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any feeling, born and educated in this happy country, can consider the usurpations that are meditating for all our countrymen and all their posterity, without the se utmost agonies of heart and many tears."
These words expressed the genuine sentiments of New England; and extracts from them were promptly laid before the king in council. In Maryland, Daniel Dulany, an able lawyer, not surpassed in ability by any of the crown lawyers in the house of commons, “a patriot counsellor, inclined to serve the people,” discussed the propriety of the stamp act not before America only, but seeking audience of England. He admitted that the colonies were subordinate to the supreme national council; that the British parliament had the unquestionable right to legislate on their trade ; that trade may frequently be most properly regulated by duties on imports and exports ; that parliament is itself to determine what regulations are most proper; and that, if they should produce an incidental revenue, they are not therefore unwarrantable.
But, in reply to the arguments of the crown lawyers and the ministerial defenders of the stamp act, he argued, with minute and elaborate learning, that the late regulations for the colonies were not just, because the commons of England, in which the Americans were neither actually nor virtually represented, had no right, by the common law or the British constitution, to give and grant the property of the commons in America; that they were rightfully void, as their validity rested only on the power of those who framed them to carry them into effect; that they were not lenient, the taxes imposed being excessive and unequal ; that they were not politic, as Great Britain, by the acts of trade, already took all from the colonies, and could but drive them to observe the strictest maxims of frugality, and to establish manufactures of leather, cotton, wool, and flax; that they were not consistent with charters, which were the original compacts between the first emigrants to America and the crown; that they were against all precedents of the previous legislation of the British parliament; that they were equally against the precedents of legislation for Ireland, which was as sub
ject to Great Britain as were the colonies ; that they were against the judgment of former British ministers, whose requisitions for revenue were uniformly transmitted to the colonies to tax themselves.
“ There may be a time,” he added, “when redress may be obtained. Till then, I shall recommend a legal, orderly, and prudent resentment to be expressed in a zealous and vigorous industry. A garment of linsey-woolsey, when made the distinction of patriotism, is more honorable than the plumes and the diadem of an emperor without it. Let the manufacture of America be the symbol of dignity and the badge of virtue, and it will soon break the fetters of distress."
Thus wrote Dulany, the champion of the day, plead. ing for the repeal of exemption from taxes imposed
without consent; promoting repeal, but beating back revolution. His words were noticed by William Pitt in parliament with great honor; and they formed the groundwork of his own.
“ This unconstitutional method of taxation," observed Washington, at Mount Vernon, of the stamp act, “is a direful attack upon the liberties of the colonies, will be a necessary incitement to industry, and for many cogent reasons will prove ineffectual. Our courts of judicature,” he added, “must inevitably be shut up; and, if so, the merchants of Great Britain will not be among the last to wish for its repeal.”
Enlightened by discussions, towns and legislatures, as opportunity offered, made their declaration of rights, following one another like a chime of bells.
In Georgia, the great majority of the representatives, at the instance of their speaker, against the will of the governor, came together on Monday, the second of September; and, though they doubted their power, at such a voluntary meeting, to elect delegates to the congress, they sent an express messenger to New York to promise their adhesion to its results; “ for,” said they, “no people, as individuals, can more warmly espouse the common cause than do the people of this province.”
Further north, on the ninth, the assembly of Pennsylvania, disregarding the wishes of Galloway, its speaker, accepted the plan for a congress by a majority of one. S At the same time, it recognised the indispensable duty to grant requisite aids cheerfully and liberally, but only in a constitutional way, through its own assembly.
Next in time, the assembly of Rhode Island not only joined the union, but unanimously directed all the officers of the colony to proceed in their duties as usual, without regard to the stamp act, and engaged to indemnify them and save them harmless.
In the same month, Delaware, by the spontaneous act of the representatives of each of its counties; Connecticut, with the calm approval of its assembly; Maryland, with the consent of every branch of its legislature,— successively elected delegates to the general American congress.
In Massachusetts, Boston, under the guidance of Samuel Adams, set the example to other towns, arraigned the stamp act and its courts of admiralty as contrary to the British constitution, to the charter of the province, to the common rights of mankind, and built “the warmest expectations” on the union of the colonies in congress. A week later, the town of Braintree, led by John Adams, declared “the most grievous innovation of all ” to be “the extension of the power of courts of admiralty, in which one judge presided alone, and, without juries, decided the law and the fact; holding his office during the pleasure of the king, and establishing that most mischievous of all customs, the taking of commissions on all condemnations."
To the legislature which convened on the twenty-fifth, Bernard drew a frightful picture of the general outlawry and rising of the poor against the rich, which were to ensue, if stamps were not used; recommended to the assembly not to dispute " the right of the parliament of Great Britain to make laws for her American colonies,” however they might deny the expediency of the late exercise of that power; and, shirking the responsibility of action, he put the “ arduous business ” of executing the stamp act into their hands, that it might become a provincial concern.
It was a matter of far greater moment that the town of Boston elect Samuel Adams their representative, in the
place made vacant by the death of Thacher. On the t. morning on which the new member took his seat, he
found the legislature adopting resolves that all courts should do business without stamps; on which Bernard, in a fright, prorogued it till nine days before the first of November.
The continent watched with the intensest anxiety the conduct of New York, the capital of the central province and head-quarters of the standing forces in America ; having a septennial assembly, a royal council, ships-of-war anchored near its wharfs, and within the town itself a fort mounting many heavy cannon. There the authority of the British government was concentrated in the hands of Gage, the general, whose military powers, as ample as those of a viceroy, extended over all the colonies, but who was himself owned by the royalists to he wanting in “capacity.” He was “extremely exasperated” at the course of events in Massachusetts, thought Bernard pusillanimous, and was at a loss what to do. At New York, he called upon the civil power to exert itself more efficiently. “ All civil authority is at an end,” answered Colden ; “the presence of a battalion is the only way to prevent mischief.” “It will be more safe for the government,” interposed the council of the province of New York,“ to show a confidence in the people.” But Colden, emboldened by the arrival of two artillery companies from England, put the fort in a state of offence and defence, and boasted alike to Conway and Amherst that he had “effectually discouraged” sedition. “I will cram the stamps down the throats of the people with the end of my sword,” cried the braggart James, major of artillery, as he busied himself with bringing into the fort more field-pieces, as well as powder, shot, and shells. “If they attempt to rise, I," he gave out, “will drive them all out of the town for a pack of rascals, with four-and-twenty men.” “ The people here will soon come to better temper, after taxes become more familiar to them,” wrote an officer who had been sent to America on a tour
the foot artillery, as sword,” cried thoats of the
of observation. But the press of New York, from denying the right of parliament to tax the colonies, proceeded to doubt its legislative authority over America alto- S
Sept. gether. On the twenty-first day of September, “ The Constitutional Courant," a paper defending that principle, made its appearance, and “ JOIN OR DIE” was its motto. 6 Join or Die” was echoed from one end of the continent to the other.