ISSUE was now joined between America and England. They faced each other-the'
great historic figure and the stripling of a century - and knew that the limit had been reached. The next move
might be irrevocable.
"You must submit to the tax." "I will not submit."
Englishmen, with some few eminent exceptions, believed that England was in the right. If the word of Parliament
was not law, what was? If the law it made could be disregarded, what could stand? A colony was a child: children
must be kept in subjection. Colonies were planted for the benefit and extension of commerce; if they were permitted
to conduct their commerce without regard to the mother country, their reason for existence was gone. The protection
of a colony was expensive: why should not the protected one bear a part at least of the expense? If the mother
country allowed the colony to fix the amount it should pay, what guarantee could she have that it would pay anything?
Could mighty England assume toward little America the attitude of a tradesman, humbly standing at the door with
a bill, asking whether it would be convenient to pay something on account? If there were to be condescension, it
should not come from America. She clamored for justice; England would be just: but she must first be obeyed. England.
might forgive the debt, but must insist upon acknowledgment that the debt wary due, and upon the right to collect
it at pleasure. As for the plea that taxation should postulate representation, it would not bear examination. It
might be true that Parliament was a theoretically representative body; but in fact it was a gathering of the men
in England best qualified to govern, who were rather selected than elected. Many of the commons held their seats
by favor of the nobility; the suffrage, as practiced, was a recognition that the people might have a voice in the
Government of the country; but that voice was not to be a deciding one. It was exercised only by a part of the
people, and even then largely under advice or influence. Many important towns and districts had no representatives.
Americans were as well off as these Englishmen; on what ground could they demand to be better off? They must trust
to the will of England to secure their advantage in securing her own; to her wisdom, equity, and benevolence. Why
should they complain of the Navigation Acts? What more did they want, than a market?-and that England afforded.
Why should they feel aggrieved at the restriction on their manufactures? England could manufacture articles better
than they could, and it was necessary to the well-being of her manufacturing classes that they should be free from
American competition. Did they object to the measures England took to prevent smuggling and illicit dealing? They
had only themselves to blame: was it not notorious that evasions and open violations of the law had for years existed?
Did they object to royal governors? What better expedient was there to keep the two countries in touch with each
other-to maintain that "representation" in England which they craved?-whereas, were they to choose governors
from among themselves, they would soon drift away from sympathy with and understanding of England. land. And why
all this uproar about the stamp tax? What easier, more equitable way could be devised to get the financial tribute
required without pressing hard on anyone? If Americans would object to that, they would object to anything; and
they must either be abandoned entirely to their own devices which of course was out of the question-or they must
be compelled, if they would not do it voluntarily, to accede to it. Compulsion meant force; force meant a resident
English army; and that army must be supported and accommodated by those for whose regulation it was established.
Such was the attitude of men like Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who spoke on the subject in the House of Lords.
He refused to recognize any essential distinction between external and internal taxes; though,- as Pitt pointed
out, the former was designed for the regulation of trade, and whatever profit arose from it was incidental; while
the latter was imposed to raise revenue for the Home Government, and was, in effect, arbitrarily appropriating
the property of subjects without their consent asked or obtained. Pitt disposed of the argument of virtual representation
by denying it point-blank; Americans were not in the same position with those Englishmen who were not directly
represented in Parliament; because the latter were inhabitants of the kingdom, and could be, and were indirectly
represented in a hundred ways. But, while opposing the right of Parliament to rob America, he asserted in the strongest
terms its right to govern her. "The will of Parliament, properly signified, must forever keep the colonies
dependent upon the sovereign kingdom of Great Britain. If any idea of renouncing allegiance has existed, it was
but a momentary frenzy. In a good cause, the force of this country can crush America to atoms. But on this ground
of the Stamp Act, I am one who will lift up my hands against it. I rejoice that America has resisted. In such a
cause your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, would embrace the pillar of the state, and pull down
the Constitution along with her."
The Lords passed the bill against a minority of five. In the Commons, where Burke ardently spoke in favor of the
tax, the majority was even greater. "It was decided that irresponsible taxation was not a tyranny but a vested
right; that Parliament held legislative power, not as a representative body, but in absolute trust: that it was
not and had never been responsible to the people." This was the new Toryism, which was to create a new opposition.
The debate aroused a discussion of popular rights in England itself, and the press began to advocate genuine representation.
Meanwhile, it looked ill for the colonies. But a law which is only engrossed on parchment, and is not also founded
in natural truth and justice, has no binding power, even though it be supported by the army and navy of England.
Humanity was on the side of America, and made her small numbers and physical weakness as strong as all that is
good and right in the world. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there is nothing real but right.
