Imagens das páginas


a disastrous futurity, if we do not oppose, courageously, with our tongues, our hearts, our hands, the tyranny with which we menaced. I hear it said, that America is obstinate, America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that Arnerica has resisted. Türee millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fii instruments to make slaves of ourselves. The honorable member has said also, for he is fluent in words of bitterness, that America is ungratefu!; he boasts of his bounties towards her ; but are not these bounties intended, finally, for the benefit of this kingdom ? And how is it true that America is ungrateful ? Does she not voluntarily hold a good correspondence with us ? The profits to Great Britain, from her commerce with the colonies, are two millions a year. This is the fund that carried you triumphantly through the last war. The estates that were rented at two thousand pounds a year, seventy years ago, are at three thousand pounds at present. You owe this to America. This is the price she pays for your protection. I omit the increase of population in the colonies ; the migration of new inhabitants from every part of Europe ; aod the ulterior progress of American commerce, should it be regulated by judicious laws. And shall we hear a miserable financier come with a boast that he can fetch a peppercorn into the exchequer, to the loss of millions to the nation ? The gentleman complains that he has been misrepresented in the public prints. I can only say, it is a misfortune common to all that all high stations, and take a leading part in public affairs. He says, also, that when he first asserted the right of parliament to tax America, he was not contradicted. I know not how it is, but there is a modesty in this house, which does not choose to contradict a minister. If gentlemen do not get the better of this modesty, perhaps the collective body may begin to abate of its respect for the representative. A great deal has been said without doors, and more than is discreet, of the power, of the strength, of America. But, in a good cause, on a sound bottom, the force of this country can crush America to atoms; but on the ground of this tax, when it is wished to prosecute an evident injustice, I am one who will list my hands and my voice against it.

• In such a cause, your success would be deplorable, and victory hazardous. America, if she fell, would fall like the strong man. She would embrace the pillars of the state, and pull down the constitution along with her. Is this your boasted peace ?-not to sheath the sword in its scabbard, but to sheath it in the bowels of your countrymen ? Will you quarrel with yourselves, now the wbole house of Bourbon is united against you ?—while France disturbs your fisheries in Newfoundland, embarrasses your slave trade with Africa, and withholds from your subjects in Canada their pro

perly stipulated by treaty ?—while the ransom for the Manillas is denied by Spain, and its gallant conqueror traduced into a mean plunderer ? The Americans have not acted in all things with prudence and temper. They have been wronged. They have been driven tc madness by injustice. Will you punish them for the madness you have occasioned ? Rather let prudence and benignity come first from the strongest side. Excuse their errors ; learn to honor their virtues. Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the house what is really my opinion. I consider it most consistent with our dignity, most useful to our liberty, and in every respect the safest for this kingdom, that the stamp act be repealed, absolutely, totally, and immediately. At the same time, let the sovereign authority of this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever; that we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power whatsoever, except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.'

These words, pronounced in a firm and solemn tone, by a man of so great authority, acted with extreme force upon the minds of the hearers.

They still retained, however, a deep resentment, on account of the excesses committed by the Americans; and perhaps the repeal of the act would not have taken place, if, at the same time, the ministers had not accompanied it with the declaration of which we shall speak presently. Some also are of the opinion, that the affair was much facilitated by the promise of an early repeal of the cider tax, which was, in effect, afterwards debated, and pronounced in the month of April. The members from the counties where cider is made, all voted for the repeal of the stamp act. However the truth of this may be, the question being put, on the 22d of February, whether the act for the repeal of the stamp act should pass ? it was carried in the affirmative; not, however, without a great number of contrary votes; two hundred and sixty-five voting in favor, and one hundred and sixty-seven against. It was approved in the house of peers ; one hundred and fifty-five votes were in favor, sixty-oue were contrary. At the same time was passed the declaratory act, purporting that the legislature of Great Britain has authority to make laws and statutes to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever. On the 19th of March, the king, having repaired to the house of peers, gave his assent to the act of repeal, and that of the dependence of the colonies towards Great Britain. The American merchants at that time in London, went, in a body, to testify their joy and gratitude upon this occasion. The ships which lay at anchor in the Thames, displayed their colors in token of felicitation. The houses were illuminated in all parts of the city; salutes were heard, and

bonfires were kindled, in all quarters. In a word, none of the pubSie demonstrations, usual on similar occurrences, were omitted, to celebrate the goodness of the king, and the wisdom of parliaDED,

Couriers were immediately despatched to Falmouth, to spread throughout the kingdom, and transmit to America the tidings of a law, which, to appearance, must, on the one hand, by appeasing irritation, put a stop to all further tumulls; and, on the other, dissipate the alarms produced by the losses the manufacturers had sustained.

