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CHAPTER XI.: america, 1763–1776. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. IV 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. IV.
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At the time of the Peace of Paris in 1763, the thirteen American colonies which were afterwards detached from the English Crown contained, according to the best computation, about a million and a half freemen, and their number probably slightly exceeded two millions at the time of the Declaration of Independence. No part of the British Empire had gained so largely by the late war and by the ministry of Pitt. The expulsion of the French from Canada and of the Spaniards from Florida, by removing for ever the danger of foreign interference, had left the colonists almost absolute masters of their destinies, and had dispelled the one dark cloud which hung over their future. No serious danger any longer menaced them. No limits could be assigned to their expansion. Their exultation was unbounded, and it showed itself in an outburst of genuine loyalty. The name of Pittsburg given to the fortress erected where Fort Duquesne had once stood attested the gratitude of America to the minister to whom she owed so much. Massachusetts, the foremost of the New England States, voted a costly monument in Westminster Abbey to Lord Howe, who had fallen in the conquest of Canada. The assembly of the same State in a congratulatory address to the Governor declared that without the assistance of the parent State they must have fallen a prey to the power of France, that without the compensation granted to them by Parliament the burdens of the war would have been insupportable, that without the provisions of the treaty of peace all their successes would have been delusive. In an address to the King they repeated the same acknowledgment, and pledged themselves, in terms to which later events gave a strange significance, to demonstrate their gratitude by every possible testimony of duty and loyalty.1
Several acute observers had already predicted that the triumph of England would be soon followed by the revolt of her colonies. I have quoted in a former chapter the remarkable passage in which the Swedish traveller, Kalm, contended in 1748 that the presence of the French in Canada, by making the English colonists depend for their security on the support of the mother country, was the main cause of the submission of the colonies. In his ‘Notes upon England,’ which were probably written about 1730, Montesquieu had dilated upon the restrictive character of the English commercial code, and had expressed his belief that England would be the first nation abandoned by her colonies. A few years later, Argenson, who has left some of the most striking political predictions upon record, foretold in his Memoirs that the English colonies in America would one day rise against the mother country, that they would form themselves into a republic, and that they would astonish the world by their prosperity. In a discourse delivered before the Sorbonne in 1750 Turgot compared colonies to fruits which only remain on the stem till they have reached the period of maturity, and he prophesied that America would some day detach herself from the parent tree. The French ministers consoled themselves for the Peace of Paris by the reflection that the loss of Canada was a sure prelude to the independence of the colonies; and Vergennes, the sagacious French ambassador at Constantinople, predicted to an English traveller, with striking accuracy, the events that would occur. ‘England,’ he said, ‘will soon repent of having removed the only check that could keep her colonies in awe. They stand no longer in need of her protection. She will call on them to contribute towards supporting the burdens they have helped to bring on her, and they will answer by striking off all dependence.’1
It is not to be supposed that Englishmen were wholly blind to this danger. One of the ablest advocates of the retention of Canada was the old Lord Bath, who published a pamphlet on the subject which had a very wide influence and circulation;2 but there were a few politicians who maintained that it would be wiser to restore Canada and to retain Guadaloupe, with perhaps Martinico and St. Lucia. This view was supported with distinguished talent in an anonymous reply to Lord Bath, which is said to have been written by William Burke, the friend and kinsman of the great orator. Canada, this writer argued, was not one of the original objects of the war, and we had no original right to it. The acquisition of a vast, barren, and almost uninhabited country, lying in an inhospitable climate, and with no commerce except that of furs and skins, was economically far less valuable to England than the acquisition of Guadaloupe, which was one of the most important of the sugar islands. Before the war France had a real superiority in the West Indies, and the English Caribbean islands were far more endangered by the French possession of Guadaloupe, than the English American colonies by the French possession of Canada. The latter danger was, indeed, never great, and by a slight modification of territory and the erection of a few forts it might be reduced to insignificance. England in America was both a far greater continental and a far greater naval Power than France, and she had an immense superiority both in population and position. But in addition to these considerations, it was urged, an island colony is more advantageous than a continental one, for it is necessarily more dependent upon the mother country. In the New England provinces there are already colleges and academies where the American youth can receive their education. America produces, or can easily produce, almost everything she wants. Her population and her wealth are rapidly increasing; and as the colonies recede more and more from the sea, the necessity for their connection with England will steadily diminish. ‘They will have nothing to expect, they must live wholly by their own labour, and in process of time will know little, inquire little, and care little about the mother country. If the people of our colonies find no check from Canada they will extend themselves almost without bounds into the inland parts. … What the consequence will be to have a numerous, hardy, independent people possessed of a strong country, communicating little or not at all with England, I leave to your own reflections. … By eagerly grasping at extensive territory we may run the risk, and that perhaps in no very distant period, of losing what we now possess. The possession of Canada, far from being necessary to our safety, may in its consequences be even dangerous. A neighbour that keeps us in some awe is not always the worst of neighbours. So far from sacrificing Guadaloupe to Canada, perhaps if we might have Canada without any sacrifice, we ought not to desire it. … There is a balance of power in America as well as in Europe.’1
These views are said to have been countenanced by Lord Hardwicke,2 but the tide of opinion ran strongly in the opposite direction. Mauduit as well as Bath wrote in favour of the retention of Canada, and their arguments were supported by Franklin, who in a remarkable pamphlet sketched the great undeveloped capabilities of the colonies, and ridiculed the ‘visionary fear’ that they could ever be combined against England.3 Pitt was strongly on the same side. The nation had learned to look with pride and sympathy upon that greater England which was growing up beyond the Atlantic, and there was a desire which was not ungenerous or ignoble to remove at any risk the one obstacle to its future happiness. It was felt that the colonists who had contributed so largely to the conquest of Cape Breton had been shamefully sacrificed at the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, when that province was restored to France; and that the expulsion of the French from Canada was essential, not only to the political and commercial prosperity of the Northern colonists, but also to the security of their homes. The Indian tribes clustered thickly around the disputed frontier, and the French being numerically very inferior to the English, had taken great pains to conciliate them, and at the same time to incite them against the English. Six times within eighty-five years the horrors of Indian war had devastated the northern and eastern frontier.1 The Peace of Paris, by depriving the Indians of French support, was one of the most important steps to their subjection.
To any statesman who looked upon the question without passion and without illusion, it must have appeared evident that if the English colonies resolved to sever themselves from the British Empire, it would be impossible to prevent them. Their population is said to have doubled in twenty-five years. They were separated from the mother country by three thousand miles of water. Their seaboard extended for more than one thousand miles. Their territory was almost boundless in its extent and in its resources, and the greater part of it was still untraversed and unexplored. To conquer such a country would be a task of great difficulty, and of ruinous expense. To hold it in opposition to the general wish of the people would be impossible. England by her command of the sea might easily destroy its commerce, disturb its fisheries, bombard its seaboard towns, and deprive it of many of the luxuries of life, but she could strike no vital blow. The colonists were chiefly small and independent freeholders, hardy backwoodsmen and hunters, universally acquainted with the use of arms, and with all the resources and energies which life in a new country seldom fails to develop. They had representative assemblies to levy taxes and organise resistance. They had militias which in some colonies included all adult freemen between the ages of sixteen or eighteen and fifty or sixty;1 and in addition to the Indian raids, they had the military experience of two great wars. The capture of Louisburg in 1749 had been mainly their work, and although at the beginning of the following war they exhibited but little alacrity, Pitt, by promising that the expenses should be reimbursed by the British Parliament, had speedily called them to arms. In the latter stages of the war more than 20,000 colonial troops, 10,000 of them from New England alone, had been continually in the field, and more than 400 privateers had been fitted out in the colonial harbours.2 The colonial troops were, it is true, only enlisted for a single campaign, and they therefore never attained the steadiness and discipline of English veterans; but they had co-operated honourably in the conquest of Canada, and even in the expeditions against Havannah and Martinique, and they contained many skilful officers quite capable of conducting a war.
Under such circumstances, with the most moderate heroism, and even without foreign assistance, a united rebellion of the English colonies must have been successful, and their connection with the mother country depended mainly upon their disposition towards her and towards each other. For some years before the English Revolution, and for several years after the accession of William, the relations of the colonies to England had been extremely tense; but in the long period of unbroken Whig rule which followed, most of the elements of discontent had subsided. The wise neglect of Walpole and Newcastle was eminently conducive to colonial interests. The substitution in several colonies of royal for proprietary governments was very popular. It was found that the direct rule of the Sovereign was much more equitable and liberal than that of private companies or individuals. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware alone retained the proprietary form, and in the first two at least, a large party desired that the proprietors should be compensated, and that the colonies should be placed directly under the Crown.1 There were slight differences in the colonial forms of government, but everywhere the colonists paid their governors and their other officials. The lower chamber in each province was elected freely by the people, and in nearly every respect they governed themselves under the shadow of the British dominion with a liberty which was hardly equalled in any other portion of the civilised globe. Political power was incomparably more diffused, and the representative system was incomparably less corrupt than at home, and real constitutional liberty was flourishing in the English colonies when nearly all European countries and all other colonies were despotically governed. Material prosperity was at the same time advancing with giant strides, and religious liberty was steadily maintained. Whatever might be her policy nearer home, in the colonies the English Government in the eighteenth century uniformly opposed the efforts of any one sect to oppress the others.1
The circumstances and traditions of the colonists had made them extremely impatient of every kind of authority, but there is no reason for doubting that they were animated by a real attachment to England. Their commercial intercourse, under the restrictions of the Navigation Law, was mainly with her. Their institutions, their culture, their religion, their ideas were derived from English sources. They had a direct interest in the English war against France and Spain. They were proud of their English lineage, of English greatness, and of English liberty, and, in the words of Franklin, they had ‘not only a respect but an affection for Great Britain; … to be an Old England man was of itself a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among them.’2 Hutchinson, the Governor of Massachusetts, who was one of the strongest supporters of the royal authority, acknowledges that when George III. mounted the throne, if speculative men sometimes figured in their minds an American Empire, it was only ‘in such distant ages that nobody then living could expect to see it;’ and he adds that the rapid growth of colonial power had as yet produced no ‘plan or even desire of independency,’ and that ‘the greatest hope from the reduction of Canada, as far as could be judged from the public prayers of the clergy as well as from the conversation of people in general, was “to sit quiet under their own vines and figtrees, and to have none to make them afraid.”’1 The great career of Pitt, which had intensified patriotic feelings throughout the Empire, was nowhere more appreciated than in America, and the Peace of Paris, however distasteful to Englishmen, might at least have been expected to strengthen the loyalty of the colonies. It had been made by men who were wholly beyond the range of their influence, yet they had gained incomparably more by it than any other portion of the Empire.
