« PreviousContinue »
101. In treating of the American revolution, the English te writers ascribe that event to the successful intrigues of the French government; they appear willing to search for the ori. gin in any other source than their own misconduct. It has therefore been repeatedly asserted, “that the French, having a long viewed with envy and apprehension the flourishing state of the colonies which Britain had founded in America, began, e immediately after the peace of Paris, to carry into execution their design of separating the colonies from the mother country. Secret emissaries, it is said, were employed in spreading dissatisfaction among the colonists; and the effects produced by these machinating spirits, are described to have been a rapid diminution of that warm attachment which the inhabitants of North America had hitherto demonstrated towards the mother country.”
102. That such emissaries were ever employed, is a fact unsupported by any document which the purity of historical truth can admit; and although the effects here described had certainly appeared, it must be remembered, that their appearance followed, but did not precede, the attempts of Britain upon the rights and liberties of North America.
103. That the French should succeed in the arts of intrigue, so far as to alienate the affections of the colonists from the mother country, and at the close of a war, in which their in. terests and feelings had been interwoven with more than usual strength and energy, was not in any sense probable. But if we trace these effects to another cause, to a love of liberty, and a quick sense of injury, their appearance will be natural and just; consistent with the American character, and corresponding with the conduct which was displayed in all the various changes that attended their opposition.
104. In March, 1764, a bill was passed in the British parliament, by which heavy duties were laid on goods imported by the colonists from such West-India islands as did not belong to Great Britain : and that these duties were to be paid into the exchequer, in specie; and in the same session another bill was framed, to restrain the currency of paper-money in the colonies. Not only the principle of taxation, but the mode of collection was considered as an unconstitutional and oppressive innovation, as the penalties incurred by an infraction of the acts of parliament, were to be recovered in courts of admiralty, before a single judge, whose salary was to be the fruit of the forfeitures he should decree.
105. These acts threw the whole country into a ferment
- Vehement remonstrances were made to the ministry, and every i argument made use of that reason or ingenuity could suggest,
but without any good effect; their reasoning, however, convinced a great number of people in Britain ; and thus the Amer. ican cause came to be considered as the cause of liberty.
106. The Americans, finding that all their remonstrances were fruitless, at last united in an agreement not to import any more of the British manufactures, but to encourage to the utmost of their power every useful manufacture among themselves. Thus the British manufacturers became a party against the ministry, and expressed their resentment in strong terms ; but the ministry were not to be easily daunted; and therefore proceeded to the last step of their intended plan, which was to lay on stamp-duties throughout the continent.
107. Previous to this, several regulations were made in favor of the commerce of the colonies; but they had imbibed such unfavorable impressions of the British ministry, that they paid very little regard to any thing pretended to be done in their favor; or, if these acts had made any favorable impressions, the stamp-act at once obliterated every sentiment of that na. ture.
108. The reason given for this exceedingly obnoxious act, was, that a sum might be raised sufficient for the defence of the colonies against a foreign enemy; but this pretence was so far from giving satisfaction to the Americans, that it excited their indignation to the utinost. They not only asserted that they were abundantly able to defend themselves, but denied the right of the British parliament to tax them at all.
109. To enter into the arguments of the contending parties upon this occasion, would be superfluous. It was manifest that the matter was not to be decided but by the force of arms; and the British ministry, confident of the authority and power of their country, were disposed to carry on matters with such a high hand, as to terrify the colonists into submission, or com. pel them by force.
STAMPACT PASSED.-AN ACT OF PARLIAMENT OPPOSED.
TUMULT AT BOSTON. TROOPS ARRIVE THERE.BOSTONIANS
110. The stamp act, after a violent opposition in parliament, was passed, and its reception in America was such as might have been expected. The news, and the act itself, first arrived
at Boston, where the bells were muffled, and rung a funeral peal. The act was first hawked about the streets, with a death's
a head affixed to it, and styled “ The folly of England, and the ruin of America.” It was afterwards publicly burned by the enraged populace; the stamps were seized and destroyed, unless brought on board of men-of-war, or kept in fortified places. Those who were to receive the stamp duties were compelled to resign their offices; and such of the Americans as favored the government on this occasion, had their houses plundered and burned.
111. Though these outrages were committed by the multitude, they were connived at by those of superior rank, who afterwards openly patronized them; and the doctrine became general and openly avowed, that Britain had no right to tax the colonies without their own consent. The ministry now found it absolutely necessary, either to yield to the Americans, by repealing the obnoxious laws, or to enforce them by arms.
112. The ferment had become general through the colonies. Virginia first, and afterwards all the rest of the provinces, de. clared against the right of Britain to tax America ; and, that
l; every attempt to vest others with this power, besides the king, or the governor of the province, and his general assembly, was illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust. Non-importation agree. ments were everywhere entered into ; and it was resolved, to prevent the sale of any more British goods after the present year.
