Samuel Adams on the rights of colonists (1772)


An extract from The Rights of the Colonists, written and published by Samuel Adams in 1772.


“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these:

First, a right to life. Secondly, to liberty. Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.

When men enter into society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact. Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains.

The natural liberty of man, by entering into society, is abridged or restrained, so far only as is necessary for the great end of society, the best good of the whole. Now what liberty can there be where property is taken away without consent?

Can it be said with any color of truth and justice, that this continent of 3,000 miles in length, and of a breadth as yet unexplored, in which, however, it is supposed there are five millions of people, has the least voice, vote, or influence in the British Parliament? Have they all together any more weight or power to return a single member to that House of Commons who have not inadvertently, but deliberately, assumed a power to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties, than to choose an Emperor of China?”