« ZurückWeiter »
AMERICAN DISCONTENTS BEFORE 1768.
The waves never rise but when the winds blow.- Prov.
In a letter to his son, dated London, December 19th, 1767, Dr. Franklin writes; “ The resolutions of the Boston people, concerning trade, make a great noise here. Parliament has not taken notice of them, but the newspapers are in full cry against America. Colonel Onslow told me at court last Sunday, that I could not conceive how much the friends of America were run upon and hurt by them, and how much the Grenvillians triumphed. I have just written a paper for next Tuesday's Chronicle, to extenuate matters a little."
Again, in a letter to T. Wharton, dated February 20th, 1768, he says; “The proceedings in Boston, as the news came just upon the meeting of Parliament, and occasioned great clamor here, gave me much concern. And, as every offensive thing done in America is charged upon all, and every province, though unconcerned in it, suffers in its interests through the general disgust given, and the little distinction here made, it became necessary, I thought, to palliate the matter a little for our own sakes, and therefore I wrote the paper, which probably you have seen printed in the Chronicle of January 7th, and signed F. S."
From another letter to his son, it would seem, that the article was much altered in the press, and not entirely to his satisfaction. “Little at the present is thought of," said he, “but elections, which gives me hopes that nothing will be done against America this session, though the Boston Gazette had occasioned some heats, and the Boston resolutions a prodigious clamor. I have endeavoured to palliate matters for them as well as I can. manuscript of one paper, though I think you take the Chronicle. The editor of that paper, one Jones, seems a Grenvillian, or is
I send you my
very cautious, as you will see by his corrections and omissions. He has drawn the teeth and pared the nails of my paper, so that it can neither scratch nor bite. It seems only to paw and mumble." — 9 January, 1768.
The piece was likewise reprinted the same year, as a Postscript to a pamphlet entitled The True Sentiments of America. – EDITOR.
SIR, As the cause of the present ill-humor in America, and of the resolutions taken there to purchase less of our manufactures, does not seem to be generally understood, it may afford some satisfaction to your readers, if
you give them the following short historical state of facts.
From the time that the colonies were first considered as capable of granting aids to the crown, down to the end of the last war, it is said, that the constant mode of obtaining those aids was by requisition made from the crown, through its governors, to the several assemblies, in circular letters from the Secretary of State, in his Majesty's name; setting forth the occasion, requiring them to take the matter into consideration, and expressing a reliance on their prudence, duty, and affection to his Majesty's government, that they would grant such sums, or raise such numbers of men, as were suitable to their respective circumstances.
The colonies, being accustomed to this method, have from time to time granted money to the crown, or raised troops for its service, in proportion to their abilities; and during all the last war beyond their abilities, so that considerable sums were returned them yearly by Parliament, as they had exceeded their proportion.
Had this happy method of requisition been continued, (a method that left the King's subjects in those remote countries the pleasure of showing their zeal and loyalty, and of imagining that they recommended themselves to their sovereign by the liberality of their voluntary grants,) there is no doubt, but all the money that could reasonably be expected to be raised from them in any manner, might have been obtained, without the least heart-burning, offence, or breach of the harmony of affections and interests that so long subsisted between the two countries.
It has been thought wisdom in a government, exercising sovereignty over different kinds of people, to have some regard to prevailing and established opinions among the people to be governed, wherever such opinions might, in their effects, obstruct or promote public measures. If they tend to obstruct public service, they are to be changed, if possible, before we attempt to act against them; and they can only be changed by reason and persuasion. But, if public business can be carried on without thwarting those opinions; if they can be, on the contrary, made subservient to it; they are not unnecessarily to be thwarted, however absurd such popular opinions may be in their nature.
This had been the wisdom of our government with respect to raising money in the colonies. It was well known, that the colonists universally were of opinion, that no money could be levied from English subjects, but by their own consent, given by themselves or their chosen representatives ; that, therefore, whatever money was to be raised from the people in the colonies, must first be granted by their Assemblies, as the money raised in Britain is first to be granted by the House of Commons; that this right of granting their own money was essential to English liberty; and that, if any man, or body of men, in which they had no representative of their choosing, could tax them at pleas
ure, they could not be said to have any property, any thing they could call their own. But, as these opinions did not hinder their granting money voluntarily and amply, whenever the crown by its servants came into their Assemblies (as it does into its Parliaments of Britain and Ireland) and demanded aids; therefore that method was chosen, rather than the hateful one of arbitrary taxes.
I do not undertake here to support these opinions of the Americans; they have been refuted by a late act of Parliament, declaring its own power; which very Parliament, however, showed wisely so much tender regard to those inveterate prejudices, as to repeal a tax that had militated against them. And those prejudices are still so fixed and rooted in the Americans, that, it has been supposed, not a single man among them has been convinced of his error, even by that act of Parliament.
The person, then, who first projected to lay aside the accustomed method of requisition, and to raise money on America by stamps, seems not to have acted wisely, in deviating from that method (which the colonists looked upon as constitutional), and thwarting unnecessarily the fixed prejudices of so great a number of the King's subjects. It was not, however, for want of knowledge, that what he was about to do would give them offence; he appears to have been very sensible of this, and apprehensive that it might occasion some disorders; to prevent or suppress which, he projected another bill that was brought in the same session with the Stamp Act, whereby it was to be made lawful for military officers in the colonies to quarter their soldiers in private houses.
This seemed intended to awe the people into a compliance with the other act. Great opposition, however,
being raised here against the bill, by the agents from the colonies and the merchants trading thither, (the colonists declaring, that, under such a power in the army, no one could look on his house as his own, or think he had a home, when soldiers might be thrust into it and mixed with his family at the pleasure of an officer,) that part of the bill was dropt; but there still remained a clause, when it passed into a law, to oblige the several Assemblies to provide quarters for the soldiers, furnishing them with firing, bedding, candles, small beer or rum, and sundry other articles, at the expense of the several provinces. And this act continued in force when the Stamp Act was repealed; though, if obligatory on the Assemblies, it equally militated against the American principle above mentioned, that money is not to be raised on English subjects without their consent.
The colonies nevertheless, being put into high goodhumor by the repeal of the Stamp Act, chose to avoid a fresh dispute upon the other, it being temporary and soon to expire, never, as they hoped, to revive again; and in the mean time they, by various ways, in different colonies, provided for the quartering of the troops; either by acts of their own Assemblies, without taking notice of the act of Parliament, or by some variety or small diminution, as of salt and vinegar, in the supplies required by the act; that what they did might appear a voluntary act of their own, and not done in due obedience to an act of Parliament, which, according to their ideas of their rights, they thought hard to obey.
It might have been well, if the matter had then passed without notice; but, a governor having written home an angry and aggravating letter upon this conduct in the Assembly of his province, the outed pro