Had America fought only for herself, she would have failed.
The instances of mob violence in the colonies at this period were not to be classed with lawless outbreaks in countries
which have a government of their own. The colonies were subjected to a government which they did not elect or approve;
and the management of, their affairs consequently reverted inevitably and rightly to the body of the people themselves.
They had no officers and no organization, but they knew what they wanted; and having in view the slowness of intercommunication,
and the differences in the ideas and customs of the several colonies, the unanimity of their action in the present
juncture is surprising. When their congress met in New York on the 7th of October, 1765, their debate was less
as to principle than as to the manner of their declaration and enforcement. The watchword, "Join or die,"
had been started in September, and was taken up all over the country. Union was strength, and on union all were
resolved. The mob had put a stop to the execution of the law; it now rested with the congress to settle in what
way and on what grounds the repeal of the law should be demanded. Against the people and the congress were arrayed
the royal governors and other officials, and the troops. The former deluged the Home Government with exhortations
to be firm; the latter waited the word to act, not without misgivings; for here were two million inhabitants, a
third or fourth part of whom might bear arms.
Should the congress base its liberties -on charter rights, or on natural justice and universal reason? On the latter,
said Gadsden of South Carolina; and the rest acceded. "I wish," Gadsden had said, "that the charters
may not ensnare us at last by drawing different colonies to act differently in this great cause. There ought to
be no New England man, no New Yorker, known on the continent, but all Americans." It was a great truth to
be enunciated at that time. There were statesmen less wise in this country a hundred years later. The Duke of Choiseul,
premier of France, and one of the acutest ministers that ever lived, foresaw the independence of America, and even
so early began to take measures having in view the attitude of France in that contingency. In the congress, Otis
advocated repeal, not of the Stamp Act alone, but of all acts laying a duty on trade; and it was finally agreed
to mention the latter as grievances. Trial by jury was stipulated for instead of admiralty jurisdiction; taxes
should be imposed only by colonial legislatures, representation in Parliament being impracticable. One or two of
the delegates feared to sign the document embodying these views and demands; whereupon Dyer of Connecticut observed
that since disunion in these matters was fatal, the remaining delegates ought to sign them; and this was done,
only Ruggles and Ogden, of Massachusetts and of New Jersey respectively, declining. By this act the colonies became
"a bundle of sticks which could neither be bent nor broken" At the same time, Samuel Adams addressed
a letter to Governor Bernard of Massachusetts. "To suppose a right in Parliament to tax subjects without their
consent includes the idea of a despotic power," said he. "The Stamp Act cancels the very conditions upon
which our ancestors, with toil and blood and at their sole expense, settled this coup-. try. It tends to destroy
that mutual confidence and affection, as well as that equality, which ought to subsist among all his Majesty's
subjects: and what is worst of all evils, if his Majesty's subjects are not to be governed according to the known
and stated rules of the Constitution, their minds may in time become disaffected."
On the 1st of November, the day when the act was to go into effect, Colden, Governor of New York, "resolved
to have the stamps distributed." The army and navy professed themselves ready to support him. But the population
rose up in a body against it with Isaac Sears as leader. "If you fiire on us, we'll hang you," they told
Colden. Torchlight processions, with the Governor's effigy burned in a bonfire composed of his own carriages, right
under the guns of the fort in which he had taken refuge, followed. Colden capitulated, and even gave up the stamps
into the custody of the people. Similar scenes were enacted in the other colonies. The principle of "union
and liberty" became daily more deeply rooted. If England refused to repeal the act, `owe will repeal it ourselves,"
declared the colonists. John Adams said that the colonies were already discharged from allegiance, because they
were "out of the King's protection"protection and allegiance being reciprocal. The Sons of Liberty became
a recognized organization. The press printed an admonition to George III, brief but pithy: GREAT SIR, RETREAT,
OR You ARE RUINED. Otis maintained that the King, by mismanaging colonial affairs, had practically abdicated, so
far as they were concerned. Israel Putnam, being of an active turn, rode through Connecticut to count noses, and
reported that he could raise a force of ten thousand men. Meanwhile the routine business of the country went on
with but slight modification, though according to the Stamp Act nothing that was done without a stamp was good
in law. But it appeared, upon experiment, that if the law was in the people it could be dispensed with on paper:
And wherever you went, you found a population smilingly clad in homespun.
