Agency, Reason, Property, Consent, and the Source of Authority — Moses Mather

Political Sermons, Founding Era (1775), Moses Mather

Free agency, or a rational existence, with its powers and faculties, and freedom of enjoying and exercising them, is the gift of God to man. The right of the donor, and the authenticity of the donation, are both incontestable; hence man hath an absolute property in, and right of dominion over himself, his powers and faculties; with self-love to stimulate, and reason to guide him, in the free use and exercise of them, independent of, and uncontrollable by any but him, who created and gave them.

And whatever is acquired by the use, and application of a man’s faculties, is equally the property of that man, as the faculties by which the acquisitions are made; and that which is absolutely the property of a man, he cannot be divested of, but by his own voluntary act, or consent, either expressed, or implied. Expressed, by actual gift, sale, or exchange, by himself, or his lawful substitute: implied, as where a man enters into, and takes the benefits of a government, he implicitly consents to be subject to it’s laws; so, when he transgresses the laws, there is an implied consent to submit to it’s penalties. And from this principle, all the civil exousiai [meaning power, or more particularly, rightful authority or moral power], or rightful authorities, that are ordained of God, and exist in the world, are derived as from their native source.

From whence are authorities, dominions and powers? from God, the sovereign ruler, as the fountain, through the voice and consent of the people. For what purpose are they erected? for the good of the people. Wherefore the sovereign ruler, condescends to cloth, with authority, the man who by the general voice, is exalted, from among the people, to bear rule; and to pronounce him his minister for their good. Hence, it is evident, that man hath the clearest right, by the most indefeasible title, to personal security, liberty, and private property. And whatever is a man’s own, he hath, most clearly, a right to enjoy and defend; to repel force by force; to recover what is injuriously pillaged or plundered from him, and to make reasonable reprisals for the unjust vexation. And, upon this principle, an offensive war may sometimes be justifiable, viz. when it is necessary for preservation and defense.

Source: “America’s Appeal to An Impartial World,” sermon by Moses Mather at Hartford Connecticut in 1775.

Ellis Sandoz writes of Moses Mather (1719–1806): “Born in Lyme, Connecticut, into a famous New England family of divines, Mather was a graduate of Yale in the class of 1739. He began preaching in 1742 in what is now the town of Darien, where he remained, preaching for sixty-four years. He was ordained in 1744. As a champion of liberty, he became an especially obnoxious personality to Tories in his vicinity; he was even twice imprisoned for his views: In 1779 he was seized in his home and imprisoned in New York for five weeks, and in 1781 the British arrived at his church during services and confined him and around fifty of his congregation in New York for some months.”