« ZurückWeiter »
cient constitutions. Enumerating the several acts by which they were aggrieved, they declared that till these acts were repealed, they and their constituents would hold no commercial intercourse with Britain; and with a view of over-awing the weak and the wavering, and the partisans of royal authority among their countrymen, they resolved that committees should be chosen in every county, city, and town, to observe the conduct of all people touching the suspension of trade with the mother country, and to publish, in gazettes, the names of those who violated this ordinance, as foes to the rights of British America. They also agreed upon an address to the British people, vindicating their resistance to oppression; and two memorials to the West India colonies and to the people of Canada, exhorting them to unite with their persecuted brethren in a steady opposition to the encroachments of arbitary power. In laying their grievances before the throne, in a petition to the King, they professed sentiments of loyalty to his Majesty's person and authority; but complained of the miseries which had been brought upon them by the mal-administration of wicked ministers. "We ask,' said they, 'but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our favor. Your royal authority over us, and our connexion with Great Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain. This address to the sovereign concluded in the following pathetic terms. “We implore your Majesty, for the honor of Almighty God, for your own glory, for the interest of your family, for the
What was enumerated? What was declared?
safety of your kingdoms and dominions, that, as the loving father of your whole people, connected by the same bonds of law, loyalty, faith, and blood, though dwelling in various countries, you will not suffer the transcendent relation formed by these ties to be farther violated by uncertain expectation of effects, which if attained, never could compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained. These various documents were drawn up with great judgement and ability; and their dissemination throughout the union produced a powerful effect upon the feelings of the people,-preparing them for the most strenuous exertions in what they deemed to be the cause of justice and . freedom. Their framers, however, did not rely upon their eloquence alone, to produce an effect favorable to their cause upon the people of Britain. Their non-importation agreements had produced the repeal of the stamp-act, and they trusted that the annunciation of similar resolutions would produce similar effects as to the removal of their late parliamentary grievances. The event proved that they were mistaken. The merchants trading to America composed a small fraction of the British community. A hostile ministry was all powerful in parliament-the pride of the King was touched-every individual Briton, in whose mouth the phrase our colonies was familiar, deemed himself, in some sort, sovereign over the North American plantations, and a cry almost unanimous was raised throughout the nation, that the mutinous contemners of the omnipotence of the legislature of the parent state must be reduced to obedience by the strong hand of coercion.
The Congress, after a session of about eight weeks, and after passing a resolution for the calling of another assem
What effect had these documents on the people?
bly of the same nature, if necessary, in the ensuing May, dissolved themselves; and the members proceeded to further, in their respective provinces, the cause in which they were thus decidedly embarked. By their influence, operating upon minds ready prepared by perpetual discussions, both public and private, of the wrongs of the colonies, the recommendations of an assembly, invested with no legal authority, obtained the force of laws. The non-intercourse agreements were zealously adopted by the great mass of the people; and the few who ventured to dissent from the general voice, were proscribed as enemies to their country.
ADDRESS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, STA OF FEBRUARY, 1775.
When the petition from Congress to the king arrived in England, his Majesty had just met a new parliament, to which he had communicated information, in a speech from the throne, “that a most daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the laws unhappily prevailed in the colony of Massachusetts; and at the same time intimated that he had taken the requisite steps to repress it. Notwithstanding this angry demonstration, hopes were, for a short time, entertained by the friends of America, that ministers would adopt measures of conciliation. The secretary of state, after submitting the petition of the general Congress to the cabinet council, presented it to the king, by whom, as he reported, it was graciously received, and was intended to be laid by him before his two houses of parliament; numerous petitions from the merchants and manufacturers of
What obtained the force of laws?
the principal towns in the kingdom, and from the West India planters, prayed for the adoption of a more lenient policy towards the North American colonies; all the eloquence
of Lord Chatham was exerted in the house of peers to effect the same object; yet Lord North was determined to proceed in the course of coercion. The Rubicon was passed on the 9th of February, 1775, by the presentation by both houses of a joint address to the king, in which they stated it as their opinion, that 'a rebellion actually existed in the province of Massachusetts; and, in the usual style, offered to hazard their lives and fortunes, 'in the maintenance of the just rights of his Majesty and the two houses of parliament.' In support of this address, an addition was voted to the military force, of 4,383 rank and file, and 2,000 seamen. An act was also passed to restrain the commerce of the eastern colonies to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies; and to prevent them from fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, under certain conditions, and for a limited time. The provisions of this act were soon afterwards extended to the provinces of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. It is to be remarked, that New York, Delaware, and North Carolina, did not on this occasion fall under the ban of ministerial interdiction. New York, where the government had more influence than in other colonies, had been tardy in joining the union; and Lord North flattered himself that, by forbearing to include that and the other
Who was Lord Chatham, and what of him?
two colonies abovementioned in the restraining act, he should sow amongst the associated provinces jealousies which would dissolve their connexion; but in this he was disappointed. So powerful was the spirit of patriotism in America, that the inhabitants of the exempted colonies disdained to avail themselves of the privileges which were reserved to them, and determined to share in the restrictions imposed on their brethren; and it was with severe mortification that the premier soon afterwards witnessed the presentation to the House of Commons of a petition and remonstrance from the assembly of New York, claiming exemption from internal taxation, and protesting against the dependence of governors and judges on the crown for their salaries and emoluments. A hearing had been refused to the petition of Congress, though it was individually signed, under the pretext that it emanated from an illegal meeting. The remonstrance of the New York assembly was not liable to this objection; but when a motion was made in the House of Commons that it should be brought up, it was lost by a stratagem of Lord North.
On the 20th of February, 1775, some time previously to the transaction which has just been related, his lordship had manifested some cunning, but little wisdom, in propo sing a resolution to the effect, that when any of the colonies or provinces in America should make provision for contributing their proportion to the common defence, and for the support of their civil government (such proportion to be raised under the authority of the general court or general assembly of such province and colony,) "it will be proper to forbear, in respect of such colony or province, to levy any duty or tax, except such duties as may arise for the regulation of commerce, which duties are to be carried
In what was Lord North disappointed ?