Would England repeal the act?. 'The House of Lords voted in favor of enforcing it, February, 1766. In the Commons,
General Howard declared that if it were passed, rather than imbrue his hands in the blood of his countrymen, he
would sheathe his sword in his own body. The House divided two to one against the repeal. The King said he was
willing to modify, but not to repeal it. On the 13th Franklin was summoned to the bar. He showed why the colonies
could not and would not pay the tax, and that, unless it were repealed, their affection for England, and the commerce
depending thereon, would be lost. Would America pay a modified stamp duty? he was asked; and bravely replied,.
"No: never: they will never submit to it." But could not a military force carry the act into effect?
"They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them," was the answer. He added that
the colonists thought it hard that a body in which they were not represented should make a merit of giving what
was not its own but theirs. He armed a difference between internal and external taxation, because the former could
not be evaded, whereas articles of consumption, on which the duty formed part of the price, could be dispensed
with at will. "But what if necessaries of life, should be taxed?" asked Grenville, thinking he had Franklin
on the hip. But the American sage crushingly replied, "I do not know a single article imported into the colonies
but what they can either do without it, or make it for themselves."
In the final debates, Pitt, called on to say whether, should total repeal be granted, in compliance with American
menaces of resistance, the consequence would not be the overthrow of British authority in America, gave his voice
for repeal as a right. Grenville, on the other hand, thought that America should learn that "prayers are not
to be brought to Caesar through riot and sedition." The vote for repeal, and against modified enforcement,
was two hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and sixtyseven. The dissenting members of the Lords signed a protest,
because, should they assent to the repeal merely because it had passed the lower house, "we in effect vote
ourselves useless." This suggests the Je ne vois pas la necessite of the French epigrammatist. The Lords took
themselves too seriously. Meanwhile, Bow-bells were rung, Pitt was cheered, and flags flew; the news was sent to
America in fast packets, and the rejoicing in the colonies was great. Prisoners-for debt were set free, there were
illuminations and bonfires, and honor was paid to Pitt, Camden, Barre, and to the King, who was eating his heart
with vexation at having been compelled to assent to what he called "the fatal repeal."
The British Government, while repealing the law, had yet armed its sovereign authority over the colonies. The colonies,
on the other hand, were inclined to confirm their present advantage and take a step still further in advance. They
would not be taxed without representation; why should they submit to any legislation whatever without representation?
What right had England to enforce the Navigation Acts? The more the general situation was contemplated and discussed,
the plainer to all did it appear that union was indispensable. The governors of most of the colonies were directing
a treacherous attack against the charters; but bold students of the drift of things were foreseeing a time when
charters might be superseded by independence. Patriots everywhere were keenly on the watch for any symptoms of
a design on Parliament's part to raise a revenue from America. The presence and quartering of English soldiers
in the colonies was regarded as not only a burden, but an insinuation. It was moreover a constant occasion of disturbance;
for there was no love lost between the people and the soldiers. But that there was no disposition on the people's
part to pick quarrels or to borrow trouble was evident from their voluntarily passing resolutions for the reimbursement
of persons, like Hutchinson, who had suffered loss from the riots. If England would treat them like reasonable
creatures, they were more than willing to meet her half way. It is probable that but for the royal governors, England
and America might have arrived at an amicable understanding; yet, in the ultimate interests of both countries,
it was better that the evil counselors of the day should prevail.
Townshend, an able, eloquent, but entirely untrustworthy man, devoted to affairs, and of insatiable though unprincipled
ambition, proposed in Parliament to formulate a plan to derive a permanent revenue from America. This Parliament
has been described by historians and is convicted by its record as the most corrupt, profligate and unscrupulous
in English annals. William Pitt, who had accepted the title of Lord Chatham, and entered the House of Lords, was
nominally the leader, but his health and failing faculties left him no real power. Shelburne, Secretary of State,
was moderate and liberal, but no match for Townshend's brilliancy. The latter's proposal was to suspend the Legislature
of New York, as a punishment for the insubordination of the colony and a warning to others; to support a resident
army, and to pay salaries to governors, judges, and other Crown officers out of the revenue from America; to establish
commissioners of the customs in the country; to legalize general writs of assistance; to permit no native-born
American to hold office under the Crown; and to, make the revenue derivable from specified taxes on imports. The
tax on tea was among those particularly mentioned. This was the scheme which was to be substituted for the repealed
stamp tax; the colonies had objected to that as internal; this was external, and, though Townshend had refused
to admit any difference between the two, he now employed it as a means of bringing the colonies to terms. The measure
was received with acclaim by Parliament, though it was. contrary to the real sentiment of the English nation. The
King was charmed with it. Townshend died soon after it was passed, at the age of forty-one; and the King called
on Lord North to take his place; a man of infirm will, but able, wellinformed and clear-minded, with a settled
predisposition against the cause of the people. He was. as good an enemy of America as Grenville himself, though
a less ill-natured one.
