To The Inhabitants of Great Britain

Written By North Carolina History Project

In “To the Inhabitants of Great Britain” (1774), North Carolinian James Iredell opposed what he described as Parliament’s attempt “to exercise a supreme authority” over the colonies.  He expressed this opinion in great part because what began in 1773 as a debate between the governor and the Assembly regarding the establishment of civil courts had evolved into a larger issue: the constitutional relationship between Great Britain and her colonies.

In the tract, Iredell rejected William Blackstone’s “parliamentary sovereignty” argument in Commentaries, for it, as biographer Willis P. Whichard summarizes, made the “American legal condition” one of “conquered subjects.”  Instead Iredell put forth another principle: every person has the right of liberty and the purpose of all government is to allow individual happiness. Iredell furthermore condemned discriminatory laws that benefited only a few and warned that Americans would not tolerate such laws.

“To the Inhabitants of Great Britain” was widely read.   Its success catapulted a twenty-three-year-old Iredell into political fame.