113. American manufactures, though dearer, and also infe. rior in quality to the British, were universally preferred. An association was also entered into against eating of lamb, in or. der to promote the growth of wool; and the ladies agreed to renounce the use of every kind of ornament imported from Great Britain. Such a general and alarming confederacy determined the ministry to repeal some of the most obnoxious acts; and to this they were the more inclined by a petition from the first American Congress, held at New-York in 1765.
114. The stamp-act was therefore repealed, to the universal joy of the Americans, as well as to the general satisfaction of the English, whose manufactures had begun to suffer in conse. quence of American associations against them. The disputes on the subject, however, were by no means silenced; every one continued to argue the case as violently as ever. Dr. Benjamin Fra
was, on this occasion, examined before the house of commons; and his opinion was, in substance, as follows : “ That the tax in question was impracticable and ruinous. The very
attempt had so far alienated the affection of the colonies, that they behaved in a less friendly manner towards the natives of England than before, considering the whole nation as conspir. ing against their liberty, and the parliament as more willing to oppress than to assist and support them. America, in fact,
did not stand in any need of British manufactures, having already begun to construct such as might be deemed absolutely neces. sary, and that with such success, as left no doubt of their arriving, in a short time, at perfection. The elegancies of dress had already been renounced for American manufactures, though much inferior; and the bulk of the people, consisting of farmers, were such as could in no way be affected by the want of British commodities, as having every necessary within themselves : materials of all kinds were to be had in plenty; the wool was fine, flax grew in great abundance, and iron was every. where to be met with."
115. The Doctor also insisted, that “the Americans had been greatly misrepresented; that they had been traduced as void of gratitude and affection to the parent state; than which nothing could be more contrary to truth. In the war in 1755, they had, at their own expense, raised an army of 25,000 men ; and that they assisted the British expeditions against South America, with several thousand men: and had made many brave exertions against the French in North America."
116. " It was said that the war of 1755 had been undertaken in defence of the colonies; but the truth was, that it originated from a contest about the limits between Canada and Nova Scotia, and in defence of the English rights to trade on the Ohio. The Americans, however, would still continue to act with their usual fidelity; and were any war to break out in which they had no concern, they would be as ready as ever to assist the parent state to the utmost of their power, and would not fail to manifest their ready acquiescence in contributing to the emergencies of government, when called to do so in a reg. ular and constitutional manner.
117. The ministry were conscious that in repealing this obnoxious act, they yielded to the Americans; and, therefore, to support, as they thought, the dignity of Great Britain, it was judged proper to publish a declaratory bill, setting forth the authority of the mother country over the colonies, and her power to bind them by laws and statutes in all cases whatsoever. This much diminished the joy with which the repeal of the stampact was received in America. It was considered a proper reason to enforce any claims equally prejudicial with the stamp
act, which might hereafter be set up: a spirit of jealousy per. vaded the whole continent, and a strong party was formed, to guard against the encroachments of British power.
118. It was not long before an occasion offered, in which the Americans manifested a spirit of absolute independency; and that instead of being bound by the British legislature in all cases whatsoever, they would not be controlled by it in the most trivial affairs. The Rockingham ministry had passed an act, providing the troops stationed in different parts of the colonies with such accommodations as were necessary for them. The assembly of New York, however, took upon them to alter the mode of execution prescribed by the act of parliament, and to substitute one of their own.
119. This gave very great offence to the new ministry, and rendered them, though composed of those who had been active against the stamp bill, less favorable to the colonies, than they would otherwise have been. An unlucky circumstance at the same time occurred, which threw every thing once more into con fusion. One of the new ministry, Charles Townshend, having declared that he could find a way of taxing America without giving offence; was called upon to propose his plan. This was by imposing a duty upon tea, paper, painters' colors, and glass imported into America.
120. The conduct of the New York assembly, respecting the troops, and that of Boston, which had proceeded in a simi. lar manner, caused this bill to meet with less opposition than otherwise it might have done. As a punishment to the refractory assemblies, the legislative power was taken from New. York, until it should fully comply with the terms of the act. That of Boston, at last, submitted with reluctance. The bill for the new taxes quickly passed, and was sent to America in 1768. A ferment much greater than that occasioned by the stamp-act, now took place throughout the continent. The popu. lace renewed their outrages, and those of superior stations en tered into regular combinations against it.
121. Circular letters were sent from Massachusetts' colony to all the others, setting forth the injustice and impropriety of the behavior of the British legislature. Meetings were held in all the principal towns. It was proposed to lessen the consump. tion of all foreign manufactures, by giving proper encouragement to their own. Continual disputes ensued betwixt the gov. ernors and general assemblies, which were aggravated by a letter from lord Shelburne to governor Barnard, of Massachusetts Bay, containing complaints of the people he governed.