페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

culated extensively, and gave a spring to all the discontented. Till they appeared, most were of opinion, that the act would be quietly adopted. Murmurs, indeed, were common, but they seemed to be such, as would soon die away. The countenance of so respectable a Colony as Virginia, confirmed the wavering, and emboldened the timid. Opposition to the stamp act, from that period, assumed a bolder face. The fire of liberty blazed forth from the press; some well-judged publications set the rights of the Colonists in a plain, but strong point of view. The tongues and the pens of the well-informed citizens laboured in kindling the latent sparks of patriotism. The flame spread from breast to breast, till the conflagration became general. In this business, New-England had a principal share. The inhabitants of that part of America, in particular, considered their obligations to the mother-country for past favours, to be very inconsiderable. They were fully informed, that their forefathers were driven by persecution to the woods of America, and had there, without any expence to the parent state, effected a settlement amidst rude creation. Their resentment for the invasion of their accustomed right of taxation was not so much mitigated by the recollection of late savours, as it was heightened by the tradition of grievous sufferings, to which their ancestors, by the rulers ot England, had been subjected. The descendants of the exiled, persecuted, Puritans, of the last century, opposed the stamp act with the same spirit with which their forefathers were actuated, when they set themselves against the arbitrary impositions of the house of Stuart.

The heavy burdens, which the operation of the stamp act would have imposed on the Colonists, together with the precedent it would establish of future exactions, furnished the American patriots with arguments, calculated as well to move the passions, as to convince the judgments of their Fellow Colonists. In great warmth they exclaimed, '•' If the Parliament has a right to level the stamp duties, they may, by the fame authority, lay on us imposts, excises, and other taxes, without end, till their rapacity is satisfied, or our abilities are exhausted. We cannot at future elections, displace these men, who so lavishly gra.it away our property. >Their seats and their power are independent of us, and it will rest with their generosity where to stop, in transferring the expences of government from thsir own to our shoulders."

It was fortunate for the liberties of America, that news-papers were the subject of a heavy stamp duty. Printers, when uninfluenced by government, have generally arranged themselves on the side of liberty,

3 nM

'iitir are they less remarkable for attention to the profits of their profession. A stamp duty, which openly invaded the first, andthreatened ii great diminution of the last, provoked their united zealous opposition. They daily presented td the public; original dissertations, tending to prove, that if the stamp act was suffered to operate, the liberties of America were at art end, and their property virtually transferred to iheir Trans-Atlantic fellow-subjects. The writers among the Americans, scrioufly alarmed for the fate of their country, came forward, with essays, to prove; that agreeable to the British Constitution, taxation and representation were inseparable, that the only constitutional mode of raising money from the Colonists was by acts of their own legislatures, that the Crown possessed no farther power than that of requisition, and that the parliamentary right of taxation was confined to the Mother Country, and there originated) from the natural right of mat, to do what he pleased with his own, transferred by consent from the electors of Great Britain to those whom they chose to represent them in parliament. They also insisted much on the misapplication of public money by the British ministry; Great pains were taken to inform the Colonists of the large sums annually bestowed on pensioned favourites* and for the various purposes of bribery. Their passions were enflamed by high-coloured representations of the hardship of being obliged to pay the earnings of their industry into a British treasury, well known to be a fund for corruption*

The writers on the American side were opposed by arguments, drawn from the unity of the Empire; the necessity of one supreme head, the Unlimited power of parliament, and the great numbers in the Mother Country, who, though legally disqualified from voting at elections, 'were, nevertheless, bound to pay the taxes imposed by the representatives of the nation. To these objections it was replied, that the very idea of subordination of parts excluded the notion of simple, undivided unity i That as England was the head, (he eould not be the head and -the members too—that in all extensive empires, where the dead uniformity of servitude did not prevent, the subordinate parts had many1 local privileges and immunities—that between these privileges and th« supreme common authority, the line was extremely nice ; but nevertheless, the supremacy of the head had an ample field of exercise, without arrogating to itself the disposal of the property of the unrepresented subordinate parts* To the assertion, that the power of parliament was unlimited, the Colonists replied, that before it could constitutionally exercise that power, it must be constitutionally formed, and that, therefore, it must at least, ia one of its branches, be constituted by the pso. Vol. I. 3 K pie pic over whom it exercised unlimited power. That with respect to Great Britain, it was so constituted—with respect to America it was not. They therefore inferred, that its power ought not to be the fame over both countries. They argued also, that the delegation of the people was the source of power in regard to taxation, and as that delegation was wanting in America, they concluded, the right of parliament to grant away their property could not exist. That the defective representation in Great Britain should be urged as an argument for taxing the Americans, without any representation at all, proved the incroaching nature of power. Instead of convincing the Colonists of the propriety of their submission, it demonstrated the wisdom of their resistance j for, said they, "one invasion of natural right is made the justification of another, much more injurious and oppressive."

The advocates for parliamentary taxation laid great stress on the rights, supposed to accrue to Great Britiau, on the score of her having reared up and protected the English settlements in America at great expence. It was, on the other hand, contended by the Colonists, that in all the wars which were common to both countries, they had taken their full (hare, but in all their own dangers, in all the difficulties belonging separately to their situation, which did not immediately concern Great Britain, they were left to themselves, and had to struggle through a hard infancy; and in particular, to defend themselves, without any aid from the Parent State, against the numerous savages in their vicinity. That when France had made war upon them, it was not on their own account, but as appendages to Great Britain. That confining their trade for the exclusive benefit of the Parent Sate, was an ample compensation for her protection, and a sufficient equivalent for their exemption from parliamentary taxation. That the taxes imposed on the inhabitants of Great Britain were incorporated with their manufactures, and ultimately fell on the Colonists, who were the consumers.