The patriotism of the colonies indeed attracted them far more to England than to each other. Small groups of colonies were no doubt drawn together by a natural affinity, but there was no common colonial government, and they were in general at least as jealous of each other as of England. One of the chief excuses for imposing by parliamentary authority imperial taxation on the colonies was the extreme difficulty of inducing them to co-operate cordially for military purposes.2 Soon after the Revolution, William had proposed a plan for general defence against the French forces in Canada by which each colony was to contribute a contingent proportionate to its numbers, but all the colonial assemblies rejected it, and the States which were most remote from the danger absolutely refused to participate in the expense.1 In 1754, when another great war was impending, a Congress of Commissioners from the different colonies assembled at Albany, at the summons of the Lords of Trade, for the purpose of concerting together and with the friendly Indians upon measures of defence. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Commissioners for Pennsylvania, and he brought forward a plan for uniting the colonies for defence and for some other purposes of general utility into a single Federal State, administered by a President-General appointed by the Crown, and by a general council elected by the colonial assemblies; but the plan was equally repudiated by the colonial legislatures as likely to abridge their authority, and by the Board of Trade as likely to foster colonial independence.2 In the war that ensued it was therefore left to the colonial legislatures to act independently in raising troops and money, and while the Northern colonies which lay nearest Canada more than fulfilled their part, some of the Southern ones refused to take any considerable share of the burden. The management of Indian affairs gradually passed with general approval from the different colonial legislatures to the Crown, as it was found impossible to induce the former to act together on any settled plan.1
The history of the colonies during the twenty or thirty years preceding the Declaration of Independence is full of intestine or intercolonial disputes. There were angry discussions about boundaries between Massachusetts on the one hand, and Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut on the other. Albany was long accused of trafficking largely with the Indians for the spoils they had obtained in their raids upon New England. New York quarrelled fiercely with Virginia about the responsibility for the failure of a military expedition, and with New Hampshire about the government of the territory which was subsequently known as Vermont. In Pennsylvania and Maryland the Assemblies were in continual hostility with their proprietaries, and the mother country was compelled to decide a violent dispute about salaries between the Virginian laity and clergy. Great bodies of Dutch, Germans, French, Swedes, Scotch, and Irish, scattered among the descendants of the English, contributed to the heterogeneous character of the colonies, and they comprised so many varieties of government, religious belief, commercial interest, and social type, that their union appeared to many incredible on the very eve of the Revolution.2 The movement which at last arrayed them in a united front against England was not a blind instinctive patriotism or community of sentiment, like that which animates old countries. It was the deliberate calculation of intelligent men, who perceived that by such union alone could they attain the objects of their desire.
New England, which was the centre of the resistance, was then divided into the four States of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and it was, in proportion to its size, by far the most populous portion of British America. It comprised about a third part of its whole population,1 and Massachusetts alone had, during a great part of the last war, maintained 7,000 men under arms. The descendants of the old Puritans, the New Englanders were still chiefly Congregationalists or Presbyterians, and there might be found among them an austerity of manners and of belief which was hardly exceeded in Scotland. It was, however, gradually declining under many influences. Time, increasing wealth, the intellectual atmosphere of the eighteenth century, the disorders and changes produced by a state of war, contact with large bodies of European soldiers, and also the demoralising Influence of a great smuggling trade with the French West Indies, had all in their different ways impaired the old types of character. The Governments of three of the colonies were exceedingly democratic. In Massachusetts the Council or Upper Chamber, instead of being, as in most provinces, appointed by the Sovereign, was elected annually by the Lower Chamber; every town officer was annually chosen; all town affairs were decided in public meetings; the clergy were selected by their congregations, and, with the exception of a few Custom-house officers, the Crown officers were paid by the State. The Governor was appointed by the Crown, and he possessed a right of veto upon laws, and also upon the appointment of Councillors; but as his own salary and that of the whole Executive depended on the popular vote, and as the Council emanated directly from the representative body, his actual power was extremely small. The civil list allowed by the Assembly was precarious and was cut down to the narrowest limits. The Governor usually received 1,000l. English currency a year, but obtained some additional occasional grants. The Lieutenant-Governor received no salary as such, except during the absence of the Governor, and the office was therefore usually combined with some other. The judges had each only about 120l. sterling a year, with the addition of some fees, which were said not to have been sufficient to cover their travelling expenses.1 The Attorney-General received no salary from the Assembly, as the Governor refused to recognise its claim to have a voice in his appointment. Rhode Island and Connecticut were even more democratic than Massachusetts. By the charters conceded to these colonies, the freemen elected all their officers from the highest to the lowest, and they were not obliged to communicate the acts of their local legislatures to the King. Such a system had naturally led to grave abuses, and in Rhode Island especially there were loud complaints of the scandalous partiality of the judges and of the low prevailing tone of honesty and statesmanship.1
One of the most remarkable recent changes in New England manners was the extraordinary increase of litigation and the rapid growth in numbers and importance of the legal class. For a century and a half of colonial days there were but two lay presidents of Harvard College; nearly half the students were intended for some church ministry, and the profession of a lawyer was looked upon as in some degree dishonest and disreputable. It was rapidly rising, however, in New England as elsewhere, and it contributed more than any other profession to the Revolution.2 Jefferson, Adams, Otis, Dickenson, and many other minor agents in the struggle were lawyers. Another influence which did much to lower the New England character was the abundance of depreciated paper money. In 1750 the British Parliament granted a sum of money to reimburse Massachusetts for what it had expended more than its proportion towards the general expense of the war, and the Legislature of the province determined to redeem their paper, but to do so at a depreciated value, and only an ounce of silver was given for 50s. of paper, though the bills themselves promised an ounce for 6s. 8d. In 1751 the mother country was obliged to interpose to prevent the New Englanders from cheating their English creditors by making paper legal tender.1
Still with every drawback the bulk of the New Englanders were a people of strong fibre and high morals. Strictly Sabbatarian, rigidly orthodox, averse to extravagance, to gambling, and to effeminate amusements, capable of great efforts of self-sacrifice, hard, stubborn, and indomitably intractable, they had most of the qualities of a ruling race. The revival of Jonathan Edwards, the later preaching of Whitefield, and the numerous days of fasting or thanksgiving, had done something to sustain their fanaticism. A severe climate and long struggles with the French and the Indians had indurated their characters, and the common schools which had been established in the middle of the seventeenth century in every village had made a certain level of education universal. Their essentially republican religion, the traditions of their republican origin, and the republican tone of their manners, had all conspired to maintain among them a spirit of fierce and jealous independence. They had few manufactures. Slavery, being unsuited to their soil and climate, had taken but little root, and there was said to be no other portion of the globe in which there was so little either of wealth or of poverty.1 The bulk of the population were small freeholders cultivating their own land. By a somewhat singular anomaly, the democratic colony of Rhode Island, during nearly the whole of its colonial history, adopted the English law of real property with its system of entail and primogeniture; but in the other New England colonies the law favoured equal division, reserving, however, in the case of intestacy, a double portion for the elder son,2 Extreme poverty was unknown; yet Burke, who was admirably acquainted with American life, questioned whether there were two persons either in Massachusetts or Connecticut who could afford to spend 1,000l. a year at a distance from their estates.3 Boston, at the time of the Peace of Paris, contained 18,000 or 20,000 inhabitants.4 It was the great intellectual centre of the colonies, and five printing presses were in constant employment within its walls. It contained the chief distilleries in America; it was noted for its commerce, its shipbuilding, and its cod-fishery; and in 1763 no less than eighty New England vessels were employed in the whale fishery at the mouth of the St. Lawrence.5 Boston, however, unlike most American towns, appears for a long time to have been almost stationary. The rise of New York, Philadelphia, and other towns had diminished its prosperity, and the New England States were burdened by considerable natural disadvantages, and by the great weight of debt bequeathed from the war.
Among the Middle States the two provinces of New York and New Jersey still contained many families descended from the old Dutch settlers; but these were being rapidly lost in a very miscellaneous population. Twenty-one years before New York, or, as it was then called, New Amsterdam, fell into the hands of the English, it was computed that no less than eighteen different languages were spoken in or near the town,1 and it continued under English rule to be one of the chief centres of foreign immigration. It was noticed during the War of Independence, that the political indifference of these colonies formed a curious contrast to the vehemence of New England,2 and New York fluctuated more violently in its political attitude than any other colony in America. The town at the Peace of Paris was little more than half the size of Boston, but it was rapidly advancing in commercial prosperity, and large fortunes were being accumulated. In the country districts much of the simplicity and frugality of the old Dutch settlers survived; but the tone of manners in the town was less severe and more luxurious than in New England. There were but few signs of the theological intolerance so conspicuous in some of the older States, and very many religions, representing very many nationalities, subsisted side by side in apparent harmony. There was little intellectual life; education was very backward, and the pursuit of wealth appears to have been the absorbing passion.
