Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Atrained ; they were now considered by them as proper objects of taxation. They observed : That it had been permitted by several former laws to transport the enumerated productions of the plantations, in America, Asia, and Africa, from the places of their growth, to other Englih colonies in those parts, without paying custom for the same, either at the lading or uplading; whereby the trade in those commodities was greatly increased ; that the inhabitants of those settlements, not content with being supplied themselves with those merchandises for their own use, free from all duties, while the subje&ts in England had paid great impofitions for what they used, had sent great quantities to divers parts of Europe, and daily vend the same to the thipping of other nations, to the diminution of the customs and of the navigation of the kingdom. They enacted there. fore : That if any vessel, which by law may trade in the plantations, shall take on-board any enumerated commodities, and a bond, with fufficient security, shall not have been given to unlade them in Erge land, there shall be rendered to his Majesty, for fugars, tobacco, ginger, cocoa-nut, indigo, logwood, fuftic, cotton wool, the leve. ral duties mentioned in the law; to be paid in such places in the plantations, and to such officers, as shall be appointed io collect the same. And, for the better colleaion of those taxes, it was enaded : That the whole business shall be managed, and the impofts Thall be levied, by officers who fall be appointed by the commillioners of the customs in England, under the auihority of the Lords of the Trea." sury.

The policy of the legislature is extremely clear; no duties were to be demanded for the commodities exported to England, because, under the authority of former laws, cultoms were already collected : The exportation of those merchandises to foreign nations had been already prohibited by the ads of navigation, though they were fill allowed to be carried from one plantation of the crown to any other ; and now the same dusies were imposed, on such transportation, as were then paid upon the consumption within the realm. This law was made the corner-stone of a system which was afterwards erected ; it was extended to other productions of the colonies as they became objects of commerce ; it was explained and enforced : and the money arising from it was ordered to be paid into the exchequer for the dis. posal of parliament. The duties of tonnage and poundage had been imposed, we have seen, and extended, to every dominion of the crown at the Restoration. But this is the first act which imposed customs on the colonies alone, to be regularly collected by colonial revenue-officers. During the season of high passion, the clearest propofitions of tact and of law are made objects of doubt or of dispata. tion; and history is often compelled to enter the lifts of controversy. Whether the duties, which were then imposed, ought to be deemed regulations of trade, or exertions of taxatior., for the uses of revenue, has been formally debated in modern times. Yet the nature of the question necessarily leads to an altercation of words, as frivolous as degrading. We may rely therefore on the weighty authority of Sir Edward Coke, who assures us : “ That every burden whatsoever, fet upon any man, is a tallage, which cannot be imposed without common affent, by act of parliament." And the Commons, the great

afetors

afeffors of the state, bave invigorated the sentiment of that most emiDent lawyer by continual approbation. They acted agreeabiy to his reasoning, it should seem, when they rejected in 1733, the petition of ihe colony of Rhode Island, againit the act imposing duties on the products of the foreign Welt-Indies, when imported into the English plantations: giving as a reason, what news ite sense of the House and the nation ; "shat it was a money-bill."

But the colonists of former times were assuredly as desirous to admit the legality of the tax, and to deny the policy of the regulation, 10 pay the one, yet to evade the other, as their pofterity have been zealous to dispute the former and allow the latter. The agents of Mas. sachusets represented to the committee of colonies, in 1078; " that, for the encouragement of their trade, they humbly proposed it as a thing that would be joyfully accepted, that, when they export their fish and ftaves to foreign countries, they may have liberty to bring back such goods as New-England wants for its own supplies, without coming first to England: they being moił willing to pay all his Majesty's duties upon their arrival in New-England.” When the colonilts were accused, in those days, of breaches of the acts of trade, they infifted : That, after they had paid the tax, they might, by law, carry their commodities whither they pleased. Yer, the Lords of the Committee submitting this pretension, in the year 1675, to the Attorney-general, Jones, he gave it as his opinion, " that the tax must be paid, and security also given, to carry their productions to a dominion of the Crown'; because the law imposing the custom did not repeal that requiring the bond.” The pertinacity of mankind is unbounded when Arengthened by interest or encouraged by faction. Former practices nevertheless continued, because they were in some measure juftified by former pretences. And the doubts before meotioned were at length decided, in conformity to the opinion of that eminent lawyer, by a facute of William and Mary.

