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murmur or dispute, by the old plan, of profiting from their commerce, and demands for our productions: wisdom had now to determine, whether an adherence to a system of experienced benefit daily increasing, or the adoption of new schemes of doubtful operation and certain opposition, was most likely to continue and extend that benefit for which colonies were established. The British minister preferred the untried theory to the essayed plan ; and stated to Parliament, that having postponed his scheme of taxation till this session, expecting that the colonies would have offered an equivalent, instead of a compensation, they had sent remonstrances. On the 7th of February, 1765, he opened his system to the commons, and in a committee moved fifty-five resolutions, for imposing stamp duties on certain papers and documents used in the colonies, and introduced a bill grounded upon the propositions. Of the two parties which opposed government, the Duke of Newcastle's was the more strenuous in combating the stamp-act. The principal leaders among the whig party in the House of Commons, were General Conway and Mr. Dowdeswell. Ministry had now acquired a very powerful auxiliary in the brilliant ingenuity of Mr. Charles Townshend, who had lately come over to their side. The supporters of British taxation asserted, that the colonies had been planted by our care, and nourished by our indulgence ; and that as America had been the cause of great expense, it was but reasonable that she should contribute toward the general demands of the empire, as a part of which she was protected. The British legislature (they said) had a right to enact laws for every settlement within the British territories. The Americans, though not nominally, were really represented in the British Parliament, and thus were on a footing with many individuals and bodies of Britons, who, having ostensibly no vote in the election of members, were equally included in the provisions of the legislature. The British finances were exhausted by a war begun for the security of the colonies; it was therefore not only equitable that they should contribute, but extremely ungrateful in them to refuse. The nation had contracted an immense debt to give them protection ; the navigation act, that palladium of British commerce, had been relaxed in their favour; in short, Britain had treated them as favourite children. The arguments of the opposers of the stamp-act were resolved into two heads; the right of Britain to tax America, and the expediency of exercising that right. The sovereign claim of taxation proposed by the pending bill, was totally inconsistent with every principle of freedom ; it would undo the security of property, and was contrary to the rights of British subjects. The perfection of the representative system is, that the delegate is placed in the same situation as the constituent, and is bound himself by the laws which he has a share in enacting. In Great Britain, every individual may be said to be virtually represented; as every law and impost extends equally to those who have, as to those who have not votes. The
Americans were not even virtually represented, and so far were members of the British Parliament from being interested in securing the property of the Americans, that, if the right of taxation were admitted, by increasing the burthens of the colonies, they would relieve their own. Such were the arguments used against the right of taxation. On the ground of expediency it was urged, that from the established system we had derived very great benefits, commercial and financial ; that the willing contributions of the colonies in demands for our commodities, though circuitously, increased our revenue much more than any direct impost would augment it, since it was already manifest that they would very unwillingly pay. The particular regulations of the act itself also underwent a severe discussion. The bill was carried through both houses by a great majority; and, on the 22d of March, passing into a law, became an important epoch in the history of the reign of George III.”
Stamp-Act—its effect on both countries—its repeal, and the immediate consequences which followed.
As the Stamp-Act was a prominent subject of controversy between the mother country and her American colonies, and probably the most operative cause of the following Revolutionary War, it is proper here to give a brief account of it.
This famous and odious act passed in Parliament February 7th, 1765, under the ministry of Lord Grenville, and was to take effect the 1st of November following. It was repealed March 18th, 1766, under the ministry of Mr. Pitt, who came into office in July 1765. The intervening period of thirteen months was the most tumultuous) and eventful of any in our whole history. The events which occur: red, during this short space, were big with the most important consequences, which have since been witnessed—consequences which wise men foresaw and predicted ; which affected not only the parties contending, but other nations to a great extent. The talents of the ablest and best men, in both countries, were displayed to their utmost extent in the measures which they devised and publicly discussed and adopted. The speeches and state papers j. during this period, elevate it in history to the highest rank of importance, as displaying a manly, though impassioned eloquence, singular wisdom, moderation and firmness ; ardent and inextinguishable patriotism and love of LIBERTY, and invincible courage and perseverance in its defence. Our aim is to give a full and impartial history of this period.
