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acts of Parliament, from the year 1660 to the unfortunate period Of 1764. In all those acts the system of commerce is established, as that from whence alone you proposed to make the colonies contribute (I mean directly and by the operation of your superintending legislative power) to the strength of the empire. I venture to say that, during that whole period, a parliamentary revenue from thence was never once in contemplation. Accordingly, in all the number of laws passed with regard to the plantations, the words which distinguish revenue laws, specifically as such, were, I think, premeditatedly avoided. I do not say, sir, that a form of words alters the nature of the law, or abridges the power of the lawgiver. It certainly does not. However, titles and formal preambles are not always idle words; and the lawyers frequently argue from them. I state these facts to show, not what was your right, but what has been your settled policy. Our revenue laws have usually a title, purporting their being grants; and the words give and grant usually precede the enacting parts. Although duties were imposed on America in acts of King Charles the Second, and in acts of King William, no one title of giving “an aid to his Majesty,” or any of the usual titles to revenue acts, was to be found in any of them till 1764; nor were the words “give and grant” in any preamble until the sixth of George the Second. However, the title of this act of George the Second, notwithstanding the words of donation, considers it merely as a regulation—“an act for the better securing of the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in Amer*ca.” This act was made on a compromise of all, at the express desire of a part of the colonies themselves. It was therefore in some measure with their consent; and having a title directly purporting only a commercial regulation, and being in truth nothing more, the words were passed by, at a time when no jealousy was entertained and things were little scrutinized. Even Governor Bernard, in his second printed letter, dated in 1763, gives it as his opinion, that, “it was an act of prohibition, not of revenue.” This is certainly true, that no act avowedly for the purpose of revenue, and with the ordinary title and recital taken together, is found in the statute book until the year I have mentioned, that is, the year 1764. All before this period stood on commercial regulation and restraint. The scheme of a colony revenue by British authority appeared, therefore, to the Americans in the light of a great innovation; the words of Governor Bernard's ninth letter, written in November, 1765, states this idea very strongly; “it must,” says he, “have been supposed such an innovation as a parliamentary taxation would cause a great alarm, and meet with much opposition in most parts of America. It was quite new to the people, and had no visible bounds set to it.” After stating the weakness of government there, he says, “Was this a time to introduce so great a novelty as a parliamentary inland taxation in America?” Whatever the right might have been, this mode of using it was absolutely new in policy and practice.
In a subsequent part of his speech, Mr. Burke traced this departure from long usage up to its actuating motives and impelling circumstances:
Whether you were right or wrong in establishing the colonies on the principles of commercial monopoly, rather than on that of revenue, is at this day a problem of mere speculation. You cannot have both by the same authority. To join together the restraints of a universal internal and external monopoly, with a universal internal and external taxation, is an unnatural union— perfect uncompensated slavery. You have long since decided for yourself and them; and you and they have prospered exceedingly under that decision.
This nation, sir, never thought of departing from that choice until the period immediately on the close of the last war. Then a scheme of government new in many things seemed to have been adopted. I saw, or thought I saw, several symptoms of a great change, while I sat in your gallery, a good while before I had the honor of a seat in this House. At that period the necessity was established of keeping up no less than twenty new regiments, with twenty colonels capable of seats in this House. This scheme was adopted with very general applause from all sides, at the very time that, by your conquests in America, your danger from foreign attempts in that part of the world was much lessened, or, indeed, rather quite over. When this huge increase of military establishment was resolved on, a revenue was to be found to support so great a burden. Country gentlemen, the great patrons of economy, and the great resisters of a standing armed force, would not have entered with much alacrity into the vote for so large and expensive an army, if they had been very sure that they were to continue to pay for it. But hopes of another kind were held out to them; and, in particular, I well remember that Mr. Townsend, in a brilliant harangue on this subject, did dazzle them by playing before their eyes the image of a revenue to be raised in America. Here began to dawn the first glimmerings of this new colony system. It appeared more distinctly afterward, when it was devolved upon a person [Mr. Grenville], to whom, on other accounts, this country owes very great obligations. I do believe that he had a very serious desire to benefit the public. But with no small study of the detail, he did not seem to have his view, at least equally, carried to the total circuit of our affairs. He generally considered his objects in lights that were rather too detached. Whether the business of an American revenue was imposed upon him altogether; whether it was entirely the result of his own speculation; or, what is more probable, that his own ideas rather coincided with the instructions he had received, certain it is, that, with the best intentions in the world, he first brought this fatal scheme into form, and established it by act of Parliament. About eleven months afterward, in his speech in the House of Commons, March 22, 1775, on “Conciliation with America,” Mr. Burke again laid much stress on this distinction between commercial regulations and revenue laws. He said: But I cannot agree with the noble lord, nor with the pamphlet from whence he seems to have borrowed these ideas, concerning the inutility of the trade laws; for, without idolizing them, I am sure they are still, in many ways, of great use to us; and, in former times, they have been of the greatest. They do confine, and they do greatly narrow, the market for the Americans; but my perfect conviction of this does not help me in the least to discern how the revenue laws form any security whatever to the commercial regulations, or that these commercial regulations are the true ground of the quarrel, or that the giving way in any one instance of authority is to lose all that may remain unconceded.