During the sellion of 1672, the Colonies were not only deemed objects of taxation, but of regulation : and the Parliament, observing the national importance of the whale filing, for its farther encouragement, permitted all persons reliding in England, whether natives or aliens, to import, from Greenland, Newfoundland, or the Colonies, whatsoever was made of any creature living in the sea, caught in tips properly belonging to England, and in them brought in, without paying any custom : but for the oil or fins, imported in vesels belonging to the Plantations, several small duties were impoled; and, on the importation of such commodities in foreign ver. sels, taxes were laid, amounting almost to a prohibition. The po. licy of this regulation is extremely obvious: the fithing, in general, being of national importance, was to be encouraged ; the people of England were preferred to the inhabitants of the Colonies; but there were allowed greater advantages than foreigners. And this is the only law, which appears in the statute-book, that makes any dirtinction between the vessels of the Colonies, and those of England, by giving a preference to the latter over the former.

• Such then was the power exercised by the Parliament, during those days, over the Planiations : but, from chat period, the artention of the members was drawn to other objects more near and inte: reiting; and we shall find the Legislature taking little farther notice of colonial affairs during the reign of Charles II.

tion

Hh 2

"" The Commiflioners of the Customs proceeded immediately to execute the trust so lately reposed in them by Parliament. They appointed officers for Virginia, whose duty was twofold; to collect the various duties assessed by the Itatute juit mentioned ; to superintend the punctual execution of the acts of navigation. And these men were received in that loyal dominion with the attention due to perfons invested with legal powers from royal authori:y. As early as the Sellion of Sep:ember, 1672, an Act was pased, obliging “martors of tips to pay the country dues to the collectors.' Thus the assembly recognised their power, and enlarged it, by extending their com million to taxes that were not within their au:hority, by contradistinguishing coun!ry dues, imposed by it felf, from the customs eftablished by Parliament. The example of Virginia was followed by Maryland. Charles Calvert, the Governor, was the first collector appointed for it; and this office he exercised, with approbation, till he became proprietary, in 1676. And the assembly seems to have first recognised that officer during the Seslion of April, 1682; by regulating “the fees which should be paid at the entries of vessels belonging to the province.” Nevertheless, a collector, it should seem, was not appointed for New England till the year 1679: and, when Edward Randolph for the first time attempted to execute that office at Boston, he was opposed with the seady zeal of men who deemed their chartered privileges invaded : and we shall find this conduct one of the chief causes of the diffolution of the ancient government of Massachusets. Thus were collectors first introduced into colonial jurisprudence: and such was their reception in the different provinces, according to their diffimilar principles.'

Many similar passages it would be easy to select ; but it is of little consequence to continue a dispute, the object of which no longer exists. To take great pains to support the right of taxing America, appears to be now just as reasonable, as it would be for a man to incur the expence of a law-suit, in order to prove his property in an uninsured vefiel, which a storm has buried in the deep.

We therefore proceed to take notice of some passages in which the Author has expressed his idea of religious liberty. From the vehemence with which he exclaims against the persecuting spirit discovered by the Calvinists in New-England, and from some general affertions of the reasonableness of toleration, one might expect that Mr. Chalmers was a steady friend to the univerial exercise of the right of private judgment in religion. How far this is in fact the case, let the Reader judge, from the following account of the settling of Charlestown in New England.

• Religion, being the principal incentive to their emigration, nato aliv became the chief object of their care. Their zeal therefore f60a appuinied a day for the establiiliment of church order and dircipline. Having declared their affent to a confefion of faith drawn up by one of the ministers, the greater number, agreeably to the spirit of independence, figned an affociation, in Auguit, 1629, which is extremely characterillic of them. “We covenani, said they, with the Lord, and with one another, to walk together in all his ways, according as he is pleased to reveal himself to us; nor will we deal opprefsingly with any wherein we are the Lord's llewards." They immediately chose palors and other ecclefiaftical cficers, who were separa:ed to their several funcions by the imposition of the hands of the brethrer. A religious fociety, or church, being thus formed, several persons were received into it by giving testimony of their sober conversations: and none was admitted to communion with them without giving fatisfaction to the church concerning his faith and manners. But the mode how that should be given was left 10 the arbitrary discretion of the elders, as particular cafes thould arise: thus erecting in wilds, which freedom was to people and cultivate, that inquisitorial power which had laid waste the fruitfullelt Euro. pean plains.

cipline,

• It will be extremely difficult, if not imposible, to support the legality of the association before-mentioned ; excepi on principles of pure independence, or as a voluntary compact, which was obligatory on none but the associators.