“After the stamp-act was passed, Mr. Whately, secretary to the
|treasury, invited the agents of the colonies to an interview with him,
• Bissets Reign of George III. v. i. p. 215 to 225.
and acquainted them that it was not the design of Mr. Grenville to send stamp officers from Great Britain, but that it would oblige him if they would nominate persons of discretion and respectability among the colonists, who might be appointed distributors of the stamps. Thus the agents were taken in by the minister, and generally nominated their friends. Even Dr. Franklin recommended Mr. Hughes in Pennsylvania, Mr. Cox in New-Jersey, and advised Mr. Ingersoll to accept the office in Connecticut. . This afforded sufficient evidence, that, in their opinion, the act would have been received without any general resistance..., Indeed it was the general opinion that the colonies ultimately would be obliged to submit to parliamentary taxation. The ministry in general were confident that the stamp act was so framed that it would enforce itself. They flattered themselves that the confusion which must arise on the disuse of writings, and the insecurity of property, which would be the result of using any other than those required § law, would necessitate the colonies to use the stamp paper, and consequently to pay the imposed taxes. It however appears that Mr. Grenville was not without apprehensions, that i. act would be resisted and occasion disorder; he therefore, in the same session, projected and brought in another bill, which made it lawful for military officers in the colonies, to quarter soldiers in private houses. The apparent design of this was to awe the people into a compliance by a military force. In this form of the bill, it met with a most strenuous opposition. It was insisted on that with an army vested with such power, no man could be safe, even in his own house. The form of the bill, therefore, was altered, and it passed into a law, that the assemblies in the several colonies should provide quarters for the soldiers, and furnish them with firing, bedding, candles, and various other articles, at the expence of the colonies. This was directly against the principle, that money is not to be raised on English subjects without their consent, and was an occasion of great grievance and mischief to the colonies, which continued until the revolution, and was one cause of the separation between Great Britain and the colonies. No sooner had the Americans received the intelligence, than a deep melancholy seized every countenance, and the people, struck with astonishment, hesitated, for a short interval, with respect to the course which it would be best to pursue. In Boston the ships in the harbour, in token of the deepest mourning, hung out their colours half-mast high and the bells in the town were rung muffled. The act was soon printed, with a death's head in the front of it, and was cried about the streets as the “Folly of ENGLAND and the RUIN or AMERICA.” A general discontent immediately discovered itself through the country. The people gradually recovered from their consternation, and began to speak, write and resolve boldly against the parliamentary acts. . The newspapers every where groaned for the loss of liberty ; and the warm patriots in the colonies, rallying
for the defence of their country, from the noble speech of Col. Barre, assumed the title of THE sons of LIBERTY. The legislatures of the colonies proceeded to bold resolutions against parliamentary taxation. . The legislature of the ancient and respectable colony of Virginia led the way. ,
May 28th, 1765, Mr. Patrick Henry brought into the House of Burgesses the following rosolutions, which were substantially adopted by the house:—
“Resolved, That the first adventurers, settlers of his majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia, brought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other, his majesty's subjects, since inhabiting in this, his majesty's colony, all the liberties, privileges and immunities, that have at any time been held, enjoyed and possessed by the people of Great Britain.
“Resolved, That by two royal charters, granted by King James the First the colonies aforesaid are declared, and entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens, and natural subjects, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding, and born within the realm of England.
“Resolved, That his majesty's liege people, of this, his ancient colony, have enjoyed the rights of being thus governed by their own assembly, in the article of taxes and internal police, and that the same have never been forfeited, or yielded up, but have been constantly recognized by the king and people of Great Britain.
