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this ordinance must have completely drained the colonies of the little money they had remaining, to be transported to Europe.
The secret exasperation redoubled, at the first intelligence of measures so extraordinary. They reinarked, that they were even contradictory; that it was requiring a thing, and, at the same time time, withholding the means to perform it; since the government deprived them of all faculty of procuring specie, and yet would have them furnish it, to be transported to a distance of three thousand miles. But, as if the ministry were afraid the tempest of indignation, excited by these new laws, should be appeased 100 soon, they wrested from the parliament another act, which appeared fifieen days after. It purported, that bills of credit, which might be issued in future by the Ainerican colonies, should no longer have legal currency in payments; and that, as to those in circulation, they likewise could not be received as legal payment, after the term prefixed for their redemption and extinction. It is true, however, that all the money proceeding from the duties above mentioned, was directed, by other clauses of the bill, to be kept in reserve, and could only be employed for expenses relative to the colonies; it is true, also, that at the same time the act was framed concerning bills of credit, some others were passed, to promote and regulate the reciprocal commerce between the colonies and mother country, and between the colonies themselves. But these regulations failed to produce the expected effects : for they were necessarily slow in their operation ; while those which restricted and attacked the external commerce of the colonies, or shackled their domestic trade, were immediately operative. Some also attempted to demonstrate, that the money carried off by these duties must infallibly flow back into the colonies, for the payment and support of the troops stationed there, to protect and defend them. But who would guaranty to the colonists, that the troops should be quartered among them so long as the law mighi continue in force? If such was the intention of the legislator, why cause this treasure to travel, with no lule risk and expense, from America to England, and thence back to the place from whence it came ; thus imposing the necessity of passing it through so many and so different hands ? Perhaps, they said, in order that it might have the honor of visiting the British exchequer ? And why was it not more expedient to employ it where it was found, without so many voyages and circuits?' This plainly demonstrated, that it was but a pretext for the most pernicious designs. Besides, for what purpose, for what good, were so many troops maintained in America ? External enemies at present there were none; and for the repression of the Indians, the colonies were, doubtless, sufficient of themselves. But the fact was, they continued, the ministers had formed a design to oppress their liberty; and for this purpose did they arm themselves with so many soldiers, and incur such vast expenso, in the midst of a people abounding in loyalty and innocence.
All these new regulations, which succeeded each other with such precipitation, were indeed but too well calculated to surprise and alarm the inhabitants of North America. Such a proceeding on the part of the government appeared to them, and was in fact, both new and inauspicious. They felt it profoundly; and, by their remonstrances, demonstrated how unjustly they were aggrieved, and demanded incessantly to be restored to their former condition. But they did not stop at bare complaints. When they found that their remonstrances were ineffectual, they resolved to employ some more efficacious means to convince the ministers of the error they had committed. The resolutions taken against British manufactures, which at first had been merely individual, now became general, by combinations to this effect, contracted in the principal cities of America, which were observed with an astonishing constancy and punctuality. Great Britain experienced from these associations au immense detriment, and feared, not without reason, still greater; for, as they comprehended men of all conditions, they tended, by degrees, to conduct the manufactures of the country to a certain degree of perfection, the more probable, as the abundance of raw materials would permit their products 10 be sold at very moderate prices. Finally, it was to be expected, that, with the progressive increase of industry, the manufactures of the colonies might supply with their fabrics the neighboring colonies of Spain and Portugal. But, without anticipating the future, it is certain that the interruption alone of commerce between the American colonies and England, was extremely prejudicial to the latter; for it is known, that the colonies, without including the foreign merchandise they received from the hands of England, annually purchased to the value of three millions sterling, of English productions or manufactures. The public revenues suffered materially, from the effects of this new policy; the duties upon the exportation of merchandise destined for America, and those upon the importation of articles which foreign merchants sent in exchange for the productions of the English colonies, experienced a continual diminution. Henceforth began to germinate those fatal seeds, which the British government, instead of extirpating, seemed to take pleasure in cultivating, till they produced all the ruiu which followed.
But, although these unusual duties had excited a general discontent in America, and although the inhabitants complained of them bitterly, as unjust and oppressive burdens, they considered them, nevertheless, not as taxes or imposts, but merely as regulations of commerce, which were within the competency of parliament. They believed, indeed, that in this instance it had departed froin that parental benevolence which it had discovered towards them during more than a century; still they did not think it had transcended the limits of its authority. But the English ministers revolved in their VOL. I.
minds a design far more lucrative for the exchequer, and still more prejudicial to the interests and liberty of the colonists. This was to impose taxes or excises upon the colonies, by acts of parliament; and to create, in this way, a branch of public revenue, to be placed at the disposal of parliament itself. This project, far from being new, had long been fermenting in English heads. Some of those schemers, who are ever ruminating new plans and expedients to filch money from the pockets of the people, had already suggested, in 1739, during the Spanish war, to Robert Walpole, then prime minister, the idea of taxing the colonies; but this man, no less sagacious than profoundly versed in the science of government and commerce, answered, with an ironical smile, I will leave this operation to some one of my successors, who shall have more courage than me, and less regard for commerce. I have always, during my administration, thought it my duty to encourage the commerce of the American colonies; and I have done it. Nay, I have even chosen to wink at some irregularities in their traffic with Europe; for my opinion is, that if, by favoring their trade with foreign nations, they gain five hundred thousand pounds sterling, at the end of two years, full two hundred and fifty thousand of it will have entered the royal coffers ; and that by the industry and productions of England, who sells them an immense quantity of her manufactures. The more they extend their foreign commerce, the more will they consume of our merchandise. This is a mode of taxing them, more conformable to their constitution, and to our own.'
