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were inclined to think, the colonists would have found themselves subjugated to the Bourbon despotism. It seemed only right, therefore, that the Colonies should contribute something to the defense of the Empire in return for the protection which had been extended to them. On account of the great expansion of the British possessions in America, the British government felt that it was necessary to retain a part of the British army in the Colonies as a check against the Indians and in order to assure an effective control of Canada, and it was generally thought in England that the Colonies could not reasonably object to paying some tax or contribution in partial support of this army which was to be stationed among them for their own protection.
Thus, in 1763, the very time when the Colonies were acquiring a new sense of strength and independence, the British government was preparing to adopt measures for the closer integration of the Empire and for imposing upon the Colonies some part of the burden of imperial defense. The attempt of the government, in 1764-65, to lay taxes for this purpose was the beginning of ten years of controversy and strife which led finally to the American Revolution and the independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
THE NEW WORLD EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY
1760, three years before the Peace of Paris was signed, George III became King of England. This was an event of great importance in the history of England and of the United States, on account of two political objects which the new king pursued with stubborn persistence during the first twenty years of his reign. In the first place, George III was always in favor of the policy of taxing the Colonies and of subjecting them to the authority of the British Parliament. In the second place, he was determined to make the Ministers carry out the policy of the king rather than a policy imposed upon the king by the Parliament. The twofold aim of George III was to establish the supremacy of the Parliament over the Colonies, and to establish the supremacy of the king over the Parliament; and these two vital questions, the question of colonial rights and the question of parliamentary government in England, were bound up one with the other, inasmuch as the success of the king in achieving the one aim was likely to result in his achieving the other aim also.
This does not mean, as is often supposed, that all those who opposed the king's scheme of breaking away from the control of Parliament also opposed the taxation of the Colonies. In 1765 nearly every one in England who thought about the matter thought it only right that the Colonies should pay taxes in their own defense, and very few regarded it as unjust or illegal for Parliament to levy those taxes. The famous Stamp Tax was passed in 1765, after a year's notice, with scarcely any opposition either in Parliament or out of it. Indeed there was but little interest in the matter, because no one supposed that there would be any serious objection. Edmund Burke said that he never listened to a more languid debate; and Horace Walpole, who afterward became a rabid supporter of the Colonies, mentions the passage of the Stamp Act as one might mention any unimportant act of legislative routine. At the time no one realized that this act would lead to controversy, to strife, and finally to revolution and the disruption of the Empire.
Such complete misunderstanding of the importance of the Stamp Act was due to the significant fact that whereas nearly every one in England thought the law a just and reasonable one, nearly every one in America thought it an unjust and an unreasonable one. What was the cause of this remarkable difference in the point of view of the two groups of Englishspeaking peoples? The explanation has sometimes been that the colonial leaders used this opportunity to carry out a malign and deliberately conceived conspiracy to precipitate a rebellion in order to win political independence. But there is slight evidence in support of this idea. In 1765 practically all Americans were proud of being British-Americans, they gloried in the greatness of little old England, and they looked forward with pride to the great rôle which the British Empire would play in the future history of the world. Very few colonists at that time dreamed of independence, or thought it possible for the Colonies to be happy or prosperous except as parts of the Empire. In the desire to preserve and to strengthen this Empire, both Englishmen and Americans were agreed; but they differed radically in their ideas of how the Empire ought to be organized and governed, and it is this difference which explains why the former thought the Stamp Act just and reasonable, while the latter thought it unjust and unreasonable.
In the eighteenth century English government, and to a large extent English opinion in political matters, was controlled by a fairly small and a fairly selfish landowning and commercial oligarchy; and the complacence and egoism of this oligarchy were never greater than just after the Seven Years' War, when all the world was fearing or admiring the tremendous success of Great Britain. Naturally enough, therefore, the average Englishman felt that this Empire, about which the great Pitt had talked so much, was the result of the virtues and the sacrifices of England, and that as it had been created so it must necessarily be held together by the force of British arms and of British laws. Apart from such control, the average Englishman was apt to say, India and the American Colonies would have been subjected to the despotism of the French kings; and what could be more reasonable, therefore, than to suppose that the defense and the development of the Empire must be undertaken by the only supreme power there was—namely, the British Parliament. If every part of the Empire should be allowed to do as it liked, there wouldn't be any Empire very long, and nothing but a selfish desire to escape their fair share of the