But, viewing this period broadly, it is manifest that the finest brains and best hearts, both in England and America,
were friends to the cause of liberty. America, certainly, at this critical epoch in her career, produced a remarkable
band of statesmen and patriots, perfectly fitted to the parts they had to play. The two Adamses, Gadsden, Franklin,
Otis, Patrick Henry, Livingstone of New York, John Hancock, the wealthy and splendid Boston merchant, Haw ley of
Connecticut, and Washington, meditating upon the liberties of his country in the retirement of Mount Vernon, and
unconsciously preparing himself to lead her armies through the Revolution - there has never been a company of better
men active at one time in any country. Just at this juncture, too, there arose in Delaware a prophet by the name
of John Dickinson, who wrote under the title of The Farmer, and who formulated an argument against the new revenue
law which caught the attention of all the colonies. England, he pointed out, prohibits American manufactures; she
now lays duties on importations, for the purpose of revenue only. Americans were taking steps to.establish a league
to abstain from purchasing any articles brought from England, intending thus to defeat the operation of the act
without breaking the law. This might answer in the case of luxuries, or of things which could be made at home.
But what if England were to meet this move by laying a duty on some necessary of life, and then forbid Americans
to manufacture it at home? Obviously, they would then be constrained to buy it, paying the duty, and thus surrendering
their freedom. From this point of view it would not be enough to evade the tax; it must be repealed, or resisted;
and resistance meant war.
Unless, however, some action of an official character were taken, binding the colonies to cooperation, it was evident
that the law would gradually go into effect. The Massachusetts Assembly, early in 1768, sent to its London agent
a letter, composed by Samuel Adams, embodying their formal protest to the articles of the revenue act and its corollaries.
At the same time, they sent copies of the statement to the other colonial assemblies in the country, accompanied
with the suggestion that all unite in discontinuing the use of British imported manufactures and other articles.
The Crown officers, for their part, renewed their appeal to England for naval and military forces to compel obedience
and secure order.
The King and the Government inclined to think that force was the remedy in this case. It was in vain that the more
magnanimous called attention to the fact that an army and navy could not compel a man to buy a black broadcloth
coat, if he liked a homespun one better. Inflammatory reports from America represented it as being practically
in a state of insurrection. A Boston newspaper, which had published a severe arraignment of Governor Bernard, was
tried for libel, and the jury, though informed by Hutchinson that if they did not convict of high treason they
"might depend on being damned," brought in a verdict of acquittal. The Adams letter was laid before the
English ministry and pronounced to be "of a most dangerous and factious tendency," and an injunction
was dispatched to the several colonial governors to bid their assemblies to treat it with contempt, and if they
declined, to dissolve them. Gage was ordered to enforce tranquillity. But the colonial resistance had thus far
been passive only. The assemblies now declared that they had exclusive right to tax the people; Virginia not only
agreed to the Adams letter, but indited one even more uncompromising; Pennsylvania and New York fell into line.
A Boston committee presented an address to Bernard asking him to mediate between the people and England; he promised
to do so, but at the same time sent out secret requests to have regiments sent to Boston. Divining his duplicity,
John Adams, at the next town meeting, formulated the people's resolve to vindicate their rights "at the utmost
hazard of their lives and fortunes," declaring that whosoever should solicit the importation of troops was
"an enemy to this town and province." The determination not to rescind the principles stated in the Samuel
Adams letter of January was unanimous. Lord Mansfield thereupon declared that the Americans must be reduced to
entire obedience before their alleged; grievances could be considered. Camden confessed that he did not know what
to do; the law must be executed: but how? "If any province is to be chastised, it should be Boston."