The emigrants carrying with them those laws of the realm which were suitable to their fituasion, so much of the jurisprudence of England inftan:ly became that of the colony. According to the ancient common law, which hath been declared by statute, there can be no provincial church ettablished, nor any ecclesiastical proceeding, without the consent of the King, the supreme head. These falutary principles of policy were expressiy enforced by their charter, with a caution wbich seemed to foresee, though it could not prevent, what afterwards happened. Nor did they at the approbation of the Governor and Company in England, who were invested, as we have seen, with a legislative authority over them. Yet, by the covenant itself, they promiled “ to carry themselves in all lawful obedience to those that are over them in church or commonwealth.” Those emigrants were men, however, above all worldly ordinances. The laws of England, so juit!y celebrated by the panegyric of nations, they considered as not binding on them; because inapplicable to fo godly a people. And the Jewith system of rules they almost literally adopted; because more suitable to their condition. Men of discernmen: perceived with regret the ruling principle of Massachusets for the firk time discloseủ. le vere bally admitted the King to be supreme head of the church, and promised all lawful obedience to his power : but it asked nor his arfent when the church was established. And it would probably have deemed the royal interference as an invasion of its chartered rights.

• Of all compacts rot Rriely legal, it is to be lamen:ed as a mira fortune, that what in the beginning is merely voluntary too soon be. comes compulsory, when bigotry is accompanied with power, Among the first emigrants there were some persons of a religion ex. tremely different from that of the members of the bufore-mentiined fociety; and they were persons too of eitates and consequence, and

[ocr errors]

of of the number of the first patentees. Observing that the minie fters did not use the book of common prayer, these men, with a Jaudable spirit of attachment to the usages of their fathers, established a separate meeting, according to the forms of the church of England. And this measure, it should seem, was equally reasonable as the former ; perhaps more confident with the charter, and more agreeable to the constitutions of the fate. The societies of the colony were founded on a priociple of freedom and independence; which is always so respectable even when productive of inconvenience. It is only to be deplored, that their zealous members did not, according to the admirable tem per -of Chriftianity, allow that liberty of choice and of action to others, which they had themselves exerted. The Governor, being nevertheless greatly alarmed, summoned before him the supporters of the church of England, to give an account of their proceedings : thus confidering nonconformity as a crime, which the civil magistrate ought to watch and to punish. They accused the minifters, in their defence, of departing from the order of the ancient establishment : adding, “That they were Separatifts, and would soon be Anabaprifts; but, as for themselves, they would hold fait to the forms of ihe church established by law.” The minifters denied the charge, and infitted; “ That they did not separate from the church of England, but only from her disorders; thar, far from being Separatists or Anabaptifts, they had only come away from the common-prayer and ceremonies, because they judged the imposition of these things to be linful corrupsions of the word of God," These answers, so agreeable to the sentiments of the majority, were generally approved of: and two of their accusers, who were persons of conlideration, on the pretence so common on such occasions, of their endeavouring to raise a mutiny among the people, were expelled and sent to London. The expulsion of its chiefs inflicted a wound on the Church of England, which it never recovered: and the liberala minded exclaimed, that the same conduct has been invariably purfued at all times, and in every country ; the persecuted, when they acquire power, will always persecute. With such a church, and fuch ministers, Blackstone, an episcopal clergyman, could never be induced to communicate : giving, for a reason, what ought to have taught moderation to all ; that, as he came from England, because he did not like the Lord bishops, so he would not join with them, because he could not be under the Lord-brethren.'

What must we think of the tolerating principles and spirit of a writer, who can pronounce it an illegal act, for a number of persons settled in a new colony, to “ covenant with the Lord and with one another, that they would walk together in all his ways, according as he hath revealed himself to them, and that they will not deal oppressively with any;" and in consequence of this, to form themselves into a religious fociety, and make choice of proper persons to perform the offices of religion? Were such proceedings more criminal in a Christian country, than they were under an heathen Emperor, when Pliny, in excuse for the Christians, said to Trajan, that "it was affirmed,

that

« AnteriorContinuar »