Times of crisis are not distinguished by respect for rights—although, paradoxically, all revolutions claim to be mounted in the name of rights. During our War of Independence, criticism of the patriot cause was an invitation to a lynching, and Jefferson defined the Tory as "a traitor in thought, if not in deed."

In 1773 George Rome, a Rhode Island Tory, wrote a private letter criticizing the Assembly and judiciary. The letter was discovered by the patriot party and appeared in a newspaper. Rome was arrested by the Assembly for "vile abuse" of the government. Summoned before the bar of the house, he refused to declare whether the opinions in the letter were his own. "I do not think," he said, "on the privilege of an Englishman, that the question is fairly stated, because I do not consider that I am called here to accuse myself" The Assembly, indifferent to rights long admitted in England (and even in Rhode Island), found him guilty of contempt for refusing to answer and imprisoned him for the remainder of the Session. In Virginia men were put in jail on the suspicion that they might some day assist the enemy.

Years later, after the American government was secure, matters were considerably improved. Although the men of Philadelphia did not include specific "rights" in their work, on the grounds that, as Roger Sherman said, "It is unnecessary. The power of Congress...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here