Finally, two regiments and a squadron were ordered to Boston from Halifax. Samuel Adams felt that the time was
now at hand either for independence or an nihilation, and he affirmed publicly that the colonists would be justified
in "destroying every British soldier whose foot should touch the shore." In the country round Boston,
thirty thousand men were ready to fight. A meeting was called in Faneuil Hall, and it resolved that "the inhabitants
of the Town of Boston will at the utmost peril of their lives and fortunes maintain and defend their rights, liberties,
privileges, and immunities." "And," said Otis, pointing to four hundred muskets which had been collected,
"there are your arms; when an attempt is made against your liberties, they will be delivered." Bernard,
who was pale with alarm, had to announce that the regiments were coming, and would be quartered, one in Castle
William, the other on the town. The council replied that there was room enough in the Castle for both, and that,
according to the law, any officer attempting to use private houses would be cashiered. In the midst of the dispute,
the regiments arrived. The convention had from the first, law on their side; and in order to preserve this advantage
were determined to offer only a passive resistance to the revenue law, and to abstain from violence until it was
offered to them. No charge of high treason would stand against anyone. The anchoring of the squadron off Castle
William, with guns trained on the State House had no effect. On the first of October, in compliance with an order
from Gage, and in the absence of Bernard, who had fled to the country in a panic, the regiments were landed at
Long Wharf. With military music playing, fixed bayonets and loaded guns, they marched to the Common, which was
whitened by their tents. An artillery train was also brought ashore. An attempt to browbeat the people into providing
quarters failed, and the officers dared not seize them. At length they were obliged to rent rooms, and some of
the men were lodged in the State House, as the weather became too cold for outdoor encampment; not a few of them
deserted, and escaped into the country. But Boston was under military rule, though there was nothing for the soldiers
to do. Sentinels were posted about the town, and citizens were challenged as they walked their streets. On the
Sab bath Day, drums and bugles disturbed the worshipers in the churches. Officers of the customhouse and army officers
met at the British Coffee House in King Street. On the south side of the State House was a court of guard, defended
by two brass cannon, and a large number of soldiers were kept there; in front of the customhouse, further down
the street, a sentinel paced his beat. Boston was indignant, but restricted itself to ceasing all purchases of
importations, trusting thus to wear out their oppressors. Some of the younger men, however, were becoming restive
under the implied or overt insults of the officers and soldiery, and there were occasional quarrels which might
develop into something more serious. It was at this time that the French inhabitants of New Orleans rose and drove
out the Spanish Governor, Ulloa; and Du Chatelet remarked that it was "a good example for the English colonies.
But Boston needed no example; she afforded one in herself. All the other colonies had indorsed her attitude; but
the animosity of England was concentrated against her. The whole kingdom was embattled against the one small town;
two more regiments had been sent there, but no rebellion could be found. Was it the purpose to provoke one? Soldiers,
from time to time, were arrested for misdemeanors, and brought before the civil magistrates, but were pardoned,
when convicted, by the higher courts. Samuel Adams and others, on the other hand, continued to be threatened with
prosecution for treason, but did not recede from their position. Bernard, Hutchinson, Oliver, and the attorney
general acted as secret informers and purveyors of evidence against the patriots. All petitions from the colonies
addressed to the English Government were refused so much as a hearing. And yet there was a strong division of opinion
in Parliament as to the course England was taking; and there were many who wished that the question of taxation
had never been raised. In 1769, it was conceded that the duties on most specified articles should be abolished;
nevertheless, Hillsborough, secretary for the colonies, said that he would "grant nothing to Americans except
what they might ask with a halter round their necks"; and the great Samuel Johnson did not scruple to add
that "they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."
Against such intemperate vaporings are to be set the noble resolutions of the Virginia Assembly of which Jefferson,
Patrick Henry, and Washington were members, extending its sympathy and support to Massachusetts, warning King George
against carrying Americans beyond seas for trial, and advocating colonial union. This was the more admirable, because
England had treated Virginia with especial tenderness and consideration. Similar resolutions in other colonies
followed, and a regular correspondence between the assemblies was agreed to. The folly of English oppression had
already created a united America.
At length the English Government, weakened by the opposition, and by the badness of their cause, agreed to abolish
all duties except that on tea, which was now bought cheaper in Boston than in London; and to withdraw two at least
of the regiments. But Boston was contending for a principle, not for a few hundred pounds, and refused to accept
the tea as a compromise. Much more conducive to good feeling was the. recall of Governor Bernard, just as he was
making himself comfortable for a long tenure of office under the protection of British soldiers. This man's character
is as contemptible as any in colonial history. It was not merely or chiefly that he was an abject miser and a foe
to liberty. He was a convicted liar, a spy, and a doubledealer; and his cowardice made him despised even by the
British. He did not scruple. at swindling the British Government by conniving at smuggling, while assuring them
of his zeal in putting it down. While smiling in men's faces he was covertly laying plots for their destruction.
His last thought, after receiving the crushing news of his recall, was to try to beguile the Assembly into voting
him his salary for the coming year. The attempt failed and he retreated in disgrace, with joy bells ringing in
his ears. His only consolation was that he left Hutchinson in his place, as ill-disposed toward liberty and honor
as himself, and his superior in intelligence. His recall had been due to the desire of London merchants, who believed
that his presence was destructive of their commercial interests. The ministers for whom'he had incurred so much
ignominy would do nothing for him; for the dishonorable are always ready to sacrifice their instruments.