[blocks in formation]


The Americans, generally, either weary of the present disorders, annoyed by the interruption of commerce, or terrified at the aspect of the future, which seeined to threaten the last extremities, received with great exultation the news of the revocation of the stamp act.

With infinite delight, they found themselves released from the necessity either of proceeding to the last resort, and to civil bloodshed, a thing horrible in itself, and accompanied with innumerable dangers, or of submitting their necks to a yoke equally detested, and which had become the more odious from the efforts they had already made in resistance. It is easy to imagine, therefore, how great were, in every place, the demonstrations of public joy. Even the assembly of Massachusetts, either from a sentiment of gratitude, or to confirm itself in opposition, for among its members were many of the most distinguished citizens of the province, all firmly resolved to maintain the dependence of America towards Great Britain, unaniinously voted thanks to be addressed to the duke of Grafton, to William Pitt, and to all those members of the house of peers, or of coinmons, who bad defended the rights of the colonies, and procured the abrogation of the odious law. In like manner, the assembly of burgesses of Virginia resolved that a statue should be erected to the king, in acknowledginent and commemoration of the repeal of the stamp act; and an obelisk, in honor of those illustrious men who had so efficaciously espoused their cause. William Pitt, especially, had become the object of public veneration and boundless praises, for having said the Americans had done well in resisting; little heeding that he had recommended, in terms so strong and remakable, the confirmation of the authority of parliament over the colonies, in all points of legislation and external taxation. But they saw the consequences of these measures only in the distance ; and considered the assertion of certain rights of parliament merely as speculative principles thrown out to spare its dignity, to sooth British pride, and facilitate the digestion of so bitter a morsel. Besides, to justify past events, and perhaps also to authorise their future designs, the colonists were glad to have the shield of so great a name. They received with the same alacrity the declaratory act, which the secretary of state transmitted to America at the same time with that for the repeal of the stamp act.

Notwithstanding this expression of universal exultation, the public mind was not entirely appeased. Secret grudges, and profound resentments, still rankled under these brilliant appearances. The restraints recently laid upon commerce, had caused a disgust no less extreme than the stamp act itself, particularly in the northern provinces; and the success of the first resistance encouraged ulterior hopes.

During the late disturbances, men had become extremely conversant with political disquisitions ; every charter, every right, had been the subject of the strictest investigation ; and the Americans rarely, if ever, pronounced against themselves. From these discussions and debates, new opinions had resulted upon a great number of points, and some of them strangely exaggerated, respecting the rights of the Americans, and ihe nature of their relations with Great Britain. The irritation and inflexibility of their minds had increased in the same proportion. In this state of excitement, the shadow of an encroachinent upon their political or civil liberty would have caused a sudden insurrection; and the attentive observer might easily have perceived, that the reconciliation between the colonies and the mother country was more apparent than rea! ; and that the first occasion would be seized, to break out afresh in discord and revolt.

The occasion of new dissensions, and the elements of a new coinbustion, originated in the provinces of Massachusetts and of New York. The assembly of the former bore ill will to the governor, Sir Francis Bernard, for being, as they believed, a sve to the cause of America ; and baving chosen for their speaker James Otis, one of the warmest advocates of liberty existing in America at that period, the governor refused to confirm the choice ; at wbich the representatives were highly exasperated. Otis, meanwhile, to retaliate, succeeded in causing to be excluded from the assembly the officers of the crowo, and the members of the superior court of judicature, who were Hutchinson and Oliver. The governor, much incensed, pronounced, on his part, the exclusion of six of the proposed caodidates for the speaker's chair. Thus the spirit of division was reciprocally fomented. But the patriots went further still; and procured a resolution of the assembly, that their debates should be public, and that galleries should be constructed, for the accommodation of such as might wish to altend them; this was provopily executed. The intervention of the public at their deliberations encouraged the partisans of liberty, and disheartened the friends of power; the former were sure of increasing their popularity, by warmly advocating the privileges of the colonies; the latter, of incurring greater aversion, and more universal hatred, in proportion to their zeal in supporting the cause of the government. Hence, numbers were deterred from taking part in the debates. The first had, besides, a powerful advantage over them; for it sufficed to render their adversaries odious to the people, to reproach them, true or false, with having favored the stamp act. The secretary of state, along with the act repealing the stamp act, had also sent the governors of the provinces, a resolution of the house of commons, purporting, “That all persons, who, on account of the desire which they had manisested to comply with, or to assist in carrying into execution, any acts of

« AnteriorContinuar »