But, at the epoch in question, the power of England had arrived at such a height, that it appeared impossible for the American colonies, though supported by all Europe, to resist her will. So much glory and greatness, however, had not been acquired without enormous sacrifices; and the public debt amounted to the prodigious sum of one hundred and forty-eight millions sterling, or about six hundred and fifty-seven millions five hundred thousand dollars. Thus it had become necessary to search out every object, and every occupation, susceptible of taxes or contributions. It was, therefore, thought expedient, and even necessary, to tax the colonies, for whose security and prosperity, principally, a war so terrible had been waged, such dangers encountered, so much blood and treasure expended. As to the species of the tax, it was decided for that of stamped paper, which was already established in England; and it was understood, so far as related to its nature, to be the least odious to the Americans, provided, however, it was established by the president and the grand council, according to the plan of colonial administration proposed by themselves, and not by authority of parliament. There were even found Americans, who, being then in London, not only favored, but perhaps first suggested, this new mode of taxing the colonies; and, among others, it appears that a certain Huske, a
native of Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, was one of its principal promoters.
This proposition was received with eagerness, as are, commonly, all the projects of those who are industrious to extort money from the people. English ears could hear no sound more grateful than this; for if the people of England groaned under the weight of taxes, both old and new, they were persuaded, from what had been told them, that in America there was a redundance of all good things. 'Shall our colonists, they said, “enjoy the magnificence of princes, while we must drudge, and consume ourselves with efforts to procure a scanty subsistence ? The officers, who had served in the colonies, painted, on their return, in vivid colors, the American prosperity and affluence.
These details were not so much exaggerated as might be thought, at the time of their residence in America. Money was then very abundant in the colonies, the government necessarily remitting thither considerable sums, for the support of the troops, and expenses of the war. At that time, American productions were in great request, and their commerce very flourishing. The inhabitants, being naturally courteous and hospitable, expended generously, to render their houses agreeable to strangers, then very numerous. The war termioated, all dangers averted, the power of an inveterate enemy, hitherto intrenched in the heart of the country, extinguished, the colonists conceived it a duty to offer the most honorable reception in their power to those who had contributed so greatly to their present security and felicity.
The necessity of drawing a public revenue from the colonies, being therefore no longer doubted, and the willingness of the colonists to concur in it, by means of the duty upon stamped påper, being presumed, as well as their ability to support it, the house of commons, on the 10th of March, 1764, voted a resolution, purporting that it was proper to charge certain stamp duties, in the colonies and plantations.' This resolution, not being followed, this year, by any other to carry it into effect, existed merely as an intention to be executed the succeeding year.
If the stamp act had been carried into imrnediate execution in the colonies, they would perhaps have submitted to it, if not without murmuring, at least without that open opposition which was manifested afterwards; and it is known how much more easily the people are retained in quiet, than appeased when once excited. The principal colonists would not have had time to launch into discussions, in which they predicted to their fellow-citizens the evils which must result from their consent to this new tax; and as evils inspire more alarm at a distance than at approach, the colonists, not having experienced from this sudden imposition the prejudice apprehended in the uncertain future, would probably have become tranquil; they cer
tainly would not have had so much scope to inflame each other against the duty, as they afterwards did. For no sooner was the news of the impost in question received in any place, than it was spread, as it were, in a moment, throughout the country, and produced such an impression upon the minds of all, and especially of the lower classes, that all orders of citizens, waiving their ancient rivalships, difference of habits, and diversity of opinions in political and religious matters, were unanimous in maintaining, that it was impossible to submit to a law enacted in a mode so contrary to ancient usages, to their privileges as colonists, and to their rights as English subjects. Thus, for having chosen to warn before the blow, the British government prepared in the colonies an unanimous and most determined concurrence of opinion against one of its solemn decrees; and deprived itself of that docility resulting among the people from their intestine divisions, and the diversity of their interests.
The prime minister, Grenville, had been the author of this delay, hoping the colonies, upon advice of the bill in agitation, if they disliked the stamp duty, would have proposed some other mode of raising the sum intended to be levied by it. Accordingly, when the agents of the colonies went to pay him their respects, he informed them that he was prepared to receive, on the part of the colonies, any other proposal of a tax which would raise the sum wanted ; shrewdly insinuating, also, that it was now in their power, by consenting, to establish it as a principle, that they should be consulted before any tax whatever was imposed upon the colonies by authority of parliament. Many in England, and possibly the agents themselves, attributed this conduct of the minister to moderation ; but beyond the Atlantic it found a quite different reception, all with one voice exclaiming that this was an interested charity. For they thought, that however civil his offers, the minister would nevertheless exact, to a penny, the entire sum he desired, which in substance was saying, that willingly or otherwise, they must submit to his good pleasure; and consequently, his complaisance was but that of an accomplished robber. It was known that he would not be satisfied with less than three hundred thousand pounds sterling a year, the sum considered necessary for the support of the army it was resolved to maintain in the colonies for their defence. Not one of the agents was authorised to comply. Two only alleged, they were commissioned to declare that their provinces were ready to bear their proportion of the duty upon stamps, when it should be established according to ancient usages. The minister, therefore, having heard no proposal that appeared to him acceptable, resolved to pursue the design of a stamp act. Meanwhile, the fermentation in America was violent, not only among private citizens, but also among the members of public and corporate bodies; and all were of one mind, in asserting that the parliament had no right to tax the colonies. In all