The letters written by the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor to the home authorities in 1765 and the two following years give a curious, though perhaps somewhat overcharged picture, of the less favourable aspects of New York life. The most opulent men in the State had risen within a single generation from the lowest class. Few persons except lawyers had any tincture of literature, and lawyers under these circumstances had attained a greater power in this province than in any other part of the King's dominions. They had formed an association for the purpose of directing political affairs. In an Assembly where the majority of the members were ignorant and simple-minded farmers, they had acquired a controlling power; they knew the secrets of every family. They were the chief writers in a singularly violent press. They organised and directed every opposition to the Governor, and they had attained an influence not less than that of the priesthood in a bigoted Catholic country. There was a long and bitter quarrel about the position of the judges, one party wishing that they should hold their office during good behaviour, and should thus be beyond the control of the Executive or Home Government; the other party wishing that they should receive fixed and adequate salaries, instead of being dependent on the annual vote of the Assembly. The utmost annual sum the Assembly would vote for its Chief Justice was 300l. of New York currency, which was much less valuable than the currency of England. Legal decisions are said to have been given with great and manifest partiality. ‘In the present state of our courts of justice,’ wrote the Lieutenant-Governor, ‘all private property for some years past, as well as the rights and authority of the King, are more precarious than can be easily imagined.’ On one occasion the Chief Justice gave a judgment against a member of the Assembly; by the influence of that member his salary was reduced by 50l. In cases affecting the Revenue Acts or the property rights of the Crown, the law was almost impotent, and the Governor vainly tried to obtain the right of appeal to an English court. Cases under 5l. in value were decided by the local magistrates; and as it was the custom for each member of the Assembly to have the nomination to all civil and military offices in his own county, the Commission of the Peace was the usual reward of electioneering services. Nothing was more common than to find petty cases decided in public-houses, by magistrates who were selected from the meanest and least respectable tradesmen, and who were sometimes so ignorant that they were obliged to put a mark instead of a signature to their warrants.1
By far the most important of the Middle States was the great industrial colony of Pennsylvania. A fertile soil, a great abundance of mineral wealth, a situation singularly favourable to commercial intercourse, and a population admirably energetic and industrious, had contributed to develop it, and it far surpassed all the other colonies in the perfection of its agriculture, and in the variety, magnitude, and prosperity of its manufactures. Its population at the time of the Declaration of Independence appears to have been about 350,000. The Quakers, who were its first colonists, now formed about a fifth part of the population, and still exercised the greatest power in the Assembly. Pennsylvania, however, rivalled or surpassed New York in its attraction to foreign immigrants, and few countries have contained so great a mixture of nationalities. The Germans were so numerous that they for some time returned 15 out of the 69 members of the Assembly.1 Nearly 12,000 had landed in the single summer of 1749, and in the middle of the century a German weekly paper was published at Philadelphia.2 There was also a large colony of Irish Presbyterians, who lived chiefly along the western frontier, and who had established a prosperous linen manufacture; and Swedes, Scotch, Welsh, and a few Dutch might be found among the inhabitants. The law of real property was nearly the same as in Massachusetts. There was perfect liberty, and the prevailing spirit was gentle, humane, pacific, and keenly money-making. The Quakers, though their distinctive character was very clearly imprinted on the colony, had found that some departure from their original principles was indispensable. A section of them, in flagrant opposition to the original tenet of their sect, contended that war was not criminal when it was strictly defensive. A long line of cannon defended the old Quaker capital against the French and Spanish privateers; and the Pennsylvanian Assembly, in which the Quakers predominated, repeatedly voted military aids to the Crown during the French wars, disguising their act by voting the money only ‘for the King's use,’ and on one occasion ‘for the purchase of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain,’ The latter being understood to be gunpowder.3
Philadelphia was probably at this time the most beautiful and attractive city in the American colonies; famous for its ship-building, for the great variety of its commerce, and for its very numerous institutions of benevolence and instruction. Burnaby, who visited it in 1759, was filled ‘with wonder and admiration’ at the noble city which had grown up where, eighty years before, the deer and the buffalo had ranged. He dilates upon the admirable lighting and paving of the streets, upon its stately town hall, upon its two public libraries, upon its numerous churches, almshouses, and schools; upon its market, which was ‘almost equal to that of Leadenhall;’ upon the crowd of ships that thronged its harbour. He estimated its population at 18,000 or 20,000, and he tells us that about twenty-five ships were annually built in its docks, and that many of its houses were let for what was then the very large sum of 100l. a year. It contained an opulent and brilliant, if somewhat exclusive society, with all the luxury of a European city. The gay profusion of flowers that were scattered through the houses; the rich orchards extending to the very verge of the town, and encircling every important dwelling; the aspect of well-being which was displayed in every class; the use of tea, which as early as 1750 was universal in every farmer's house;1 the multiplication of country seats; the taste for lighter and more cheerful manners, which had sprung from contact with the English officers during the war; the periodical assemblies of gentlemen and ladies of the best society to pass the summer days in fishing upon the Schuylkill, diversified with music and with dancing—all bring before us the picture of a State which was far removed from the simplicity, the poverty, and the austerity of its Quaker founders.1
To a European, however, or at least to a French taste, the tone of manners appeared formal and cumbrous. A brilliant Frenchman who visited Philadelphia during the War of Independence, complained with some humour that dancing, which in other countries was regarded as an emblem of gaiety and love, was treated in America as an emblem of legislation and marriage; that every detail of a ball was regulated beforehand with the most minute precision, and carried out with a stern severity; that each dancer was restricted to the same partner for the whole evening;2 and that the almost endless succession of toasts that were rigidly enforced, made an American entertainment nearly intolerable to a stranger. He noticed, too, the significant manner in which, in the absence of titles, precedence had come to be determined by wealth.3 A curious relic of a standard of commercial integrity which had long since passed away, survived in the middle of the century in the custom of ‘marriage in the shift.’ When a man died leaving debts which his widow was unable to pay, she was obliged, if she contracted a second marriage, to leave her clothes in the hands of the creditors, and to go through the ceremony in her shift. Gradually, however, the ceremony was mitigated by the bridegroom lending her clothes for the occasion.1 The conflicts with the proprietary government turned chiefly upon the question of how far the proprietary estates might be submitted to taxation, and the decision of the mother country was given in favour of the colonists. The conflict was especially violent on account of the peculiarity of the Pennsylvanian Government, which consisted only of two parts, a governor and a representative chamber, while in the other colonies the council or upper chamber acted the part of a mediator or umpire. A Council existed, it is true, in Pennsylvania, but it had no legislative power, and was restricted to the function of advising the Executive. The proprietary government was both weak and unpopular; and Pennsylvania, like most other colonies, was disturbed by many outbreaks of lawless violence.
The only other colony which it is necessary particularly to notice on account of the part which it played in the Revolution, is Virginia, the oldest of the charter colonies—the colony of Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Randolphs, and the Lees. At the Peace of Paris, in 1763, it appears to have contained about 200,000 inhabitants, the large majority being slaves,2 and its character was wholly different from the Puritan type of New England and from the industrial type of Pennsylvania. The Church of England was here the dominant religion, and it was established by law. There was a fixed revenue for the support of the civil establishments, derived partly from Crown quit rents, and partly from a duty on tobacco, which had been granted for ever. A system of entails subsisted which was even stricter than that in England, and it concurred with the conditions of slave labour and with the nature of the soil to produce a much more unequal distribution of property than in the Northern colonies. The Ulster Presbyterians, who had penetrated largely into Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina, had formed a considerable settlement on the northern and western frontiers of Virginia, and a few French refugees were also established in the colony, but over the greater part of it the English element was in the free population almost unmixed. Education in general was very backward. There were scarcely any manufactures, and there was but little town life. Wheat was produced in abundance, and the tobacco of Virginia and of the adjoining colony of Maryland was long esteemed the finest in the world. Four great navigable rivers enabled the planters to load their ships before their own doors at distances of more than eighty miles from the sea; and in 1758, 70,000 hogsheads of tobacco were exported from Virginia.1 After this time the tobacco culture seems to have somewhat dwindled, under the rising competition of Georgia and of the western country along the Mississippi.
The management of the colony was chiefly in the hands of great planters, some of them descended from Cavaliers who had emigrated during the troubles of the Commonwealth. They were a high-spirited and haughty class, extremely tenacious of social rank, hospitable, convivial, full of energy and courage, and as essentially aristocratic in their feelings, if not in their manners, as the proudest nobility of Europe. They resented bitterly the entry during the Revolution war of new families into power, and it was noticed that the popular or democratic party in this province showed more zeal in breaking down precedence than in combating the English.1 A great portion of the colony was absolutely uncultivated and uncleared,2 but large landed properties gave so much social consequence that they were rarely broken up, though they were usually very heavily encumbered by debts. In Virginia, as in the other colonies, there were some yeomen, but this class can never flourish where slavery exists, and there was an idle, dissipated, indebted, and impoverished population, descended in a great degree from younger sons of planters, who looked with contempt on manual labour, and who were quite ready to throw themselves into any military enterprise. A traveller from Europe, after passing through the greater part of the colonies, noticed that in Virginia, for the first time, he saw evidence of real poverty among the whites.3 The upper classes were keen huntsmen; among all classes there was much gambling and an intense passion for horse-racing, and even in districts where there were no public conveyances and no tolerable inns, great crowds from distances of thirty or forty miles were easily collected by a cockfight.4 Among the lower class of whites there was a great brutality of manners, and they were especially noted for their habit of ‘gouging’ out each other's eyes in boxing matches and quarrels.5 ‘Indians and negroes,’ a traveller observed, ‘they scarcely consider as of the human species.’ Acts of violence, and even murder, of which they were the victims, were never or scarcely ever punished, and no negro was suffered to give evidence in a court of law except at the trial of a slave for a capital offence.1 Virginia, however, was a great breeding country for negroes, and chiefly, perhaps, for this reason they are said to have been treated there with somewhat less habitual cruelty than in the West Indies.2
Burke has very truly said that slave-owners are often of all men the most jealous of their freedom, for they regard it not only as an enjoyment but as a kind of rank; and it may be added that slavery, when it does not coexist with a thoroughly enervating climate, is exceedingly favourable to the military qualities, for by the stigma which it attaches to labour, it diverts men from most peaceful and industrial pursuits. Both of these truths were exemplified in Virginia, which produced a very large proportion of the most prominent advocates of independence, while it was early noted for the efficiency of its militia.3 Virginia always claimed to be the leading as well as the oldest colony in America, and though its people were much more dissipated and extravagant than those of the Northern colonies, the natural advantages of the province were so great, and the tobacco crop raised by the negroes was so valuable, that in the ten years preceding 1770 the average value of the exports from Virginia and Maryland exceeded by considerably more than a third the united exports of the New England colonies, New York and Pennsylvania.4 A large number of the planters appear to have been warmly attached to England, but much discontent was produced by the interference of the mother country in the quarrel, to which I have already referred, between the laity and the clergy of this State. The sixty or seventy clergymen of the Established Church received, in addition to a house and to some glebe lands, an annual stipend in the form of tobacco, which was delivered to them packed in hogsheads for exportation at the nearest warehouse. In a year when the tobacco crop failed, the Assembly passed a law obliging the clergy to receive their stipends in money instead of tobacco, and enforced it without waiting for the royal assent. The clergy complained that no allowance having been made for the low price of tobacco in good years, it was unfair that they should be deprived of the benefit of its high price in a bad year, and they sent over an agent to England and induced the English Government to disallow the law. Actions were brought by the clergy to recover the sums out of which they had been defrauded, but although the law was indisputably on their side they found it impossible to obtain verdicts from Virginian juries. It was in pleading against them that Patrick Henry, the greatest of American orators, first exhibited his eloquence and his antipathy to England. He had been successively a storekeeper, a farmer, and a shopkeeper, but had failed in all these pursuits, had become bankrupt, and at last, with a very tarnished reputation, had entered the law courts, where he soon displayed a power of popular eloquence which had never yet been equalled, or perhaps approached, in America. He openly told the juries that the act of the English Government in disallowing the proceedings of the Virginian Assembly was an instance of tyranny and misgovernment that dissolved the political compact, and speaking in a popular cause he created so fierce a spirit in the colony that the clergy gave up all attempts to obtain what was due to them.1 In addition to this passing quarrel, there was a more chronic source of anti-English feeling in Virginia in the commercial restrictions which prevented the planters from sending their tobacco to foreign countries.