One fact is clear and indisputable. The public and avowed origin of this quarrel was on taxation. This quarrel has indeed brought on new disputes on new questions, but certainly the least bitter, and the fewest of all, on the trade laws. To judge which of the two be the real radical cause of quarrel, we have to see whether the commercial dispute did, in order of time, precede the dispute on taxation. There is not a shadow of evidence of it. Next, to enable us to judge whether at this moment a dislike to the trade laws be the real cause of quarrel, it is absolutely necessary to put the taxes out of the question by a repeal.
The celebrated preamble to the Act of Navigation itself—first of the long procession of acts which fostered and expanded the British colonial system—clearly shows, as copied below, that, at the very outset, revenue formed no part of the object in regulating trade for the advantage of the mother country:
In regard his Majesty's plantations beyond the seas are inhabited and peopled by his subjects of this his kingdom of England, jor the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them, and keeping them in a firmer dependence upon it, and rendering them yet more beneficial and advantageous to it in further employment and increase of English shipping and seamen, vent of English woolens, and other manufactures and commodities, rendering the navigation to and from the same more safe and cheap, and making this kingdom a staple, not only of the commodities of those plantations, but also of the commodities of other countries and places, for the supplying of them; and it being the usage of other nations to keep plantations trade to themselves, etc.
All the other acts belonging to the same general class bear ample testimony to the same spirit and intent. A strong example of this is to be found in the twenty-fifth of Charles the Second, chapter 7, made expressly “for the better securing of the plantation trade,” which laid duties on certain commodities exported from one colony to another, and specified its object to be as follows:
Whereas, by one act passed in the twelfth year of -esty's reign, intituled “An act for encouragement of shipping and navigation,” and by several other laws, passed since that time, it is permitted to ship, etc., sugars, tobacco, etc., of the growth, etc., of any of your Majesty's plantations in America, etc., from the places of their growth, etc., to any other of your Majesty's plantations in those parts, etc., and that without paying custom for the same, either at the lading or unlading the said commodities, by means whereof the trade and navigation in those commodities, from one plantation to another, is greatly increased, and the inhabitants of divers of those colonies, not contenting themselves with being supplied with those commodities for their own use, free of all customs (while the subjects of this, your kingdom of England, have paid great customs and impositions for what of them have been spent here), but, contrary to the easpress letter of the aforesaid laws, have brought into divers parts of Europe great quantities thereof, and do also vend great quantities thereof to the shipping of other nations, who bring them into divers parts of Europe, to the great hurt and diminution of your Majesty’s customs, and of the trade and navīgation of this, your kingdom; FOR THE PREVENTION THEREOF, etc.
The seventh and eighth of William the Third, chapter 22, entitled “An act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses in the plantation trade,” recites that—
Notwithstanding divers acts, etc., great abuses are daily committed, to the prejudice of the English navigation, and the loss of a great part of the plantation trade to this kingdom, by the artifice and cunning of ill-disposed persons; for REMEDY whereoF, etc. And whereas, in some of his Majesty's American plantations, a doubt or misconstruction has arisen upon the before-mentioned act, made in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of King Charles II., whereby certain duties are laid upon the commodities therein enumerated (which by law may be transplanted from one plantation to another, for the supply of each other's wants) as if the same were, by the payment of those duties in one plantation, discharged from giving the securities intended by the aforesaid acts, made in the twelfth, twenty-second, and twenty-third years of the