« AnteriorContinuar »
• No attention whatever is due to these şubtile opinions and vain abstractions of speculative men; as remote from the common experience of human affairs, and but too well adapted to seduce and inflame the minds of those, who, having derived such signal advantages from their past submission, ought for the future also to obey the laws of their hitherto indulgent, but powerful mother.
• Besides, is not the condition of the Americans, in many respects, preferable to that of the English themselves? The expenses of internal and civil administration, in England, are enormous; so inconsiderable, on the contrary, in the colonies, as almost to surpass belief.
“The government of the church, productive of so heavy an expense in England, is of no importance in America ; there tithes, there sinecure benefices, are unknown. Pauperism has no existence in the colonies ; there, according to the language of Scripture, every one lives under his own fig tree; hunger and nakedness are banished from the land ; and vagrants, or beggars, are never seen. Happy would it be for England, if as much could be affirmed of her subjects on this side of the ocean! But the contrary, as every body knows, is the truth.
• What nation has ever shown such tenderness towards its colonies as England has demonstrated for hers? Have they, in their necessities, ever sought in vain the prompt succours of Great Britain ? Was it for their own defence against the enemy, or to advance their domestic prosperity, have not the most ample subsidies been granted them without hesitation ?
'Independently of these benefits, what other state has ever extended to a part of its population this species of favor, which had been bestowed by England upon her colonies ? She has opened them a credit without which they could never have arrived at this height of prosperity, which excites the astonishment of all that visit them ; and this considered, the tax proposed must be deemed a very moderate interest for the immense sums which Great Britain has lent her colonies.
* As to the scarcity of money, the declamations upon this head are equally futile : gold and silver can never be wanting in a country so fertile in excellent productions as North America. The stamp duty proposed being not only moderate, but even trivial, could never withdraw from the country so considerable a quantity of specie, as to drain its sources, especially as the product of this duty will be kept in reserve in the treasury, and being destined to defray the expenses of the protection and defence of the colonies, must therefore of necessity be totally reimbursed.
• This supremacy of England, about which such a clamor has been raised, amounts then in reality, to nothing but a superiority of power and of efforts to guard and protect all her dependencies, and
all her dominions; which she has done at a price that has brought her to the brink of ruin. Great Britain, it is true, has acquired in this struggle a glory which admits of no addition ; but all her colonies participate in this. The Americans are not only graced by the reflected splendor of their ancient country, but she has also lavished upon them the honors and benefits which belong to the members of the British empire, while England alone has paid the countless cost of so much glory.'
Such were the arguments advanced in parliament, with equal ability and warmth, on the one part, and on the other, in favor, and against, the American tax. While the question was in suspense, the merchants of London, interested in the commerce of America, tortured with the fear of losing or not having punctually remitted, the capitals they had placed in the hands of the Americans, presented a petition against the bill, on the day of its second reading; for they plainly foresaw that among their debtors, some from necessity, and others with this pretext, would not fail to delay remittances. But it was alleged, that the usage of the house of commons is not to hear petitions directed against tax laws; and this of the London merchants, was, accordingly, rejected.
Meanwhile, the ministers, and particularly George Grenville, exclaimed ;
“These Americans, our own children, planted by our cares, nourished by our indulgence, protected by our arms, until they are grown to a good degree of strength and opulence; will they now turn their backs upon us, and grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy load which overwhelms us ?'
Colonel Barre caught the words, and with a vehemence becoming in a soldier, said ;
Planted by your cares! No! your oppression planted them in America; they fled from your tyranny, into a then uncultivated land, where they were exposed to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others, to the savage cruelty of the enemy of the country, a people the most subtle, and, I take upon me to say, the most truly terrible, of any people that ever inhabited any part of God's earth; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those that should have been their friends.'
• They nourished up by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect, as soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one department and another, who were perhaps, the deputies of the deputies of some members of this house, sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men, whose bebavior, on many occasions, has caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil
within them; men, promoted to the highest seats of justice, some of whom, to my knowledge, were glad, by going to foreign countries, to escape the vengeance of the laws in their own.
• They protected by your arms ? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted their valor amidst their constant and ·laborious industry, for the defence of a country, whose frontiers, while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded for your enlargement, the little savings of their frugality, and the fruits of their toils. And believe me, remember, I this day told you so, that the same spirit which actuated that people at first, will continue with them still; but prudence forbids me to explain myself any further. God knows, I do not, at this time, speak from motives of party heat; what I assert proceeds from the sentiments of my heart. However superior to me in general knowledge and experience, any one here may be, yet I claim to know more of America, having seen, and been more conversant in that country. The people there are as truly loyal, as any subjects the king bas; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, if they should be violated; but the subject is delicate; I will say no more.'