It is not necessary to pursue further a description of the Southern colonies. Maryland in soil, produce, and social condition greatly resembled Virginia, but properties were smaller; a few rich Roman Catholics might still be found among the landowners,2 and the colony was full of convicts, who were brought there in great numbers from England, and sold as slaves to the planters. In Maryland the same law of real property prevailed as in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, but in all the other Southern colonies the English law, with its tendency to favour great agglomerations of land, was maintained.3 In the vast provinces of Carolina the climate was more enervating and the proportion of negroes was much larger than in Virginia, and there were greater contrasts of wealth and poverty than in any other parts of British America. Georgia and Florida were too undeveloped to have much political or intellectual influence. Through the whole of the Southern colonies there was much less severity of religious orthodoxy, less energy and moral fibre, less industrial, political, and intellectual activity than in the North, and a much greater tendency both to idleness and to amusement. Charleston is said, of all the American towns, to have approached most nearly to the social refinement of a great European capital.
In general, however, the American colonies had attained to great prosperity and to a high level of civilisation. Burnaby noticed that in a journey of 1,200 miles through the Northern and Central colonies he had not met with a single beggar.1 Domestic wages were much higher,2 and farmers and farm-labourers incomparably more prosperous than in England or in any other part of Europe. ‘The Northern yeomanry,’ wrote an American economist at a time when America can have done little more than recover from the losses of the War of Independence, ‘not only require more clothing than the Southern, but they live on expensive food and drinks. Every man, even the poorest, makes use of tea, sugar, spirits, and a multitude of articles which are not consumed by the labourers of any other country. … Most of the labouring people in New England eat meat twice a day, and as much as their appetites demand.’ Owing to the admirable parish libraries, there were New England parishes ‘where almost every householder has read the works of Addison, Sherlock, Atterbury, Watts, Young, and other similar writings, and will converse handsomely on the subjects of which they treat;’1 and Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, would in almost all the elements of civilisation have ranked high among the provincial towns of Europe. When Kalm visited Canada in 1750, he found that there was not a single printing press in the whole territory possessed by the French,2 but before that time most of the more important British colonies possessed a newspaper, and by the close of 1765 at least forty-three newspapers are said to have been established in America.3 There were seven important colleges,4 and there were at least four literary magazines.5
In New England, education was always conducted at home, but in the Southern and some of the Middle colonies the rich planters were accustomed to send their sons for education to England.6 In these States education was almost a monopoly of the rich; schoolmasters were despised, and schools were extremely rare. Martin, the last royal governor in North Carolina, stated that in his time there were only two schools in the whole colony.7 In the first thirty years of the eighteenth century there was but one grammar school, in the next forty years there were but three in the great province of South Carolina.8 Noah Webster mentions that he once saw a copy of instructions given to a representative of Maryland by his constituents, and he found that out of more than a hundred names that were subscribed, ‘three-fifths were marked by a cross because the men could not write.’ He ascertained in 1785 that the circulation of newspapers in the single New England State of Connecticut was equal to that in the whole American territory south of Pennsylvania,1 and he has recorded the extraordinary fact that in some parts of the colonies the education of the young was frequently confided to the care of purchased convicts.2 All the great seminaries of learning lay in the Northern and Middle colonies and in Virginia, and the English education of the rich planters of the South had greatly coloured their political opinions. At the same time they formed the more important part of the very small leisure class which existed in America; and it is a remarkable fact that the Southern colonies, though in general far behind the Northern ones, produced no less than five out of the first seven presidents of the United States.
In the Northern colonies, on the contrary, education was both very widely diffused and very equal. The average was exceedingly high, but there were no eminences. The men were early devoted to money-making, but it was noticed that there was a general ambition to educate women above their fortunes, and that in some towns there were three times as many ‘genteelly bred’ women as men.3 The absence of any considerable leisure class, the difficulty of procuring books,1 and especially the intensely commercial and money-making character of the colonists, were fatal to original literature; and, except for a few theological works, American literary history before the middle of the eighteenth century would be almost a blank. Berkeley wrote his ‘Alciphron’ and his ‘Minute Philosopher’ in Rhode Island; but the first native writer of real eminence was Jonathan Edwards, who was born in 1703. He was soon followed by Benjamin Franklin, who in literature, as in science, took a place among the greatest of his contemporaries. Rittenhouse, who was born near Philadelphia in 1732, attained some distinction in astronomy; and among the Americans who sought a home in England were the painters Copley and West, and the grammarian Lindley Murray. Several of those noble public libraries which are now one of the great glories of America had already arisen; the first circulating library was established at Philadelphia in 1731,2 and between 1763 and 1770 a medical school was founded in the same city, and courses of lectures were for the first time given on anatomy, on the institutes of medicine, on the Linnæan system of botany, and on the discoveries of Lavoisier in chemistry.3
The moral and political aspect of the country presented a much more blended and doubtful picture, and must have greatly perplexed those who tried to cast the horoscope of America. Nations are essentially what their circumstances make them, and the circumstances of the American colonists were exceedingly peculiar. A country where so large a proportion of the inhabitants were recent immigrants, drawn from different nations, and professing various creeds; where, owing to the vast extent of territory and the imperfection of the means of communication, they were thrown very slightly in contact with one another, and where the money-making spirit was peculiarly intense, was not likely to produce much patriotism or community of feeling. On the other hand, the same circumstances had developed to an almost unprecedented degree energy, variety of resource, independence of character, capacity for self-government. In a simple and laborious society many of the seed-plots of European vice were unknown. Small freeholders cultivating their own lands were placed under conditions very favourable to moral development, and the wild life of the explorer, the pioneer, and the huntsman gave an unbounded scope to those superfluous energies which become so dangerous when they are repressed or misdirected. Beliefs that had long been waning in Europe retained much vigour in the colonies, and there were little sects or societies which represented the fervour and purity of the early Christians perhaps as perfectly as anything upon earth. Travellers noticed that, except where slavery had exercised its demoralising influence, the intercourse between the sexes was singularly free and at the same time singularly pure.1 There was a great simplicity and freshness of character, a spirit of warm hospitality, a strong domestic feeling. Political corruption, which was the great cancer of English life, was almost unknown, though there were serious scandals connected with the law courts, and though the level of commercial integrity was probably lower than in England. A large proportion of the men who played a conspicuous part in the events to be recorded, were men of high private morals, simple, domestic, honourable, and religious. When the conflict with England became inevitable, one of the first proceedings of the different States was to appoint days of humiliation and prayer, and Washington notes in his private diary how on this occasion he ‘went to church and fasted all day.’ The most stringent rules were made in the American camp to suppress all games of chance and to punish all profane language. John Adams, recounting week after week in his diary the texts of the sermons he had heard, and his estimate of the comparative merits of the preachers, when he was leading the popular party in the very agony of the struggle for the independence of America, is a typical example of a class of politicians strangely unlike the revolutionists of Europe.
The most serious evil of the colonies was the number and force of the influences which were impelling large classes to violence and anarchy, brutalising them by accustoming them to an unrestrained exercise of power, and breaking down among them that salutary respect for authority which lies at the root of all true national greatness. The influence of negro slavery in this respect can hardly be overrated, and in the slave States a master could commit any act of violence and outrage on a negro with practical impunity.
The relations of the colonists to the Indian tribes were scarcely less demoralising. White men planted among savages and removed from the control of European opinion seldom fail to contract the worst vices of tyrants.
