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I must refer it to sounder casuists than I am to determine concerning the consistency or justice of this principle. It is sufficient for my purpose to observe that it is the only foundation upon which Queen Elizabeth and her successors undertook to dispose of the lands in America. Whatever right, therefore, we may suppose to have existed, it was vested entirely in the crown; the nation had no concern in it. It is an invariable maxim, that every acquisition of foreign territory is at the absolute disposal of the king; and unless he annex it to the realm, it is no part of it; and if it be once alienated, it can never be united to it without the concurrence of the proprietors.
Cover art: by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1790–1795.
Were there any room to doubt that the sole right of the territories in America was vested in the crown, a convincing argument might be drawn from the principle of English By means of the system the king became, and still continues to be, in a legal sense, the original proprietor, or lord paramount, of all the lands in England. Agreeably to this rule, he must have been the original proprietor of all the lands in America, and was therefore authorized to dispose of them in what manner he thought proper.
Hamilton’s essays appeared in the October 1778.
His Holiness the Pope, by virtue of being Christ’s Vicegerent upon earth, piously assumed to himself a right to dispose of the territories of infidels as he thought fit. And in process of time all Christian princes learned to imitate his example, very liberally giving and granting away the dominions and property of Pagan countries. They did not seem to be satisfied with the title which Christianity gave them to the next world only, but chose to infer from thence an exclusive right to this world also.