Let it be borne in mind, that the dispute between the governor and the lieutenant-governor resulted from a difference of opinion, relative to the powers of the latter, when the former was out of the province. It was a nice question, and to many disinterested persons, it was not clear how it should be decided. As long as it remained an abstract question, it excited but little interest; but the acts of the two men primarily concerned, rendered a correct decision of practical importance. If the opinion of the lieutenant-governor was correct, then his act in dissolving the assembly, however unwise, was not illegal, and those who had composed that body were no longer vested with legislative powers, and in no way, except by a new election, could they be entitled again to act as a legislative assembly. Such was the view taken by the three members from Hampton, and they were honest enough to avow it. When, therefore, Governor Shute ordered a meeting of the assembly, they presented a remonstrance, setting forth their views, and declaring that they could not act with the House unless the members were reëlected. For this honest avowal they were called before the governor and council, charged with a libel, and were put under bonds of £400 each, for their good behavior.
The governor appears not only to have required of these men bonds for their good behavior, but to have assumed the right of removing them from the assembly, to which they belonged, if it was still a legal assembly, and of ordering the town to make a new election. The record of the proceedings of the town is as follows:
"Voted, that whereas wee of ye Town of Hampton did elect Colo Joseph Smith, Major Peter Weare and Mr. John Tuck our Representatives to sitt in Generall Assembly, which Assembly was dissolved by his majesties Lieut Governor Vaughan, as appears to us of Record; and now having Receved a precept from his Excellency Goverr Shute for a new choice to joyne with ye said Assembly dismis'd as abovesd; In Answer to which, wee say, if ye Representatives of our Town are dismist, the whole are dismissed; And wee humbly declare wee are of opinion not to joyn Assembly men with such as are not Legally chosen and quallified."
Such was the action of the town; and is not the view taken, correct? By his commission, the governor had authority to suspend or remove any member of the council, and to prorogue or dissolve the assembly; but to deprive any particular members of their seats in the popular branch of the government, is a very different matter, and is entirely inconsistent with the liberties of the people.