Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

With England and America both irritated, with the king bent on stretching his authority, and with opposition to him shattered by faction, events moved swiftly to a crisis. In 1763 George Grenville became Prime Minister, and Charles Townshend First Lord of Trade, that is, head of the committee of the Privy Council in charge of colonial affairs. Both were royal henchmen. Townshend believed in holding the colonies with a firm hand, in depriving them of the right of self-government, and in maintaining authority by a standing army supported by taxes assessed on the Americans by Parliament. To such lengths Grenville was unwilling to go, but he was ready to lay a tax in order to defray the expenses of the French and Indian War which had closed in 1756, — to lay a tax in spite of the fact, fully acknowledged by Parliament,' that the colonists had already borne more than their share of the burden. For carrying out his purpose he introduced into the Commons in 1764 a resolution? asserting the propriety of raising an American revenue by requiring stamps on all legal documents. He soon heard protests, however, from the assemblies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina. These bodies held that Parliament had no right to tax the colonies without their consent, but declared that in response to a request from the king the colonies would contribute, according to their means, to the needs of the British Empire. Notwithstanding these remonstrances, Grenville got his Stamp Act passed in 1765. America was furious. In October a congress of delegates from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina met at New York and framed formal protests; merchants agreed to import no more goods from England ; in some colonies the people threw

1 See page 55.
2 Parliamentary History, XV, 1427.
8 Fiske, I, 16, 17.

the boxes of stamps into the sea; in most they compelled the stamp officers to resign ; and in Massachusetts a mob sacked the house of Chief Justice Hutchinson.

At this juncture Lord Rockingham, leader of that faction of the Old Whigs with which Burke usually acted, became Prime Minister, and proposed the repeal of the Stamp Act on the ground of policy. During the hot debates over this motion and over all subsequent proceedings in regard to America, the “ king's friends” l were firm against the colonies, because defeat for the royal plan for America might mean defeat for it in England. They argued that the colonists were actuated by nothing but the rankest ingratitude and a sordid wish to get the protection of England without paying for it, and that — as Burke phrases the idea — the “right of taxation is necessarily involved in the general principle of legislation.”3 To this view Pitt and his adherents were violently opposed, for they understood that the cause of America was exactly the same as that for which they were fighting in England. They maintained that representation is a natural right. Between these two extremes the Rockingham Whigs steered a middle course. They held that even if Parliament had a right to tax the colonies, the exercise of it was the height of folly. Finally, in 1766, the Rockingham ministry, with the help of New Whigs, carried the repeal, and at the same time, with the help of Tories, a Declaratory Act, asserting the power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever."1 The repeal so pleased the people of London that in the streets they cheered Pitt and hissed Grenville. It so pleased the Americans that they kindled bonfires, and, regarding the Declaratory Act as a mere empty form, voted addresses of thanks and loyalty.

1 See 17 8, note.

2 See speech of George Grenville, Jan. 14, 1766, Parliamentary History, XVI, 101, 102.

3 See 37 11, 12; also the speech of Grenville, above.

4 See speech of Colonel Barré, Jan. 26, 1775, Parliamentary History, XVIII, 191.

5 See 37 6–10; the speech of Pitt, Jan. 14, 1766, Parliamentary History, XVI, 97-101; his speech May 27, 1774, XVII, 1353-1356; and the speech of Governor Johnstone, Feb. 6, 1775, XVIII, 253–262.

6 See 37 23–38 3, and 57 16–18.

No sooner was England out of this scrape than she blundered into another. In a few months the Rockingham ministry was succeeded by the Grafton ministry, in which Townshend was the leading spirit. In accordance with his own views and those of the king, he brought in a bill to lay duties on wine, oil and fruits carried directly to America from Spain and Portugal, and on glass, paper, lead, painters' colors and tea.? The resulting revenue he proposed to use for the salaries of royal governors, justices appointed at the king's pleasure, and civil officers responsible only to the crown, — a blow at the principle of self-government, as regards both taxation and the control of officers. The purpose of George the Third was even more nakedly set forth when Parliament suspended the assembly of New York for refusal to provide certain supplies for the army. It is true that in 1769 Parliament repealed all the duties except that on tea, but England had let the time slip by for conciliating America by a partial surrender.

