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mestic circumstances; that it may be truly said, that they made the most of nature's gifts.
In the midst of this solicitude and toil in matters of business, the affairs of government were conducted with a steadiness, prudence, and lenity, seldom experienced, and never exceeded, in the best regulated countries in Europe. Such was the situation of the British colonies, in general, throughout North America; and of the New England provinces in particular, at the close of the war in 1763.
In treating of the American revolution, the English writers ascribe that event to the successful intrigues of the French government; they appear willing to search for the origin in any other source than their own misconduct. It has therefore been repeat edly asserted, “ that the French having long viewed with envy and apprehension, the flourishing state of the colonies which Bri. tain had founded in America, began immediately after the peace of Paris, to carry into execution their design of separating the co. lonies from the mother country. Secret emissaries, it is said, were employed in spreading dissatisfaction among the colonists; and the effects produced by these machinating spirits, are de. scribed to have been a rapid diminution of that warm attachment which the inhabitants of North America had hitherto demonstrate ed for the mother country.” That such emissaries were ever employed, is a fact unsupported by any document which the purity of historical truth can admit; and, although the effects here described, have certainly appeared, it must be remembered, that their appearance followed, but did not precede, the attempts of Britain upon the rights and liberties of America.
That the French should succeed in the arts of intrigue, so far as to alienate the affections of the colonists from the mother country, and at the close of a war, in which their interests and feelings had been interwoven with more than usual strength and energy, was not in any sense probable. But if we trace these effects to another cause, to a love of liberty, and a quick sense of injury, their appearance will be natural and just ; consistent with the American character, and corresponding with the conduct which was displayed in all the various changes that attended their opposition.
In March, 1764, a bill was passed in the British parliament, by which, heavy duties were laid on goods imported by the colonists from such West India islands as did not belong to Great Britain ; and that these duties were to be paid into the exchequer, in specie ; and in the same session another bill was framed, to restrain the currency of paper money in the colonies. Not only the principle of taxation, but the mode of collection was considered as an unconstitutional and oppressive innovation, as the penalties incurred by an infraction of the acts of parliament, were to be recovered in the courts of admiralty, before a single judge (whose salary was to be the fruit of the forfeitures he should decry).
These acts threw the whole continent into a ferment. Vehement remonstrances were made to the ministry, and every argument made use of that reason or ingenuity could suggest, but without any good effect; their reasoning however, convinced a great number of people in Britain ; and thus, the American cause came to be considered as the cause of liberty.
The Americans finding that all their remonstrances were fruit: less at last united in an agreement not to import any more of the British manufactures, but to encourage to the utmost of their power, every useful manufacture among themselves. Thus the British' manufacturers became a party against the ministry, and expressed their resentment in strong terms; but the ministry were not to be easily daunted; and therefore proceeded to the last step of their intended plan, which was to lay, on stamp duties throughout the continent. Previous to this, several regulations were made in favour of the commerce of the colonies; but they had imbibed such unfavourable impressions of the British ministry, that they paid very little regard to any thing pretended to be done in their favour ; or, if these acts had made any
favourable impressions, the stamp act at once obliterated every sentiment of that nature.
The reason given for this act, so exceedingly obnoxious, was, that a sum might be raised sufficient for the defence of the colonies against a foreign enemy; but this pretence was so far from giving satisfaction to the Americans, that it excited their indignation to the utmost. They not only asserted that they were abundantly able to defend themselves, but denied the right of the British parliament to tax them at all.
To enter into the arguments of the contending parties upon this occasion, would be superfluous. It was manifest that the matter was not to be decided but by the force of arms; and the British ministry, confident of the authority and power of that country, were disposed to carry on matters with a high band, to terrify the colonists into submission, or compel them by force.
The Stamp act, after a violent opposition in parliament, was passed, and its reception in America was such as might have been expected. The news and the act itself, first arrived at Boston, where the bells were muffled, and rung a funeral peal. The act was first hawked about the streets, with a death's head affixed to it, and styled “ The folly of England, and the ruin of America.” It was afterwards publicly burnt by the enraged populace; the stamps were seized and destroyed, unless brought on board of men of war, or kept in fortified places. Those who were to receive the stamp duties were compelled to resign their offices; and such of the Americans as favoured the government on this occasion, had their houses plundered and burned.
Though these outrages were committed by the multitude, they were connived at by those of superior rank, who afterwards openly patronized them ; and the doctrine became general and openly avowed, that Britain had no right to tax the colonies without their own consent. The ministry now found it absolutely neces
sary, either to yield to the Americans, by repealing the obnoxious laws, or to enforce them by arms.
The ferment had become general through the colonies. Virgią nia first, and afterwards all the rest of the provinces declared against the right of Britain to tax America ; and, that every attempt to vest others with this power, besides the king, or the go. vernor of the province, and his general assembly, was illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust. Non-importation agreements were every where entered into ; and it was resolved, to prevent the sale of any more British goods after the present year. American manufactures, though dearer, as also inferior in quality to the British, were universally preferred. An association was also en. tered into against eating of lamb, in order to promote the growth of wool ; and the ladies agreed to renounce the use of every kind of ornament imported from Great Britain.
Such a general and alarming confederacy determined the Mi. nistry to repeal some of the most obnoxious Acts; and to this they were the more inclined by a petition from the first American Congress, held at New York in 1765.