“Resolved, therefore, That the General Assembly of this colony, together with his majesty, or his substitutes, have, in their representative capacity, the only exclusive right and power, to lay taxes and imposts, upon the inhabitants of this colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any other person or persons, whatsoever, than the General †. aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust, and hath a manifest tendency to destroy British, as well as American liberty.
“Resolved, That his majesty’s liege o: the inhabitants of this colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law, or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatever upon them, other than the laws and ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid.
“Resolved, That any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert, or maintain, that any person, or persons, other than the General Assembly of this colony, have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to this his majesty's colony.”
These resolutions were so bold and novel, so firm and unexpected, that upon the reading of them, one of the members was affected to such a degree, that he cried out, “Treason | Treason " The people, nevertheless, judged them true and judicious; they expressed their feelings and mét their applause. With dispatch they were sent forward from colony to colony; the same spirit catched from one legislature to another, and similar resolutions were very universally adopted by the freemen and assemblies through the continent. The wavering were soon confirmed, and the timid emboldened in their opposition to the stamp-act.” “On the 6th of June, the following proceedings, in the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, took place, respecting sending a Committee to New-York, to consult with Committees from other colonies, on the state of the country :—
“The House, taking into consideration the many difficulties to which the colonies are and must be reduced by the operation of some late acts of Parliament; after some time spent, - - “On a motion made and seconded, ordered, that Mr. Speaker, Brigadier Ruggles, Col. Partridge, Col. Worthington, Gen. Winslow, Mr. Qtis, Mr. Cushing, Col. Saltonstall, and Capt. Sheafe, be a committee to consider what measures had best be taken, and make report. “The committee appointed for that purpose, reported as follows :-The committee appointed to consider what dutiful, loyal, and humble address may be proper to make to our gracious Sovereign and his Parliament, in relation to the several acts passed, for levying duties and taxes on the colonies, have attended that service, and are humbly of opinion : “That it is highly expedient there should be a meeting, as soon as may be, of committees from the Houses of Representatives, or Burgesses, in the several colonies on this continent, to consult together on the so circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are and must be reduced by the operation of the late acts of Parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies, and to consider of a general and humble address to his Majesty and the Parliament, to implore relief. “And the committee are further of opinion, that a meeting of such committees should be held at New-York, on the first Tuesday of October next, and that a committee of three persons be chosen by this House on the part of this Province, to attend the same. “And that letters be forthwith prepared and transmitted to the respective Speakers of the several Houses |PRepresentatives, or Burgesses in the colo: nies aforesaid, advising them of the resolution of this House thereon, and inviting such Houses of Representatives, or Burgesses, to join this with their committees, in the meeting, and for the purposes aforesaid. “And that a proper letter be prepared and forwarded to the agent of the Province, on these matters, in the mean time. “Read and accepted, and ordered, that Mr. Speaker, Mr. Otis, and Mr. Lee, be a committee to prepare a draft of letters to be sent to the respective Speakers of the several Houses of Representatives in the colonies, and make report. “The committee appointed for that purpose, reported the following draft:
“Province of Massachusetts Bay. Boston, JUNE 8, 1765. “SIR-The House of Representatives of this Province in the present session of the General Court, have unanimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of committees from the Houses of Representatives, or Burgesses, of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are and must be reduced by the operation of the acts of Parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies ; and to consider of a general and united, dutiful and humble representation of their condition to his Majesty and the Parliament, to implore relief. The House of Representatives of this Province have also voted to propose that such meeting be at the city of New-York, on the first Tuesday of October next, and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other Houses of Representatives, or Burgesses, in the several colonies may think fit to appoint to meet him : And the committee of the House of Representatives of this Province are directed to repair to said New-York, on said first Tuesday of October "next, accordingly. , If, therefore, your honorable House should agree to this roposal, it would be acceptable, that as early notice of it as possible might e transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of this Province. “SAMUEL WHITE, Speaker.”
“From this period it became far more general, and assumed a much bolder face. The tongues and pens of the best informed citizens