurpation, and to restore all that you have taken from us.
“Independence is the gift of Nature, bestowed impartially on all her sons; no man is born the master of another. Every Cornishman is a freeman, for we have never resigned the rights of humanity; and he can only be thought free, who is not governed but by his own consent.
“You may urge that the present system of government has descended through many ages, and that we have a larger part in the representation of the kingdom than any other county.
“All this is true, but it is neither cogent nor persuasive. We look to the original of things. Our union with the English counties was either compelled by force, or settled by compact.
“That which was made by violence, may by violence be broken. If we were treated as a conquered people, our rights might be obscured, but could never be extinguished. The sword can give nothing but power, which a sharper sword can take away.
“If our union was by compact, whom could the compact bind but those that concurred in the stipulations? We gave our ancestors no commission to settle the terms of future existence. They might be cowards that were frightened, or blockheads that were cheated; but whatever they were, they could contract only for themselves. What they could establish, we can annul.[TGG highlighting]
“Against our present form of government it shall stand in the place of all argument, that we do not like it. While we are governed as we do not like, where is our liberty? We do not like taxes, we will therefore not be taxed; we do not like your laws, and we will not obey them.
“The taxes laid by our representatives are laid, you tell us, by our own consent; but we will no longer consent to be represented. Our number of legislators was originally a burden imposed upon us by English tyranny, and ought then to have been refused: if it be now considered as a disproportionate advantage, there can be no reason for complaining that we resign it.
“We shall therefore form a Senate of our own, under a President whom the King shall nominate, but whose authority we will limit, by adjusting his salary to his merit. We will not with-hold a proper share of contribution to the necessary expence of lawful government, but we will decide for ourselves what share is proper, what expence is necessary, and what government is lawful.
“Till the authority of our counsel is acknowledged, and we are proclaimed independent and unaccountable, we will, after the tenth day of September, keep our Tin in our own hands: you can be supplied from no place and must therefore comply at last, or be poisoned with the copper of your own kitchens.
“If any Cornishman shall refuse his name to this just and laudable association, he shall be tumbled from St. Michael’s Mount, or buried alive in a tin-mine; and if any emissary shall be found seducing Cornishmen to their former state, he shall be smeared with tar, and rolled in feathers, and chased with dogs out of our dominions.
From the Cornish Congress at Truro!
Of this memorial what could be said but that it was written in jest, or written by a madman?
The argument of the irregular troops of controversy, stripped of its colours, and turned out naked to view, is no more than this. Liberty is the birthright of man, and where obedience is compelled, there is no Liberty. The answer is equally simple. Government is necessary to man, and where obedience is not compelled, there is no government.
If the subject refuses to obey, it is the duty of authority to use compulsion. Society cannot submit but by some power; first of making laws, and then of enforcing them.
To one of the threats hissed out by the Congress, I have put nothing similar into the Cornish proclamation; because it is too foolish for buffoonery, and too wild for madness. If we do not withhold our King and his parliament from taxing them, they will cross the Atlantick and enslave us