This discourse was pronounced by the colonel without preparation, and with such a tone of, energy, that all the house remained, as it were, petrified with surprise, and all viewed him with attention, without uttering a word.
But the pride of the ministers would not permit them to retreat, and the parliament could not hear, with patience, its authority to tax America, called in question. Accordingly, many voted in favor of the bill, because they believed it just and expedient; others, because the ministers knew how to make it appear such ; others, finally, and perhaps the greater number, from jealousy of their contested authority. Thus, when the house divided on the 7th of February, 1765, the nays were not found to exceed fifty, and the yeas were two hundred and fifty. The bill was, therefore, passed, and was approved with great alacrity in the house of lords, on the 8th of March following, and sanctioned by the king the 22d of the same month.
Such was this famous scheme, invented by the most subtle, by the most sapient heads in England; whether the spirit of sophistry in which it originated, or the moment selected for its promulgation, be the most deserving of admiration, is left for others to pronounce. Certain it is, that it gave occasion in America to those intestine commotions, that violent fermentation, which, after kindling a civil war, involving all Europe in its flames, terminated in the total disjunction from the British empire of one of its fairest possessions.
If in this great revolution, the arms of England suffered no diminution of splendor and glory, owing to the valor and gallantry displayed by her soldiers throughout the war, it cannot be disguised that VOL. 1.
her power and influence were essentially impaired among all nations of the world.
The very night the act was passed, doctor Franklin, who was then in London, wrote to Charles Thomson, afterwards secretary of Congress, The sun of liberty is set; the Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy.' To which Mr. Thomson answered, “Be assured we shall light torches of quite another sort.' Thus predicting the convulsions that were about to follow.
END OF BOOK FIRST.
NOTES TO BOOK I.
NOTE I. - PAGE 22.
· EXCLUDING the people of the colonies from all share in the choice of the grand council, would probably give extreme dissatisfaction, as well as the taxing them by act of parliament, where they have no representation.
In matters of general concern to the people, and especially when burthens are to be laid upon them, it is of use to corsider, as well what they will be apt to think and say, as what they ought to think; I shall, therefore, as your excellency requires it of me, briefly mention what of either kind occurs to me on this occasion.
First, they will say, and perhaps with justice, that the body of the people in the colonies are as loyal, and as firmly attached to the present constitution, and reigning family, as any subjects in the king's dominions.
"That there is no reason to doubt the readiness and willingness of the representatives they may choose, to grant, from time to time, such supplies for the defence of the country, as shall be judged necessary, so far as their abilities allow.
"That the people in the colonies, who are to feel the immediate mischiefs of invasion and conquest by an enemy, in the loss of their estates, lives, and liberties, are likely to be better judges of the quantity of forces necessary to be raised and maintained, forts to be built and supported, and of their own abilities to bear the expense, than the parliament of England, at so great a distance.
“That governors often come to the colonies merely to make fortunes with which they intend to return to Britain; are not always men of the best abilities or integrity; have, many of them, no estates here, nor any natural connexions with us, that should make them heartily concerned for our welfare ; and might, possibly, be fond of raising and keeping up more forces than necessary, from the profits accruing to themselves, and to make provision for their friends and dependants.
“That the counsellors, in most of the colonies, being appointed by the crown, on the recommendation of governors, are often persons of small estates, frequently dependent on the governors for offices, and therefore too much under influence
“That there is, therefore, great reason to be jealous of a power in such governors and councils, to raise such sums as they shall judge necessary, by drafts on the lords of the treasury, to be afterwards laid on the colonies by act of parliament, and paid by the people here; since they might abuse it, by projecting useless expeditions, harassing the people, and taking thein from their labor to execute such projects, merely to create offices and employments, and gratify their dependants, and divide profits.
"That the parliament of England is at a great distance, subject to be misinformed and misled by such governors and councils, whose united interesis might, probably, secure them against the cffect of any complaint from hence.
'That it is supposed an undoubted right of Englishmen, not to be taxed, but by their own consent, given through their representatives; that the colonies have no representatives in parliament.
"That to propose taxing them hy parliament, and refuse them the liberty of choosing a representative council, to meet in the colonies, and consider and judge of the necessity of any general tax, and the quantum, shows a suspicion of their loyalty to the crown, or of their regard for their country, or of their common sense and understanding; which they have not deserved.