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1763.J

REVENUE BY TAXATION.

329

government, and disposed to acquiesce in its exactions; but the republican spirit was ever alive in New England, watching over "natural and chartered rights," and prompt to defend them against any infringement. Its example and instigation had gradually an effect on the other colonies; a general impatience was evinced from time to time of parliamentary interference in colonial affairs, and a disposition in the various provincial Legislatures to think and act for themselves in matters of civil and religious, as well as commercial polity.

There was nothing, however, to which the jealous sensibilities of the colonies were more alive, than any attempt of the mother country to draw a revenue from them by taxation. From the earliest period of their existence, they had maintained the principle that they could only be taxed by a Legislature in which they were represented. Sir Robert Walpole, when at the head of the British government, was aware of their jealous sensibility on this point, and cautious of provoking it. When American taxation was suggested, "it must be a bolder man than himself," he replied, "and one less friendly to commerce, who should venture on such an expedient. For his part, he would encourage the trade of the colonies to the utmost; one half of the profits would be sure to come into the royal exchequer through the increased demand for British manufactures. This," said he, sagaciously, "is taxing them more agreeably to their own constitution and laws."

Subsequent ministers adopted a widely different policy. During the progress of the French war, various projects were discussed in England with regard to the colonies, which were to be carried into effect on the

return of peace. The open avowal of some of these plans, and vague rumors of others, more than ever irritated the jealous feelings of the colonists, and put the dragon spirit of New England on the alert.

In 1760, there was an attempt in Boston to collect duties on foreign sugar and molasses imported into the colonies. Writs of assistance were applied for by the custom-house officers, authorizing them to break open ships, stores, and private dwellings, in quest of articles that had paid no duty; and to call the assistance of others in the discharge of their odious task. The merchants opposed the execution of the writ on constitutional grounds. The question was argued in court, where James Otis spoke so eloquently in vindication of American rights, that all his hearers went away ready to take arms against writs of assistance. "Then and there," says John Adams, who was present, "was the first scene of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there American Independence was born."

Another ministerial measure was to instruct the provincial governors to commission judges. Not as theretofore" during good behavior," but "during the king's pleasure." New York was the first to resent this blow at the independence of the judiciary. The lawyers appealed to the public through the press, against an act which subjected the halls of justice to the prerogative. Their appeals were felt beyond the bounds of the province, and awakened a general spirit of resistance.

Thus matters stood at the conclusion of the war. One of the first measures of ministers, on the return

1763.] PAPER CHAINS ON THE COLONIES.

331

of peace, was to enjoin on all naval officers stationed on the coast of the American colonies the performance, under oath, of the duties of custom-house officers, for the suppression of smuggling. This fell ruinously upon a clandestine trade which had long been connived at between the English and Spanish colonies, profitable to both, but especially to the former, and beneficial to the mother country, opening a market to her manufac

tures.

Men-of-war," says Burke, says Burke, "were for the first time armed with the regular commissions of customhouse officers, invested the coasts, and gave the collection of revenue the air of hostile contribution.

* *

* They fell so indiscriminately on all sorts of contraband, or supposed contraband, that some of the most valuable branches of trade were driven violently from our ports, which caused an universal consternation throughout the colonies."*

As a measure of retaliation, the colonists resolved not to purchase British fabrics, but to clothe themselves as much as possible in home manufactures. The demand for British goods in Boston alone was diminished upwards of £10,000 sterling in the course of a year.

In 1764, George Grenville, now at the head of government, ventured upon the policy from which Walpole had so wisely abstained. Early in March the eventful question was debated, "whether they had a right to tax America." It was decided in the affirmative. Next followed a resolution, declaring it proper to charge certain stamp duties in the colonies and planta

* Burke on the state of the nation.

tions, but no immediate step was taken to carry it into cffect. Mr. Grenville, however, gave notice to the American agents in London, that he should introduce such a measure on the ensuing session of Parliament. In the mean time, Parliament perpetuated certain duties on sugar and molasses-heretofore subjects of complaint and opposition-now reduced and modified so as to discourage smuggling, and thereby to render them more productive. Duties, also, were imposed on other articles of foreign produce or manufacture imported into the colonies. To reconcile the latter to these impositions, it was stated that the revenue thus raised was to be appropriated to their protection and security; in other words, to the support of a standing army, intended to be quartered upon them.

We have here briefly stated but a part of what Burke terms an "infinite variety of paper chains," extending through no less than twenty-nine acts of Parliament, from 1660 to 1764, by which the colonies had been held in thraldom.

The New Englanders were the first to take the field against the project of taxation. They denounced it as a violation of their rights as freemen; of their chartered rights, by which they were to tax themselves for their support and defence; of their rights as British subjects, who ought not to be taxed but by themselves or their representatives. They sent petitions and remonstrances on the subject to the king, the lords, and the commons, in which they were seconded by New York and Virginia. Franklin appeared in London at the head of agents from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and South Carolina, to deprecate, in person, measures so

1765.]

STAMP ACT.

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fraught with mischief. The most eloquent arguments were used by British orators and statesmen to dissuade Grenville from enforcing them. He was warned of the sturdy independence of the colonists, and the spirit of resistance he might provoke. All was in vain. Grenville, "great in daring and little in views," says Horace Walpole, "was charmed to have an untrodden field before him of calculation and experiment." In March, 1765, the act was passed, according to which all instruments in writing were to be executed on stamped paper, to be purchased from the agents of the British government. What was more: all offences against the act could be tried in any royal, marine, or admiralty court throughout the colonies, however distant from the place where the offence had been committed; thus interfering with that most inestimable right, a trial by jury.

It was an ominous sign that the first burst of opposition to this act should take place in Virginia. That colony had hitherto been slow to accord with the republican spirit of New England. Founded at an earlier period of the reign of James I., before kingly prerogative and ecclesiastical supremacy had been made matters of doubt and fierce dispute, it had grown up in loyal attachment to king, church, and constitution; was aristocratical in its tastes and habits, and had been remarked above all the other colonies for its sympathies with the mother country: Moreover, it had not so many pecuniary interests involved in these questions as had the people of New England, being an agricultural rather than a commercial province; but the Virginians are of a quick and generous spirit, readily aroused on

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