The stamp act was therefore repealed, to the universal joy of the Americans, as well as to the general satisfaction of the Engi. lish, whose manufactures had began to suffer in consequence of American associations against them. The disputes on the subject however, were by no means silenced; every one continued to argue the case as violently as ever. Dr. Benjamin Franklin was on this occasion examined before the house of Commons; and his. opinion was in substance as follows : “ That the tax in question was impracticable and ruinous. The very attempt had so far alienated the affection of the colonies, that they behaved in a less friendly manner towards the natives of England than before, cod sidering the whole nation as conspiring against their liberty, and the parliament as more willing to oppress than to assist and sup: port them. America in fact, did not stand in any need of British manufactures, having already began to construct such as might be deemed absolutely necessary, and that with such success, as left no doubt of their arriving in a short time at perfection. The ele. gancies of dress had already been renounced for Ainerican manu.. factures, though much inferior, and the bulk of the people consisting of farmers, were such as could in no way be affected by the want of British commodities, as having every necessary within themselves, materials of all kinds were to be had in plenty: the wool was fine, flax grew in great abundance, and iron was every where to be met with.” The Doctor also insisted, that the Amea ricans had been greatly misrepresented ; that they had been tra. duced as void of gratitude and affection to the parent state : than which nothing could be more contrary to truth. In the war in 1755, they had at their own expense raised an army of 25,000 men; and that they assisted the British expeditions against South America, with several thousand men; and had made many brave exertions against the French in North America.
It was said that the war of 1755 had been undertaken in defence of the colonies; but the truth was, that it originated from a contest about the limits between Canada and Nova Scotia, and in den fence of the English rights to trade on the Ohio. The Americans, however, would still continue to act with their usual fidelity; and were any war to break out in which they had no concern, they would be as ready as ever to assist the parent state to the utmost of their power, and would not fail to manifest their ready acquiescence in contributing to the emergencies of government, when called to do so in a regular and constitutional manner."
The ministry were conscious that in repealing this obnoxious act, they yielded to the Americans; and therefore, to support as they thought, the dignity of Great Britain, it was judged proper to publish a declaratory bill, setting forth the authority of the mother country, over her colonies, and her power to bind them by laws and statutes in all cases whatsoever. This much diminished the joy with which the repeal of the stamp acl was received in America. It was considered a proper reason to enforce any claims equally prejudicial with the stamp act, which might hereafter be set up ; à spirit of jealousy pervaded the whole continent, and a strong party was formed, determined to guard against the supposed encroachments of British power.
It was not long before an occasion offered, in which the Americans manifested a spirit of absolute independency; and, that instead of being bound by the British legislature in all cases whatsoever, they would not be controlled by it in the most trivial affairs. The Rockingham ministry had passed an act, providing the troops stationed in different parts of the colonies with such accommodations as were necessary for them. The assembly of New York however, took upon them to alter the mode of execution prescribed by the act of Parliament, and to substitute one of their own.
This gave very great offence to the new ministry, and rendered them, though composed of those who had been active against the stamp bill, less favourable to the colonies in all probability, than they would otherwise have been. An unlucky circumstance at the same time occurred, which threw every thing once more into confusion. One of the new ministry, Charles Townshend having declared that he could find a way of taxing America, without giving offence ; was called upon to propose his plan. This was by imposing a duty upon tea, paper, painter's colours, and glass imported into America. The conduct of the New York assembly, respecting the troops, and that of Boston, which had proceeded in a similar manner, caused this bill to meet with less opposition than otherwise it might have done. As a punishment to the refractory assemblies, the legislative power was taken from New York, until it should fully comply with the terms of the act. 'That of Boston at last submitted with reluctance. The bill for the new taxes quickly passed, and was sent to America in 1768. A fermeat much greater than that occasioned by the stamp-act,
now took place throughout the continent. The populace renewed their outrages, and those of superior stations, entered into regular combinations against it.
Circular letters were sent from Massachusetts colony to all the others, setting forth the injustice and impropriety of the behaviour of the British legislature. Meetings were held in all the princi. pal towns. It was proposed to lessen the consumption of all foreign manufactures, by giving properencouragement to their own. Continual disputes ensued betwixt the governors and general assemblies, which were aggravated by a letter from lord Shelburne, to governor Barnard of Massachusetts Bay, containing complaints of the people he governed. The assembly, exasperated to the highest degree, charged their governor with having misrepresented them at the court of Britain ; required him to produce copies of the letters he had sent; and on his refusal, wrote letters to the English ministry, accusing him of misrepresentation and partiality, complaining at the same time most grievously of the proceedings of parliament, as utterly subversive of the liberties of America, and the rights of British subjects. The governor, at a loss how to defend himself, prorogued the assembly, and in his speech on the occasion, gave a loose to his resentment, accusing the members of ambitious designs, incompatible with those of dutiful and loyal subjects. To counteract the circular letter of the province of Massachusetts Bay, lord Hillsborough, secretary for the American department, sent another to the governors of the different colonies, reprobating that sent by the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay, as full of misrepresentation, and tending to excite a rebellion against the parent state.
Matters were now drawing to a crisis. The governor had been ordered to proceed with vigour, and by no means show any disposition to yield to the people as formerly. In particular they were required to rescind that resolution by which they had writ. ten the circular letter above mentioned ; and in case of a refusal, it was told them that they would be dissolved. As this letter had been framed by the resolutions of a former house, they desired after a week's consultation, that a recess might be granted to consult with their constituents; but this being refused, they came to a determination 92 against 17, to adhere to the resolution which produced the circular letter,
At the same time a letter was sent to lord Hillsborough, and a message to the governor, in justification of their proceedings. In both, they expressed themselves with such freedom, as was by no means calculated to accord with the views of those in power. They insisted they had a right to communicate their sentiments to their fellow subjects, upon matters of importance, complained of the requisition to rescind the circular letter, as unconstitutional and unjust: and particularly insisted, that they were represented as harbouring seditious designs, when they were doing nothing but what was lawful and right. At the same time they condemned the late acts of Parliament as highly oppressive, and subversive of