The voluminous and very copious despatches of Sir W. Johnson and of Mr. Stuart, who during many years had the management of Indian affairs, are, on the whole, extremely creditable to the writers. They show that the Government laboured with great humanity, equity, and vigilance to protect the rights of the Indians, but they also show that they had to encounter insuperable difficulties in their task. The Executive was miserably weak. There were usually no troops within reach. Juries in Indian cases could never be trusted, and public opinion on the frontier looked upon Indians as little better than wild beasts. The French had in this respect succeeded much better. The strong Executive of Canada guarded the Indians effectually from depredations, restricted commercial dealings with them to the better class of traders, and attached them by a warm feeling of gratitude. But the despatches of Johnson and Stuart are full of accounts of how the English settlers continually encroached on the territory which was allotted by treaty to the Indians; how the rules that had been established for the regulation of the Indian trade were systematically violated; how traders of the lowest kind went among the savages, keeping them in a state of continual drunkenness till they had induced them to surrender their land; how the goods that were sold to Indians were of the most fraudulent description; how many traders deliberately excited outrages against their rivals; how great numbers of Indians who were perfectly peaceful, and loyal to the English, were murdered without a shadow of provocation; and how these crimes were perpetrated without punishment and almost without blame.1
A few voices were no doubt raised in the colonies on their behalf. Franklin wrote with honest indignation denouncing some horrible murders that had been perpetrated in Pennsylvania. The Quakers were usually noted for their righteous dealing with the Indians. John Eliot in the seventeenth century, and Brainerd in the eighteenth century, had laboured with admirable zeal for the conversion of the Indians, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had planted several missionary stations among them. In general, however, the French missionaries were far more successful. This was partly, no doubt, owing to their creed, for Catholicism, being a highly pictorial, authoritative, and material religion, is much more suited than Protestantism to influence savages and idolaters; but much also depended on the great superiority of the Catholic missionaries in organisation, education, and even character. The strange spectacle was often shown of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Anglicans contending in rivalry for converts. New England Puritans tried to persuade their converts that their dances, their rejoicings at marriages, and their most innocent amusements were wrong. Many missionaries were absolutely unacquainted with the language of those to whom they preached, and they had no interpreters except ignorant backwoodsmen.2 It is a significant fact that in the French war the Indians were usually on the side of the French, and in the War of Independence on the side of the Government, and the explanation is probably chiefly to be found in the constant and atrocious outrages which they endured from the American traders.
To these elements of anarchy must be added the enormous extent of smuggling along the American coast, and also the extreme weakness of the Government, which made it impossible to enforce any unpopular law or repress any riot. There was no standing army, and the position of the governors was in several States one of the most humiliating dependence. In the four New England States, in New Jersey, and in New York, all the executive and judicial authorities depended mainly or entirely for their salaries upon an annual vote of the Assembly, which was at all times liable to be withdrawn or diminished. It was not possible under such circumstances that any strong feeling of respect for authority could subsist, and the absence of any great superiority either in rank or in genius contributed to foster a spirit of unbounded self-confidence among the people.
The relation of this great, rising, and civilised community to the parent State was a question of transcendent importance to the future of the Empire. The general principle which was adopted was, that each colony should regulate with perfect freedom its local affairs, but that matters of imperial concern, and especially the commercial system, should remain under the control of the Imperial Parliament. The common law and the statute law, as far as they existed before the colonisation, were extended to the colonies, but the relation of the colonial legislatures to the Government at home was not very accurately defined. The original charters, while authorising them to levy taxes and make laws for the colonies, had declared that the colonists should be deemed natural-born English subjects, and should enjoy all the privileges and immunities thereof; that the laws of England, in so far as they were applicable to their circumstances, should be in force in the colonies, and that no law should be made in the colonies which was repugnant or did not, ‘as near as may be conveniently,’ conform to the laws of England. A statute of William provided that all colonial laws which were repugnant to laws made in England, ‘so far as such law shall relate to and mention the said plantations, are illegal, null, and void.’1
These restrictions are of a very vague description, and, as is often the case in English law, the meaning was determined more by a course of precedents than by express definition. Great remedial measures, guaranteeing the rights of subjects, such as the Great Charter or the Habeas Corpus Act, were in full force in the colonies; but the colonial legislatures, with the entire assent of the Home Government, assumed the right of modifying almost every portion both of the common and of the statute law, with a view to their special circumstances. The laws relating to real property, the penal code, and the laws relating to religious belief, were freely dealt with, and it became a recognised principle that the colonies might legislate for themselves as they pleased, provided they left untouched allegiance to the Crown and Acts of the English Parliament in which they were expressly mentioned.
The scope of the Act of William establishing this latter restriction was also determined by precedent. The theory of the English Government was, that Parliament had by right an absolute and unrestricted power of legislation over the dependencies of England. The colonies were of the nature of corporations which lay within its supreme dominion, but which were entrusted with certain corporate powers of self-government. In an early period of colonial history this theory had been contested in the colonies, and especially in Massachusetts; and it had been contended that the colonies, having been founded in most instances without any assistance from the Home Government, and having received their charters from the Sovereign, and not from the Parliament, were in the position of Scotland before the Union, bound in allegiance to the King, but altogether independent of the English Parliament. This theory, however, was inconsistent with the whole course of English legislation about the colonies, with the terms of the charters, and with the claims of the colonists to rights that were derived exclusively from English law. It was not within the prerogative of the Sovereign either to emancipate English subjects by charter from the dominion of Parliament, or to confer upon aliens the character of Englishmen. The claim to be beyond the jurisdiction of Parliament was accordingly soon dropped by the colonists; and, although it revived at the era of the Revolution, we find Massachusetts in 1757, 1761, and 1768, acknowledging, in the most explicit and emphatic terms, the right of the English Parliament to bind the colonies by its Acts.1
The only modern Acts of Parliament, however, which were esteemed binding were those in which the colonies were expressly mentioned; and these Acts dealt with them, not as separate units, but as integral parts of one connected Empire. It was the recognised right of Parliament to establish a uniform commercial system, extending over the whole Empire, and binding every portion of it. There were also some matters which were mainly, if not exclusively, of colonial interest, on which Parliament undertook to legislate, and its authority was submitted to, though not without some protest and remonstrance. It was sometimes necessary to establish a general regulation binding on all the colonies; and as there existed no general or central colonial government, it devolved upon the Imperial Parliament to enforce it. On this principle Parliament introduced the English Post-office system into the colonies, determined the rates of postage, regulated the currency, created new facilities for the collection of debts, established a uniform law of naturalisation, and even legislated about joint-stock companies.1
The relation of the colonial governments to the Crown varied in some degree in the different colonies. As a general rule the Governor and the Council represented the royal authority, and, except in the case of the three colonies of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland, the Crown had a right of disallowing laws which had passed through all their stages in America.2 The royal veto had fallen into complete disuse in England, but in the case of colonial legislation it was still not unfrequently employed. With the exception, however, of measures relating to commerce, colonial Acts were rarely or never annulled, except when they tended to injure or oppress some class of colonists. As the Governor was usually paid by an annual vote of the Assembly, and as he had very little patronage to dispose of, the Executive in the colonies was extremely weak, and the colonists, in spite of the occasional exercise of the royal veto, had probably a much more real control over legislation than the people of England. Trial by jury, both in civil and criminal cases, was as universal as in England; but an appeal lay from all the highest courts of judicature in the colonies to the King in Council.
There were assuredly no other colonies in the world so favourably situated. They had, however, before the passing of the Stamp Act, one real and genuine grievance, which was already preparing the way to the disruption of the Empire. I have already in a former volume enumerated the chief restrictions of the commercial code; but it is so important that the true extent of colonial grievances should be clearly understood, that I trust the reader will excuse some repetition in my narrative. The colonies were not, like Ireland, excluded from the Navigation Act, and they had no special reason to complain that their trade was restricted to vessels built either in England or in the plantations, and manned to the extent of two-thirds of their crew by British subjects. In this respect they were on an exact level with the mother country, and the arrangement was supposed to be very beneficial to both. It was, however, undoubtedly a great evil that the colonists were confined to the British dominions for a market for their tobacco, cotton, silk, coffee, indigo, naval stores, skins, sugar, and rice,1 as well as many less important articles; that they were prohibited from carrying any goods from Europe to America which had not first been landed in England, and that every form of colonial manufacture which could possibly compete with the manufactures of England was deliberately crushed. In the interest of the English wool manufacture they were forbidden to export their own woollen goods to any country whatever, or even to send them from colony to colony. In the interests of English iron merchants they were forbidden to set up any steel furnaces or slitting mills in the colonies. In the interest of English hatters they were forbidden to export their hats, or even to send them from one colony to another, and serious obstacles were thrown in the way of those who sought to establish a manufacture for purely home consumption. In the interest of the English sugar colonies, the importation of sugar, molasses, and rum from the French West India islands, which was of extreme importance to the New England colonies, was virtually forbidden. Every act of the colonial legislatures which sought to encourage a native or discourage an English branch of trade, was watched with jealous scrutiny. Thus in 1761 the Assembly of South Carolina, being sensible of the great social and political danger arising from the enormous multiplication of negroes in the colony, passed a law imposing a heavy duty upon the importation of slaves; but as the slave trade was one of the most lucrative branches of English commerce, the law was rescinded by the Crown. In the same year instructions were sent to the Governor of New Hampshire to refuse his assent to any law imposing duties on negroes imported into the colonies.1
There is, no doubt, much to be said in palliation of the conduct of England. If Virginia was prohibited from sending her tobacco to any European country except England, Englishmen were also prohibited from purchasing any tobacco except that which came from America or Bermuda. If many of the trades and manufactures in which the colonies were naturally most fitted to excel were restricted or crushed by law, English bounties encouraged the cultivation of indigo and the importation into England of pitch, tar, hemp, flax, and ship timber from America, and several articles of American produce obtained a virtual monopoly of the English market by their exemption from the duties which were imposed on similar articles imported from foreign countries. If the commercial system diminished very seriously the area of profitable commerce that was open to the colonies, it at least left them the elements of a great national prosperity. The trade with England and the trade with the English West Indies were large and lucrative, and the export trade to foreign countries was only prohibited in the case of those articles which were enumerated in the Navigation Act. Among the non-enumerated articles were some of the chief productions of the colonies—grain of all kinds, salted provisions, timber, fish, and rum; and in all these articles the colonists were suffered to trade with foreign nations without any other restriction than that of sending them in ships built and chiefly manned by British subjects. They were, however, forbidden, in the ordinary state of the law, to send salted provisions or any kind of grain except rice to England. The prohibition of the extremely important trade with the French West Indies was allowed, with the tacit connivance of the Government, to become for a long time little more than a dead letter. The provision which prevented the colonists from receiving any European goods except direct from England was much mitigated before 1763, and to some extent after that date, by the system of drawbacks freeing these goods from the greater part of the duties that would have been paid in England, so that many continental goods were actually sold more cheaply in America than in England. It was a great grievance and absurdity that, for the sake of a few Portugal merchants in London who charged a commission on the goods that passed through their hands, the colonists were forbidden to import directly wine, oil, and fruit from Portugal, and were obliged to send them the long journey to England, to be landed there, and then reshipped for America. But in practice this rule was somewhat mitigated, and American ships carrying fish to Portugal were tacitly allowed to bring back small quantities of wine and fruit as ship stores.1
It is a gross and flagrant misrepresentation to describe the commercial policy of England as exceptionally tyrannical. As Adam Smith truly said, ‘Every European nation had endeavoured more or less to monopolise to itself the commerce of its colonies, and upon that account had prohibited the ships of foreign nations from trading to them, and had prohibited them from importing European goods from any foreign nation;’ and ‘though the policy of Great Britain with regard to the trade of her colonies has been dictated by the same mercantile spirit as that of other nations, it has, upon the whole, been less illiberal and oppressive than that of any of them.’2 Even France, which was the most liberal of continental nations in her dealings with her colonies, imposed commercial restrictions more severe than those of England. Not only was the trade of French Canada, like that of British America, a monopoly of the mother country; it was not even open without restriction to Frenchmen and to Canadians, for the important trade in beavers belonged exclusively to a company in France, and could only be exercised under its authorisation.1
Still, when every allowance has been made, it is undoubtedly true that the commercial policy of England had established a real opposition of interest between the mother country and her colonies; and if the policy which was the proximate cause of the American Revolution was chiefly due to the King and to the landed gentry, the ultimate cause may be mainly traced to the great influence which the commercial classes possessed in British legislation. The expulsion of the French from Canada made it possible for the Americans to dispense with English protection. The commercial restrictions alone made it their interest to do so. If the ‘Wealth of Nations’ had been published a century earlier, and if its principles had passed into legislation, it is quite possible that the separation of England and her colonies might have been indefinitely adjourned. A false theory of commerce, then universally accepted, had involved both the mother country and her colonies in a web of restrictions which greatly retarded their development, and had provided a perpetual subject of irritation and dissension. The Custom-house and revenue officers, unlike other officials in America, were not paid by the local legislatures. They were appointed directly by the Crown or by the governors, and in America as in England cases of revenue fraud might by means of the Admiralty Court be tried without the intervention of a jury. Smuggling was very lucrative, and therefore very popular, and any attempt to interfere with it was greatly resented.
