Abbildungen der Seite

The parliament repealed the act as inexpedient, but in another asserted a right of taxing the colonies, and binding them in all cases whatsoever! In the following year they laid duties on British manufactures exported to America. On the repeal of the stamp act, the Americans had returned to their wonted good humour and commerce with Great Britain; but this new act for laying duties renewed their uneasiness. These and other grievances complained of by the colonies are succinctly enumerated in Dr. Franklin's paper above mentioned; and the progressive history of the causes of the American discontents in general, is also fully elucidated in his "Private Correspondence, Part II."

On the assumed right of the British parliament to bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever, Dr. Stuber observes that " this right was never recognized by the colonists; but, as they flattered themselves that it would not be exercised, they were not very active in remonstrating against it. Had this pretended right been suffered to remain dormant, the colonists would cheerfully have furnished their quota of supplies, in the mode to which they had been accustomed; that is, by acts of their own assemblies, in consequence of requisitions from the secretary of state. If this practice had been pursued, such was the disposition of the colonies towards their mother-country, that, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which they laboured from restraints upon their trade, calculated solely for the benefit of the commercial and manufacturing interests of Great Britain, a separation of the two countries might have been a far distant event. The Americans, from their earliest infancy, were taught to venerate a people from whom they were descended; whose language, laws, and manners; were the same as their own. They looked up to them as models of perfection; and, in their unprejudiced minds, the most enlightened nations of Europe were considered as almost barbarians, in comparison with Englishmen. The name of an Englishman conveyed to an American the idea of every thing good and great. Such sentiments instilled into them in early life, what but a repetition of unjust treatment could have induced them to entertain the most distant thought of separation! The duties on glass, paper, leather, painters' colours, tea, &c. ; the disfranchisement of some of the colonies; the obstruction to the measures of the legislature in others, by the King's governors; the contemptuous treatment of their humble re monstrances, stating their grievances, and praying a redress of them, and other violent and oppressive measures, at length excited an ardent spirit of opposition. Instead of endeavouring to allay this by a more lenient conduct, the ministry seemed resolutely bent upon reducing the colonies to the most slavish obedience to their decrees. But this only tended to aggravate. Vain were all the efforts made use of to prevail upon them to lay aside their designs, to convince them of the impossibility of carrying them into effect, and of the mischievous consequences which must ensue from a continuance of the attempts. They persevered, with a degree of inflexibility scarcely paralleled."

that bounds that right, but that the same parliament might (after so dangerous a precedent once adopted) call for any part of their remaining fortunes whenever they pleased so to do, without any other restraint than the mercy and benevolence of (in such case) an arbitrary power over them, and they the colonists might every year after be in danger of hearing of a law (made in Great Britain some months before, and wherein they had no opportunity of pleading for themselves, or of giving their previous or concurrent consent or dissent), which law might, for any other security they could rely on in the present mode of things, take away a quarter, a half, or a larger part of their estates, without a line of any kind of limitation other than the will and power of a parliament, in such case, despotic over their whole fortunes, without their concurrence or co-operation, which it appears would be arbitrary in the strongest point of light.

Jilly. It therefore appears a fair and necessary conclusion, that Great Britain must, in point of equity and the just rights of the colonists as Englishmen, either for ever exempt them from, or never demand any internal taxes at all, or else a right of representation in parliament must be granted them i which last appears evidently a very salutary measure, as necessary to prevent divisions and misunderstandings, and above all to prevent the danger of our enemies thereby in future as soon as recruited and able, taking advantage thereof (and perhaps sowing the seeds thereof) in order to disunite and weaken this otherwise potent empire, which being properly united, they our enemies do and will look on with envy, and may they do so, but utterly in vain, and that for evermore is my hearty desire. Amor Patriz,

"Tol.'v L'!': 2E

The whole continent of America now began to consider the Boston port bill, as striking essentially at the liberty of all the colonies; and these sentiments were strongly urged and propagated in the American newspapers.

Even those colonies which depended most upon the mother-country for the consumption of their productions, entered into associations with the others; and nothing was to be heard of but resolutions for the encouragement of their own manufactures, the consumption of home products, the discouragement of foreign articles, and the retrenchment of all superfluities.

Virginia resolved not to raise any more tobacco, unless the grievances of America were redressed. Maryland followed that example: Pennsylvania, and almost all the other colonies, entered into resolutions in the same spirit, with a view to enforce a general redress of grievances.

