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Parliament was opened by a speech from tho throne, in which his Majesty declared " his firm confidence in their wisdom and zeal which would, he doubted not, guide them to such sound and prudent resolutions as might tend at once to preserve the constitutional rights of the British Legislature over the colonies, and to restore to them that harmony and tranquillity which had lately been interrupted by disorders of the most dangerous na, ture.". . In the course of the debate in the House of Commons, on the motion for the address, Mr. Pitt in the most explicit terms condemned the act for collecting the stamp duties in America, and declared his opinion to be, that Parliament had no right to tax the colonies. At the same time he asserted the authority of that kingdom to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of government and legislation whatever. He maintained the difficult proposition, “ that taxation is nu part of the governing or legislative power ; but that taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone.” He concluded a very able and very eloquent speech, by recommending to the House “ that the Stamp Act be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately. "
The opinions which had been maintained by Mr. Pitt were very warmly opposed by the late ministers, headed by Mr. Grenville. He said “ that the disturbances in America were grown to tumults and riots ; he doubted they bordered on open rebellion ;
and, if the doctrine he had heard that day should be confirmed, he feared they would lose that name, to take that of revolution. The government over them being dissolved, “a revolution," he said, “ would take place in America.” He contended that taxation was a part of the sovereign power ; one branch of the legislation ; and had been exercised over those who were not represented. He could not comprehend the distinction between exa ternal and internal taxation, and insisted that the colonies ought to bear a part of the burthens occasioned by a war for their defence.
The existing administration, however, concurred in sentiment with Mr. Pitt, and the act was repealed; but its repeal was accompanied with a declaratory act, asserting the power and right of Great Britain to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever.
The joy in America, on receiving intelligence of this event, was unbounded. The assertion of the abstract principle of right gave them but little concern, because they considered it merely as a salvo for the wounded pride of the nation, and believed confidently that no future attempt would be made to reduce it to practice. The highest honours were every where conferred on those parliamentary leaders who had been strenuous in obtaining a repeal of the act; and in Virginia an act passed the House of Burgesses for erecting a statue to his Majesty, as an acknowledgment of their high
sense of his attention to the rights and petitions of his people. With the repealing and declaratory acts came a circular letter from Secretary Conway, extolling “ the moderation, the forbearance, the unexampied lenity and tenderness of parliament towards the colonies ; 'this signal display of which, he hoped, “could not but dispose them to that return of cheerful obedience to the laws and legislative authority of great Britain, and to those sentiments of respectful gratitude to the mother country, which are the natural, and," he trusted, 6 would be the certain effects of so much grace and condescension, so remarkably manifested on the part of his Majesty and of the parliament." . Although the sentiment of joy produced by the repeal of the stamp act was common to all the colonies, the same temper did not prevail in all of them : the commercial regulations excited, in the northern trading towns, scarcely less disgust than had been created by the stamp act itself; in addition to which, political parties has been formed, and had assumed a bitterness in some of the colonies entirely unknown in others; and the first measures of the Massachussetts and New York demonstrated that the reconciliation with the mother country was not yet cordial.
The letter of Secretary Conway, already mentioned, enclosed also a resolution of Parliament, declaring that those persons who had suffered any injury or damage, in consequence of their assisting to ex
écute the late 'act, ought to be compensated by the colonies in which such injuries were sustained.
The injuries complained of had been principally sustained in Massachussetts; and the resolution of parliament was laid before the general court of that province by Governor Bernard, in a speech rather in the spirit of the late thari of the present administration-rather calculated to irritate than assuage the angry passions 'which had lately been excited. The house of representatives resented his manner of addressing them, and appeared more 'disposed to inquire into the riots, and to compel those concerned in them to make indemnities, than to compen. sate the sufferers out of the public purse. But after a second session, and some intimation that parliament would enforce its requisition, the desire of avoiding further controversies with the government, especially on a pont which would unite the prejudices of all thinking men against them, and the real detestation in which those disgraceful tumults, were held, got the better of their resentment against the governor, and an act of pardon to the offenders, and of indemnity to the sufferers, was passed : but it was rejected by the king, because the Colonial Assembly had no power under their charter to pass an act of general pardon but at the instance of the Crown.
In New York, where General Gage was expected with a considerable body of troops, a message was transmitted by the governor to the legislature, de
siring their compliance with an act of parliament called the mutiny act, which required that the colony in which any of his Majesty's forces might be stationed, should provide for them barracks and certain necessaries in their quarters. The legislature postponed the consideration of this message until the troops had actually arrived, and then, after a second message from the governor, reluctantly and partially complied with the requisitions of the act. ', - At a subsequent session the governor brought the subject again before them ; when they determined that the act of parliament could only be construed to require that they should provide necessaries for, troops on a march, and not while permanently stationed in their country; because, on a contrary construction, the colony might be grieviously burthened by marching into it several regiments..
The reason assigned for not complying with this act of parliament, seems to evidence the opinion that it was rightfully obligatory : and yet the requisitions of the mutiny act were unquestionably a tax; and between the power of parliament to levy a tax by its own authority, and to levy a tax through the medium of the colonial legislatures, they having no right to refuse obedience to the act, no essential distinction can easily be drawn. It is strange that such inaccurate ideas should then have prevailed in any part of the continent concerning the controul which might rightfully be exercised by the British parliament over the colonies.
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