The attention of the British Government was urgently called to it during the war. At a time when Great Britain was straining every nerve to conquer Canada from the French, when the security of British America was one of the first objects of English policy, and when large sums were remitted from England to pay the colonies for fighting in their own cause, it was found that the French fleets, the French garrisons, and the French West India islands, were systematically supplied with large quantities of provisions by the New England colonies. The trade was carried on partly by ordinary smuggling and partly under the cover of flags of truce, granted ostensibly for the exchange of prisoners, and large numbers of persons, some of them, it is said, high in official life, connived and participated in it. Pitt, who still directed affairs, wrote with great indignation that this trade must at all hazards be suppressed; but the whole mercantile community of the New England seaports appears to have favoured or partaken in it, and great difficulties were found in putting the law into execution. The smuggling was even defended with a wonderful cynicism on the ground that it was good policy to make as much money as possible out of the enemy. Some papers seized in the possession of Frenchmen at New York showed clearly how extensive and well-organised was the plan of the French for obtaining their supplies from New England. Amherst wrote to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut to lay an embargo on all but transports engaged in Government employ, and this measure was actually taken, but it was removed in little more than a month.1 In order to detect if possible the smuggled goods, the Custom-house officers in 1761 applied to the Superior Court in Massachusetts to grant them ‘writs of assistance.’ These writs, which were frequently employed in England, and occasionally in the colonies, bore a great resemblance to the general warrants which soon after became so obnoxious in England. They were general writs authorising Custom-house officers to search any house they pleased for smuggled goods, and they were said to have been sometimes used for purposes of private annoyance. They appear, however, to have been perfectly legal, and if their employment was ever justifiable, it was in an attempt to put down a smuggling trade with the enemy in time of war. The issue of the warrants was resisted, though unsuccessfully, by the Boston merchants, and a young lawyer of some talent named James Otis, whose father had just been disappointed in his hopes of obtaining a seat upon the bench, signalised himself by an impassioned attack on the whole commercial code and on the alleged oppression of Parliament. His speech excited great enthusiasm in the colonies, and was afterwards regarded by John Adams and some others as the first step towards the Revolution.1
There were indeed already on all sides symptoms by which a careful observer might have foreseen that dangers were approaching. The country was full of restless military adventurers called into prominence by the war. The rapid rise of an ambitious legal profession and the great development of the Press made it certain that there would be abundant mouthpieces of discontent, and there was so much in the legal relations of England to her colonies that was anomalous, unsettled, or undefined, that causes of quarrel were sure to arise. The revenue laws were habitually violated. There was, in the Northern colonies at least, an extreme impatience of every form of control, and the Executive was almost powerless. The Government would gladly have secured for the judges in Massachusetts a permanent provision, which would place them in some degree beyond the control of the Assembly, but it found it impossible to carry it. The Assemblies of North Carolina and New York would gladly have secured for their judges a tenure of office during good behaviour, as in England, instead of at the King's pleasure, but the Home Government, fearing that this would still further weaken the Executive, gave orders that no such measure should receive the assent of the governors, and in New York the Assembly having refused on any other condition to vote the salaries of the judges, they were paid out of the royal quit rents.1
There were frequent quarrels between the governors and the Assemblies, and much violent language was employed. In 1762, on the arrival of some French ships off Newfoundland, the inhabitants of Massachusetts, who were largely employed in the fishery, petitioned the governor that a ship and sloop belonging to the province should be fitted out to protect their fishing boats. The governor and council complied with their request, and in order that the sloop should obtain rapidly its full complement of men he offered a bounty for enlistment. The whole expense of the bounty did not exceed 400l. The proceeding might be justified by many precedents, and it certainly wore no appearance of tyranny; but Otis, who had been made one of the representatives of Boston as a reward for his incendiary speech about the writs of assistance, saw an opportunity of gaining fresh laurels. He induced the House to vote a remonstrance to the governor, declaring that he had invaded ‘their most darling privilege, the right of originating taxes,’ and that ‘it would be of little consequence to the people whether they were subject to George the King of Great Britain or Lewis the French king if both were arbitrary, as both would be if both could levy taxes without Parliament.’ It was with some difficulty that the governor prevailed on the House to expunge the passage in which the King's name was so disloyally introduced.1
The immense advantages which the colonists obtained by the Peace of Paris had no doubt produced even in the New England colonies an outburst of loyal gratitude, but the prospect was again speedily overclouded. The direction of colonial affairs passed into the hands of George Grenville, and that unhappy course of policy was begun which in a few years deprived England of the noblest fruits of the administration of Pitt.
Up to this time the North American colonies had in time of peace been in general almost outside the cognisance of the Government. As their affairs had no influence on party politics Parliament took no interest in them, and Newcastle, during his long administration, had left them in almost every respect absolutely to themselves. It was afterwards said by a Treasury official, who was intimately acquainted with the management of affairs, that ‘Grenville lost America because he read the American despatches, which none of his predecessors had done.’ The ignorance and neglect of all colonial matters can indeed hardly be exaggerated, and it is stated by a very considerable American authority, that letters had repeatedly arrived from the Secretary of State who was officially entrusted with the administration of the colonies addressed ‘to the Governor of the Island of New England.’1 America owed much to this ignorance and to this neglect; and England was so rich, and the colonies were long looked upon as so poor, that there was no disposition to seek anything more from America than was derived from a partial monopoly of her trade. But the position of England, as well as of America, was now wholly changed. Her empire had been raised by Pitt to an unprecedented height of greatness, but she was reeling under a national debt of nearly 140 millions. Taxation was greatly increased. Poverty and distress were very general, and it had become necessary to introduce a spirit of economy into all parts of the administration, to foster every form of revenue, and if possible, to diffuse over the gigantic empire a military burden which was too great for one small island. There is reason to believe that in the ministry of Bute, Charles Townshend and his colleagues had already contemplated a change in the colonial system, that they desired to reduce the colonial governments to a more uniform system, to plant an army in America, and to support it by colonial taxes levied by the British Parliament, and that it was only the briefness of their tenure of office that prevented their scheme from coming to maturity.2 When Grenville succeeded to power on the fall of Bute, he took up the design, and his thorough knowledge of all the details of office, his impatience of any kind of neglect, abuse, and illegality, as well as his complete want of that political tact which teaches statesmen how far they may safely press their views, foreshadowed a great change in colonial affairs. He resolved to enforce strictly the trade laws, to establish permanently in America a portion of the British army, and to raise by parliamentary taxation of America at least a part of the money which was necessary for its support.