During these disputes between the two countries, Dr. Franklin invented a little emblematical design, intended to represent the supposed state of Great Britain and her colonies, should the former persist in her oppressive measures, restraining the latter's trade, and taxing their people by laws made by a legislature in which they were not represented. It was engraved on a copper-plate, from which the annexed impression is taken. Dr. Franklin had many of them struck off on cards, on the back of which he occasionally wrote his notes. It was also printed on a half sheet of paper, with the explanation and moral which follow it.

[ocr errors][graphic]


h Great Britain is supposed to have been placed upon the globe; but the Colonies, (that is, her limbs,) being severed from her, she "is seen lifting her eyes and mangled stumps to heaven: her shield, which she is unable to wield, lies useless by her side; her lance has pierced New England i the laurel branch has fallen from the hand of Pennsylvania < the English oak has lost its head, and stands a bare trunk, with a few withered branches; briars and thorns are on the ground beneath it; the British ships have brooms at their topmast heads, denoting their being on sale; and Britannia herself is seen sliding off the world, (no longer able to hold its balance) her fragments overspread with the label, Date Obolum


"The Moral. "History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy; it being a matter of no moment to the state, whether a subject grows rich and nourishing on the Thames or the Ohio, in Edinburgh or Dublin. These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed: whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, necessarily ensue, by which the whole state is weakened, and perhaps ruined for ever!"


These sentiments, applied to the picture which they were annexed to, were well calculated to produce reflection; they form part of the same system of political ethics, with the following fragment of a sentence, which Dr. Franklin inserted in a political publication of one of his friends :—" The attempts to establish arbitrary power over so great a part of the British empire, are to the imminent hazard of our most valuable commerce, and of that national strength, security, and felicity, which depend on union and liberty ;"—The preservation of which, he used to say, "had been the great object and labor of his life; the Whole being such a thing as the world before never saw /"

In June, 1774, a general congress of deputies from all the colonies, began to be universally looked forward to. This had a year before been suggested by Dr. Franklin, in a letter to the Hon. Thomas Cushing, Esq. dated July 7, 177 3, in which he says,—" But as the strength of an empire depends not only on the union of its parts, but on their readiness for united exertion of their common force; and as the discussion of rights may seem unseasonable in the commencement of actual war, and the delay it might occasion be prejudicial to the common welfare; as, likewise, the refusal of one or a few colonies, would not be so much regarded if the others granted liberally, which perhaps by various artifices and motives they might be prevailed on to do; and as this want of concert would defeat the expectation of general redress, that otherwise might be justly formed; perhaps it would be best and fairest for the colonies, in a General Congress, now in peace to be assembled, (or by means of the correspondence lately proposed,) after a full and solemn assertion and declaration of their Rights, to engage firmly with each other, that they will never grant aids to the crown in any general war, till those rights are recognized by the king and both houses of parliament; communicating to the crowni this their resolution. Such a step, I imagine, will bring the dispute to a crisis; and whether our demands are immediately complied with, or compulsory measures thought of to make us rescind them, our ends will finally be obtained ; for even the odium accompanying such compulsory attempts, will contribute to unite and strengthen us; and, in the mean time, all the world will allow that our proceeding has been honorable." . i

Such had been the advice of Dr. Franklin; and, as he observes somewhere, "a good motion never dies," so this was eventually acted upon in all its bearings, and was the first step to the union of the colonies, and their final emancipation from Great Britain. •

The first congress assembled at Philadelphia, Sept. 17, 1774. Their first public act was a declaratory resolution expressive of their disposition with respect to the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and immediately intended to confirm and encourage that people in their opposition to the oppressive acts of the British parliament. This, and other analogous resolutions relative to Massachusetts, being passed, the congress wrote a letter to General Gage, governor and commander of the king's troops in that province, in which, after repeating the complaints formerly made by the town of Boston, they declared the determined resolution of the colonies to unite for the preservation of their common rights, in opposition to the late acts of parliament, under the execution of which the unhappy people of Massachusetts were oppressed; that the colonies had appointed them the guardians of their rights and liberties, and that they felt the deepest concern that whilst they were pursuing every dutiful and peaceable measure to procure a cordial and effectual reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies, his Excellency should proceed in a manner that bore so hostile an appearance, and which even the oppressive acts complained of did not warrant. They represented the tendency this conduct must have to irritate, and force a people, however well disposed to peaceable measures, into hostilities, which might prevent the endeavors of the congress to restore a good understanding with the parent state, and involve them in the horrors of a civil war.

The congress also published a Declaration Of Rights, to which they asserted the English colonies of North America were entitled, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and their several charters or compacts.

They then proceeded to frame a petition to the king, a memorial to the people

« ZurückWeiter »