The advocates for the stamp act also contended, that as the Parliament was charged with the defence of the Colonies, it ought to possess the means of defraying the expences incurred thereby. The fame argument had been used by King Charles the First, in support of ship money; and it was now answered in the same manner, as it was by the patriots of that day. "That the people who were defended or protected were the fittest to judge of and to provide the means of defraying the expences incurred on that account." In the mean time, the minds of the Americans underwent a total transformation. Instead of their late peaceable and steady attachment to the British nation, they were daily

advancing

advancing to the opposite extreme. A new mode of displaying resentment against the friends of the stamp act began in Massachusetts, and was followed by the other Colonies. A few gentlemen hung out, early in the morning, August 14, on ihe limb of a large tree, towards the entrance of Boston, two effigies, one designed for the stamp master, the other for a jack boot, with a head and horns peeping out at the top. Great numbers both from town and country came to fee them. A spirit of enthusiasm was diffused among the spectators. In the evening the whole was cut down and carried in procession by the populace shouting << liberty and property for ever; no stamps." They next pulled down a new building, lately- erected by Mr. Oliver the stamp master. They then went to his house, before which they beheaded his effigy, and at the fame time broke his windows. Eleven days after, similar violence* were repeated. The mob attacked the house of Mr. William Storey, deputy register of the court of admiralty—broke his windows—forced into his dwelling house, and destroyed the books and files belonging to the said court, and ruined a great part of his furniture. They next proceeded to the house of Benja:nin Hallowel, Comptroller of the customs, and repeated similar excesses, and drank and destroyed his liquors. They afterwards proceeded to the house of Mr. Hutchinfon, and soon demolished it. They carried off his plate, furniture, and apparel, and scattered or destroyed manuscrips and other curious and useful papers which for thirty years he had been collecting. About half a dozen of the meanest ot the mob were soon after taken up and committed, but they either broke jail, or otherwise escaped all punishment. The town os Boston condemned the whole proceeding, and for some time, private gentlemen kept watch at night, to prevent further violence.

Similar disturbances broke out in the adjacent Colonies, nearly about the fame time. On the 27th August, 176c, the people in New-Port in Rhode Island, exhibited three effigies intended for Messieurs Howard, Moffatt, and Johnson, in a cart with halters about their necks, and after hanging them on a gallows for some time, cut them down and burnt them, amidst the acclamations of thousands. On the day following, the people collected at the house of Mr. Martin Howard, a lawyer, who had written in defence of the right of parliament to tax the Americans, and demolished every thing that belonged to it. They proceeded to Dr. Moffatt's, who, in conversation, had supported the same right, and made a similar devastation of his property.

In Connecticut they exhibited effigies in sundry places, and afterwards committed them to the flames. In New-York, the stamp master having resigned, the stamp papers

3 K 2 werst were taken into Fort George, by Lieutenant Governor Coldest, >Ja7« I, The people, disliking his political sentiments," broke open his stable, took out his coach, and carried it in triumph through the principal streets to the gallows. On one end of this they suspended the effigy of the Lieut. Governor, having in his right hand a stamped bil) of lading, and in the other a figure of the devil, After some time, they carried the apparatus to the gate of the fort, and from thence to the bowling-green, under the muzzles of the guns, and burned the Whole amid the acclamations of many thousands. They went thence to Mayor James' hoase, stripped it of every article, and consumed the whole, because he was a friend to the stamp act.

The next evening the mqb re-assembled, and insisted upon the Lientenant Governor delivering the stamped papers into their hands, and threatened, in cafe of a refusal, to take them by force. After some negotiation, it was agreed that they should be delivered to the corporation, and they were deposited in the city hall. Ten- boxes of the fame, which came by another conveyance, were burned.

The stamp act was not less odious to many of the inhabitants ostfe IJritiih West-India iflands, than to those on the continent of Noiti America. The people of St. Kitts obliged the stamp officer and hiv cleputy to resign. Barbadoes, Canada, and Halifax, submitted to theact.

But when the ship which brought the stamp papers to Philadelphia, first appeared round Gloucester Point, all the vessels in the harbour hoisted their colours half mast high. The bells were rung muffled till evening, and every countenance added to the appearance of sincere mourning. A large number of people assembled, and endeavoured to procure the resignation of Mr. Hughes, the stamp distributor. He. held out long, but at length found it necessary to comply.

As opportunities offered, the assemblies generally passed resolutions, asserting their exclusive right to lay taxes on their constituents. The people, in their town meetings, instructed their representatives to oppose the stamp act. As a specimen of these, the instructions given to Thomas Forster, their representative, by the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Plymouth, ave subjoined, In these the yeomanry of the country spoke the determined language of freelom. Aster expressing the highest esteem sot the British constitution, and setting forth their grievances, they proceeded a.s follows:

"You, Sir, represent a people, who are not only descended from the first settlers of this country, but inhabit the very spot they first possessed. Here was first laid the foundation of the British empire, in this part of America, which, from a very small beginning, naS ip.

creases

« 이전계속 »