These three measures produced the American Revolution, and they are well worthy of a careful and dispassionate examination. The enormous extent of American smuggling had been brought into clear relief during the war, when it had assumed a very considerable military importance, and as early as 1762 there were loud complaints in Parliament of the administration of the Custom-house patronage. Grenville found on examination that the whole revenue derived by England from the custom-houses in America amounted to between 1,000l. and 2,000l. a year; that for the purpose of collecting this revenue the English Exchequer paid annually between 7,000l. and 8,000l., and that the chief Custom-house officers appointed by the Crown had treated their offices as sinecures, and by leave of the Treasury resided habitually in England.1 Great portions of the trade laws had been systematically violated. Thus, for example, the colonists were allowed by law to import no tea except from the mother country, and it was computed that of a million and a half pounds of tea which they annually consumed, not more than a tenth part came from England.2 This neglect Grenville resolved to terminate. The Commissioners of Customs were ordered at once to their posts. Several new revenue officers were appointed with more rigid rules for the discharge of their duties. The Board of Trade issued a circular to the colonies representing that the revenue had not kept pace with the increasing commerce, and did not yield more than one-quarter of the cost of collection, and requiring that illicit commerce should be suppressed, and that proper support should be given to the Custom-house officials. English ships of war were at the same time stationed off the American coast for the purpose of intercepting smugglers.1
In 1764 new measures of great severity were taken. The trade with the French West India islands and with the Spanish settlements, for molasses and sugar, had been one of the most lucrative branches of New England commerce. New England found in the French islands a market for her timber, and she obtained in return an abundant supply of the molasses required for her distilleries. The French West India islands were nearer than those of England. They were in extreme need of the timber of which New England furnished an inexhaustible supply, and they were in no less need of a market for their molasses, which had been excluded from France as interfering with French brandies, and of which enormous quantities were bought by the New England colonies. In 1763, 14,500 hogsheads of molasses were imported into New England from the French and Spanish settlements; it was largely paid for by timber which would otherwise have rotted uselessly on the ground, and the possibility of selling this timber at a profit gave a great impulse to the necessary work of clearing land in New England. No trade could have been more clearly beneficial to both parties, and the New Englanders maintained that it was the foundation of their whole system of commerce. The distilleries of Boston, and of other parts of New England, had acquired a great magnitude. Rum was sent in large quantities to the Newfoundland fisheries and to the Indians, and it is a circumstance of peculiar and melancholy interest that it was the main article which the Americans sent to Africa in exchange for negro slaves. In the trade with the Spanish settlements the colonists obtained the greater part of the gold and silver with which they purchased English commodities, and this fact was the more important because an English Act of Parliament had recently restrained the colonists from issuing paper money.1
In the interest of the English sugar colonies, which desired to obtain a monopoly for their molasses and their sugar, and which at the same time were quite incapable of furnishing a sufficient market for the superfluous articles of American commerce, a law had been passed in 1733 which imposed upon molasses a prohibitory duty of sixpence a gallon and on sugar a duty of five shillings per cwt. if they were imported into any of the British plantations from any foreign colonies. No portion of the commercial code was so deeply resented in America, and its effects would have been ruinous, had not the law been systematically eluded with the connivance of the revenue officers, and had not smuggling almost assumed the dimensions and the character of a branch of regular commerce. After several renewals the Act expired in 1763, and the colonies urgently petitioned that it should not be renewed.
Bernard, the Governor, and Hutchinson, the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, strongly condemned the policy of the Act, and dwelt upon the impossibility of enforcing it. Grenville, however, refused to relinquish what might be made a source of revenue, and the old law was renewed with several important modifications. The duty on molasses was reduced by one-half, but new duties were imposed on coffee, pimento, French and East India goods, white sugar and indigo from foreign colonies, Spanish and Portuguese wine, and wine from Madeira and the Azores, and the most stringent measures were taken to enforce the law. Bonds were exacted from every merchant who exported lumber or iron; the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty, which tried smuggling cases without a jury, was strengthened and enlarged, and all the officers of ships of war stationed on the coasts of America were made to take the Custom-house oaths and act as revenue officers. In addition, therefore, to the old race of experienced but conniving revenue officers, the repression of smuggling became the business of a multitude of rough and zealous sailors, who entered into the work with real keenness, with no respect of persons, and sometimes with not a little unnecessary or excessive violence. The measure was one of the most serious blows that could be administered to the somewhat waning prosperity of Boston, and it was the more obnoxious on account of its preamble, which announced as a reason for imposing additional duties that ‘it is just and necessary that a revenue be raised in your Majesty's dominions in America for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same.’ In order to diminish the severity of these restrictions, bounties were in the same year given to the cultivation of hemp and flax in the colonies. South Carolina and Georgia were allowed to export the rice which was their chief product to the French West India islands; and the whale fishery, which was one of the most profitable industries of New England, was relieved of a duty which had hitherto alone prevented it from completely superseding or eclipsing the whale fishery of England.1
Judging by the mere letter of the law, the commercial policy of Grenville can hardly be said to have aggravated the severity of the commercial code, for the new restrictions that were imposed were balanced by the new indulgences that were conferred. In truth, however, the severe enforcement of rules which had been allowed to become nearly obsolete was a most serious injury to the prosperity of New England. A trade which was in the highest degree natural and beneficial, and which had long been pursued with scarcely any hindrance, was impeded, and the avowed object of raising by imperial authority a revenue to defray the expense of defending the colonies, created a constitutional question of the gravest kind.
It was closely connected with the intention to place rather more than 10,000 soldiers permanently in America. This scheme was also much objected to. The colonists retained in its full force the dread of a standing army, which had been so powerful in England at the time of the Revolution. In time of war, they said, they had always shown themselves willing to raise troops at the requisition of the governor. Parliament, in the last war, had repeatedly acknowledged the alacrity they had displayed, and they asked why the country might not, as heretofore, be protected in time of peace by its own militias, which were organised and paid without any assistance from the mother country. It was urged that the expulsion of the French from Canada had greatly diminished its foreign dangers, and it was asked whether the army was really intended to guard against foreigners.
It is possible, and indeed very probable, that a desire to strengthen the feeble Executive, and to pievent the systematic violation of the revenue laws, was a motive with those who recommended the establishment of an army in America; but the primary object was, no doubt, the defence of the colonies and the maintenance of imperial interests. In the earlier stages of colonial history, little had been done in the way of protection, because these poor and scattered communities appeared of little value either to England or to her enemies. British America, however, was now a great and prosperous country. When we remember its vast extent, its great wealth, and its distance from the mother country; when we remember also that a great part of it had been but just annexed to the Crown, and that its most prosperous provinces were fringed by tribes of wild Indians, the permanent maintenance in it of a small army appears evidently expedient. The dangers from Indians in the north had been no doubt diminished by the conquest of Canada, but a terrible lesson had very recently shown how formidable Indian warfare might still become. In June 1763, a confederation including several Indian tribes had suddenly and unexpectedly swept over the whole western frontier of Pennsylvania and Virginia, had murdered almost all the English settlers who were scattered beyond the mountains, had surprised and captured every British fort between the Ohio and Lake Erie, and had closely blockaded Fort Detroit and Pittsburg. In no previous war had the Indians shown such skill, tenacity, and concert; and had there not been British troops in the country, the whole of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland would probably have been overrun. In spite of every effort, a long line of country twenty miles in breadth was completely desolated, and presented one hideous scene of plunder, massacre, and torture. It was only after much desperate fighting, after some losses, and several reverses, that the troops of Amherst succeeded in repelling the invaders and securing the three great fortresses of Niagara, Detroit, and Pittsburg.
The war lasted for fourteen months; but during the first six months, when the danger was at its height, the hard fighting appears to have been mainly done by English troops, though a considerable body of the militia of the Southern colonies were in the field. At last Amherst called upon the New England colonies to assist their brethren, but his request was almost disregarded. Massachusetts, being beyond the zone of immediate danger, and fatigued with the burden of the late war, would give no help; and Connecticut with great reluctance sent 250 men. After a war of extreme horror, peace was signed in September 1764. In a large degree by the efforts of English soldiers, the Indian territory was again rolled back, and one more great service was rendered by England to her colonies.1
This event was surely a sufficient justification of the policy of establishing a small army in the colonies. But it was not alone against the Indians that it was required. It was a general belief in America that if another war broke out, France would endeavour to regain Canada, and that she might be aided by an insurrection of her former subjects.2 It was almost certain that the next French war would extend to the West Indies, and in that case America would be a post of vital importance both for defence and for attack. It was plainly unwise that such a position should be left wholly denuded of troops, and dependent for its protection upon the precarious favour of the winds.
These considerations appear to me to justify fully the policy of the ministers in desiring to place a small army permanently in the colonies. We must next inquire whether it was unreasonable to expect the colonists to support it. The position of England after the Peace of Paris was wholly different from her position in the preceding century. She was no longer a small, compact, and essentially European country, with a few outlying possessions of comparatively little value. By the conquests of Clive in Hindostan, by the great development of the colonies of British America, by the acquisition of Florida and Canada and of the important islands which had recently been annexed, she had become the centre of an empire unrivalled since that of Charles V. and pregnant with the possibilities of almost unbounded progress. It devolved upon the English statesmen who obtained power after the Peace of Paris to legislate for these new conditions of national greatness, and to secure, as far as human sagacity could do so, the permanence of that great Empire which had been built up by so much genius and with so much blood, and which might be made the instrument of such incalculable benefits to mankind. The burden of the naval protection they proposed to leave exclusively with the mother country, but the burden of the military protection they proposed to divide. They maintained that it was wholly impossible that 8,000,000 Englishmen, weighed down with debt and with taxation, and with a strong traditional hostility to standing armies, could alone undertake the military protection of an empire so vast, so various, and in many of its parts so distant. Two subsidiary armies had already been created. The East India Company had its own forces for the defence of India, and Ireland supported a large force both for its own defence and for the general service of the Empire. Townshend and Grenville resolved to plant a third army in the colonies.
The case of Ireland is here worthy of special notice. If North America was the part of the British Empire where well-being was most widely diffused, Ireland was probably the part where there was most poverty. Her population may, perhaps, have exceeded the free population of British America by about a million; but her natural resources were infinitely less. By her exclusion from the Navigation Act she had been shut out from all direct trade with the British dependencies, while her most important manufactures had been suppressed by law. The great majority of her population had been reduced to extreme degradation by the penal code. She was burdened by a tithe system supporting an alien Church. Her social system was disorganised by repeated confiscations and by the emigration of her most energetic classes, and she was drained of her little wealth by absenteeism, by a heavy pension list, and by an exaggerated establishment in Church and State, in which the chief offices were reserved for Englishmen. Yet Ireland from Irish revenues supported an army of 12,000 men, which was raised in 1769 to 15,000.
