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tecting, and securing the same, We, the Commons, &c., towards raising the same, give and grant unto your Majesty,' &c.
It is believed by competent judges that the colonists, however disposed to resent this encroachment on their constitutional rights, would have submitted without resistance to the provisions of the act as regulations of trade and commerce. But the ministry soon took a bolder step, by proceeding to impose a direct internal tax upon the colonies by authority of parliament. This measure was vindicated on the following grounds, that the pressure of the payment of the interest of the national debt weighed so heavily on the British community, that it was expedient that by every proper means this burden should be lightened; that a considerable portion of this debt had been contracted in the furnishing of supplies for the defence of the North American colonies; that it was just and reasonable that those colonies should contribute their proportion towards its liquidation; and that the authority of parliament was competent to bind them so to do. The idea of relieving the public burdens by the taxation of distant colonies, was of course, very popular throughout the British nation; and so little was the right of parliament to impose such taxation at first questioned in Britain, that on the 10th of March, 1764, a resolution to the following effect passed the House of Commons, without any remark, "That towards farther defraying the said expenses, it may be proper to charge certain stamp duties in the said colonies and plantations. Nothing, however, was immediately done in pursuance of this resolution; as ministers were in hopes that the apprehension of the passing of an act founded on it would induce the colonists
What step did the ministry next take?
to raise a sum equivalent to the expected produce of such act, by bills passed in their respective legislative assemblies; but in these hopes they were disappointed. When intelligence of the resolution for laying a tax on stamps arrived in America, the colonists were filled with alarm and indig. nation. They declared internal taxation of the colonies by the authority of parliament to be an innovation and an infringement on their rights and liberties. If parliament was authorized to levy one tax upon them, it was authorized to levy a thousand. Where, then, was the security of their property, or what protection could they expect for their dearest interests, from a body of men who were ignorant of their circumstances; between whom and themselves there was no bond of sympathy, and who, indeed, had a direct interest in removing the weight of taxation from their own shoulders to those of the colonists? They were entitled, they affirmed, to all the rights of British subjects, of which the most valuable was exemption from all taxes, save those which should be imposed upon them by their own freely chosen and responsible representatives. Influenced by the feelings and motives implied in these declarations, instead of passing tax bills, they voted petitions and remonstrances to parliament and to the throne.
STAMP ACT, MARCH 22, 1765.
The supplications and complaints of the colonists were disregarded. In the month of March, 1765, a bill for laying a duty on stamps in America was brought into the
How were the colonies affected with the news of the “ stamp act"?
House of Commons by Mr. Grenville. This bill was supported by Mr. Charles Townsend, who is reported to have concluded his speech in its favor in the following words:And now will these Americans-children planted by our care, nourished up by our indulgence, till they are grown to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms—will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy weight of that burden which we lie under?' To this invidious appeal to the pride and the prejudices of the members of the House of Commons, Colonel Barre thus energetically replied:They planted by your care! No! your oppressions planted them in America.They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and, among others, to the cruelty of a savage foe, the most subtle, and, I will take upon me to say, the most formidable of any people upon the face of God's earth; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those who should have been their friends. They nourished up by your indulgence! they grew by your neglect of them. As soon as you began to care for them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule them in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members of this House, sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them--men whose behaviour, on many occasions, has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them-men promoted
What was done by Mr. Grenville in 1765?
to the highest seats of justice; some who, to my knowledge, were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of a court of justice in their own. They protected by your arms! they have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted their valor, amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument. And, believe me, remember I this day told you so, that same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first, will accompany them still; but prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from any motives of party heat; what I deliver are the genuine sentiments of my heart. However superior to me in general knowledge and experience, the respectable body of this House may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant with that country. The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has, but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated. But the subject is too delicate—I will say no more.'
In the House of Lords the bill met with no opposition; and on the 22d of March it received the royal assent. In adopting the stamp-act as a method of taxing the colonies, ministers flattered themselves that the nullity of all transactions in which the stamps prescribed by the new law were not used would insure its execution. In this confidence they postponed the commencement of its operation to the month of November, 1765. This was a fatal error on their part. Had they prescribed its enforcement immediately on its arrival in America, the colonists might, in
What was a fatal error ?
their consternation, have been awed into compliance with its provisions; but the long interval between its arrival and its execution, gave them ample time to organize their opposition against it. Of this they fully availed themselves. On the 28th of May, the assembly of Virginia passed strong resolutions against the stamp-act, the substance of which was readily adopted by the other provincial legislatures. Popular pamphlets were published in abundance, in reprobation of the power thus assumed by the British parliament; and the proprietors of newspapers, whose journals were destined to be burdened with a stamp duty, raised against the obnoxious statute a cry, which resounded from Massachusetts to Georgia. The oppressive measures of ministers were canvassed in town-meetings and in every place of public resort; and the limits of the obedience due to the parent country were freely and boldly discussed in every company.
In these proceedings the colony of Virginia led the way, by passing in the House of Burgesses, at the motion of Mr. Patrick Henry, the following resolutions: 1st, “That the first adventurers—settlers of this his Majesty's colony and dominion of Virginiabrought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other his Majesty's subjects, since inhabiting in this his Majesty's said colony, all the liberties, privileges, and immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain;-—2dly, “That by two royal charters, granted by King James I., the colonies aforesaid are declared to be entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens, and natural subjects, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and
What did the Legislature of Virginia do?