During the next six years the efforts of England to compel submission made the resistance of the colonies only the more stubborn. When revenue officers enforced the laws with rigor and intolerable insolence, merchants renewed their agreements not to import English goods, and women pledged themselves to wear homespun clothes and abstain from tea. When in Rhode Island the captain of the revenue schooner “Gaspee"

1 Parliamentary History, XVI, 177.
2 See 36 4, note.
8 Parliamentary History, XVI, 375, 376.
4 Ibid., 331–341,

made illegal seizures and stole hogs and sheep from the farmers, they retaliated by burning his vessel. When John Hancock's sloop “ Liberty” was seized in Boston, a riot broke out. When England sent troops to overawe the inhabitants, the latter refused to provide quarters. When the soldiers irritated the populace, another riot resulted. In 1772 the king attempted to control the judiciary by ordering that all Massachusetts judges holding office during his pleasure should be paid by the crown: the colonists, unable to obtain redress through the regular government, organized committees of correspondence which bound the whole country together in common action. The next year, in the hope of driving the Americans to buy tea, England despatched shiploads of it to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston : the committees of correspondence decided that the cargoes must go back. The governor of Massachusetts would not issue clearance papers for a return : the people of Boston threw the tea into the harbor. Thereupon Parliament, spurred on by the king, proceeded to measures yet more vigorous. It closed the port of Boston ;? practically annulled the charter of Massachusetts ;3 ordered that soldiers or revenue officers indicted for murder in Massachusetts should be tried in Great Britain ;4 provided for the quartering of troops ;' and extended the boundaries of Canada to the Ohio River in defiance of the claims which Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Virginia laid to the territory. By this last law, known as the Quebec Act, England managed also to offend deeply both the religious and the political prejudices of the colonists ;' for the act sanctioned Roman Catholicism throughout Canada, and established a

1 Fiske, I, 78-80.

8 See 27 18, note. 2 See 36 4, note.

4 See 36 4, note. 5 Parliamentary History, XVII, 1353-1356. 6 Ibid., 1357–1400, 1402-1406. 7 Journals of Congress, I, 22, 23, 30, 37, 40-45, 47.

government recognizing neither trial by jury nor habeas corpus nor popular meetings. To enforce the first three of these laws the government stationed General Gage at Boston with more troops. Although England had aimed most of this hostile legislation especially at Massachusetts, she had struck all the colonies so hard that they instantly forgot local jealousies, and made the cause of the sufferer their own. When the royal governors dissolved the provincial assemblies for expressing sympathy," the colonies united in the Congress at Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774. This body heartily supported Massachusetts ;? it asserted the freedom of the provincial legislatures “in all cases of taxation and internal polity”; 3 it demanded the repeal of the obnoxious acts of Parliament ; 4 it formed an agreement to stop trade with Great Britain, Ireland and the British West Indies ; 5 and it issued addresses to the people of Great Britain, to the colonists, to the inhabitants of Quebec,: and to the king. When in reply Parliament declared a rebellion 10 and proposed further restraints upon the New England commerce and fisheries," America hastened her preparations for war.

IV.

EDMUND BURKE.

In this long struggle between the king and his subjects, Burke, though by temperament a conservative, was on the side

1 See letter of General Gage from Salem, June 26, 1774, Parliamentary History, XVIII, 85, 86 ; letter of Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire, June 8, 1774, ibid., 109; and letter of Governor Dunmore of Virginia, May 29, 1774, ibid., 136.

2 Journals of Congress, I, 14, 17. 7 Ibid., 31–38. 3 Ibid., 20, 21.

8 Ibid., 40–54. 4 Ibid., 21, 22.

9 Ibid., 46–49. 6 Ibid., 23, 24.

10 See 35 23, note. 6 Ibid., 26-31.

11 See 3 8, note.

« ПредишнаНапред »