I have no wish to deny that the Stamp Act was a grievance to the Americans, but it is due to the truth of history that the gross exaggerations which have been repeated on the subject should be dispelled, and that the nature of the alleged tyranny of England should be clearly defined. It cannot be too distinctly stated that there is not a fragment of evidence that any English statesman, or any class of the English people, desired to raise anything by direct taxation from the colonies for purposes that were purely English. They did not ask them to contribute anything to the support of the navy which protected their coast, or anything to the interest of the English debt. At the close of a war which had left England overwhelmed with additional burdens, in which the whole resources of the British Empire had been strained for the extension and security of the British territory in America, by which the American colonists had gained incomparably more than any other of the subjects of the Crown, the colonies were asked to bear their share in the burden of the Empire by contributing a third part—they would no doubt ultimately have been asked to contribute the whole—of what was required for the maintenance of an army of 10,000 men, intended primarily for their own defence. 100,000l. was the highest estimate of what the Stamp Act would annually produce, and it was rather less than a third part of the expense of the new army. This was what England asked from the most prosperous portion of her Empire. Every farthing which it was intended to raise in America, it was intended also to spend there.
The great grievance was of course that the sum was to be raised by imperial taxation, and that it was therefore a departure from the old system of government in the colonies. Hitherto the distinction between external and internal taxation had been the leading principle of colonial administration. Parliament exercised a recognised right when it determined the commercial system of the colonies by the imposition of duties which produced indeed some small revenue, but which were not intended for that purpose, but solely for the purpose of commercial regulation. But taxes intended for the purpose of revenue had only been imposed by the colonial assemblies. Twice already in the eighteenth century the imposition of imperial taxation for military purposes had been contemplated. In 1739 a body of American merchants under the leadership of Sir W. Keith, the Governor of Pennsylvania, had proposed the establishment of a body of troops along the western frontier of the British settlements, and had suggested a parliamentary duty on stamped paper and parchments as a means of defraying the expense; but Walpole had wisely declined to accede to the proposition. In 1754, when it was necessary to make preparations for the great war with France, and when the scheme for uniting the colonies for military purposes had failed, the Government proposed that the governors of the several provinces should meet together, and with some members of the general councils should concert measures for the defence of the colonies. It was proposed that the English Treasury should advance such sums as they deemed necessary for this purpose, and that it should be reimbursed by a tax imposed on all the colonies by the Imperial Parliament. The extreme difficulty of obtaining any simultaneous military action of the colonies, and the impossibility of inducing the colonies which were remote from the immediate danger to contribute their quota to the common cause, were the reasons alleged; and in order that the grievance should be as small as possible, it was intended that Parliament should only determine the proportion to be paid by each colony, leaving it to each colonial assembly to raise that sum as it pleased. Franklin, who was consulted about the scheme, wrote some able letters to Shirley, the Governor of Massachusetts, protesting against it, and Pitt refused to adopt it.1
The constitutional competence of Parliament to tax the colonies is a question of great difficulty, upon which the highest legal authorities have been divided, though the decided preponderance of legal opinion has been in favour of the right. Parliament repeatedly claimed and exercised a general right of legislating for the colonies, and it is not possible to show by the distinct letter of the law that this did not include the right to make laws imposing taxes. It was admitted by the Americans that it might impose trade duties which produced revenue, though they were not primarily intended for that purpose; and it is certain that the Charter of Pennsylvania, though of that colony alone, expressly reserved to Parliament the right of taxation.1 To an accurate thinker, indeed, it must appear evident that every law which in the interest of English manufacturers prohibited the Americans from pursuing a form of manufacture, or buying a particular class of goods from foreigners, was in reality a tax. The effect of the monopoly was that the Americans paid more for these goods than if they had produced them or bought them from foreigners, and this excess was a sum levied from the Americans for the benefit of England. If the Virginian planters were obliged by restrictive laws to send their tobacco to England alone, and if a tax was imposed on all tobacco in England for the purpose of revenue, it is clear that at least a portion of that tax was really paid by the producer in Virginia. It is also not evident in the nature of things why the general defence of the Empire should be esteemed less an imperial concern than the regulation of commerce; and why, if Parliament might bind the colonies and raise money for the regulation of their commercial system, she might not also both determine and enforce their military obligations. The general opinion of English lawyers appears to have been that the distinction between internal and external taxation had no basis in law or in fact, and that the right of the English Legislature was supreme over the colonies, however impolitic it might be to exercise it. In 1724 the law officers of the Crown, one of whom was Sir Philip Yorke, had given their opinion that ‘a colony of English subjects cannot be taxed but by some representative body of their own or by the Parliament of England;’ and a similar opinion was given in 1744 by Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield. Mansfield was subsequently one of the strongest advocates of the Stamp Act, and the most vehement opponent of its repeal. In a few years the colonial lawyers appear to have agreed substantially with those of England, for they maintained that, in order to establish by argument the sole right of the Assemblies to tax the colonies, it was necessary to deny that the Imperial Parliament had any power of legislating for them.
It was admitted that it was a new thing to impose internal taxation on the colonies. The Post Office revenue, which was often alleged as an example, might be regarded merely as a payment exacted for the performance of a service of general utility, and the propriety of imposing this new burden on the colonies was defended on the ground that the circumstances both of the colonies and of England had radically changed.1 The idea, however, of supporting an American army by imperial taxation of America was, as we have seen, not new, and some of the best judges of American affairs appeared to regard it as feasible. When the question of establishing a general fund during the war was under discussion in 1754 and 1755, Governor Shirley gave his opinion ‘that the several Assemblies within the colonies will not agree among themselves upon such a fund; that consequently it must be done in England, and that the only effectual way of doing it there will be by an Act of Parliament, in which I have great reason to think the people will readily acquiesce, and that the success of any other method will be doubtful.’1
This passage implies what was probably the strongest argument weighing upon the ministers. It was the absolute impossibility of inducing America to support her own army unless the English Parliament intervened. There was no central colonial government. There was no body, like the Irish Parliament, competent to tax the several provinces. In order to raise the money for the support of an American army with the assent of the colonies, it was necessary to have the assent of no less than seventeen colonial assemblies. The hopelessness of attempting to fulfil this condition was very manifest. If in the agonies of a great war it had been found impossible to induce the colonies to act together; if the Southern colonies long refused to assist the Northern ones in their struggle against France because they were far from the danger; if South Carolina, when reluctantly raising troops for the war, stipulated that they should act only within their own province; if New England would give little or no assistance while the Indians were carrying desolation over Virginia and Pennsylvania; what chance was there that all these colonies would agree in time of peace to impose uniform and proportionate taxation upon themselves for the support of an English army?2 It seemed evident, as a matter of practical statesmanship, that it would be impossible, without the assistance of Parliament, to support an American army by American taxation, unless the provinces could be induced to confide the power of taxation to a single colonial assembly, and unless England could induce that assembly, by the promise of commercial relaxations, to vote a subsidy. To both parts of this scheme the difficulties were enormous, and probably insuperable. Extreme jealousy of England, of the Executive, and of each other, animated the colonies, while a spirit of intense commercial monopoly was dominant in England. Under these conditions the problem might well have appeared a hopeless one.
It would have been far wiser, under such circumstances, to have abandoned the project of making the Americans pay for their army, and to have thrown the burden on the mother country. Heavily as the English were at this time taxed, grievous as was the discontent that was manifested among the people, the support of a small American army would not have been overwhelming, while a conflict with the colonists on the question could lead to no issue that was not disastrous. There was indeed one method which might possibly have been successful. Fresh duties imposed on American goods might have raised the required sum in a manner mischievous and wasteful indeed both to England and the colonies, but not wholly inconsistent with the usual tenor of their government, and in the opinion of Franklin such a measure might have been acquiesced in. In the beginning of 1764 that very shrewd observer wrote a letter urging the necessity of converting the Government of Pennsylvania from a proprietary into a royal one, in which there occurs a passage which is singularly curious when read in the light of the author's subsequent career. ‘That we shall have a standing army to maintain,’ he says, ‘is another bugbear raised to terrify us from endeavouring to obtain a king's government. It is very possible that the Crown may think it necessary to keep troops in America hence-forward, to maintain its conquests and defend the colonies, and that the Parliament may establish some revenue arising out of the American trade to be applied towards supporting these troops. It is possible too that we may, after a few years’ experience, be generally very well satisfied with that measure, from the steady protection it will afford us against foreign enemies and the security of internal peace among ourselves without the expense and trouble of a militia.’1
Grenville adopted another course, but he acted with evident reluctance and hesitation. In March 1764, at the same time as the commercial measure I have already described, he brought forward and carried a resolution asserting that ‘for further defraying the expense of protecting the colonies it may be proper to charge certain stamp duties in the said colonies.’ Further measures were postponed for a year, in order to ascertain fully the sentiments of the colonies, and also to give them an opportunity, if they chose to avail themselves of it, either of suggesting some other tax or of preventing the action of Parliament by themselves raising the sum which was required.1
At the close of this session the agents of the different colonies went in a body to Grenville to ask him if it was still his intention to bring in the threatened Bill. Grenville replied positively in the affirmative, and he defended his determination by arguments which he had already used both in private and in the House of Commons. The interview was described by Mauduit, the agent of Massachusetts, in a letter to his colony, and his accuracy was fully attested by Montagu, the agent for Virginia. Grenville, according to these reporters, urged ‘that the late war had found us 70 millions, and had left us more than 140 millions in debt. He knew that all men wished not to be taxed, but in these unhappy circumstances it was his duty as a steward for the public to make use of every just means of improving the public revenue. He never meant, however, to charge the colonies with any part of the interest of the national debt. But, besides that public debt, the nation had incurred a great annual expense in the maintaining of the several new conquests which we had made during the war, and by which the colonies were so much benefited. The American civil and military establishment, after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, was only 70,000l. per annum. It was now 350,000l. This was a great additional expense incurred upon American account, and he thought therefore that America ought to contribute towards it. He did not expect that the colonies should raise the whole; but some part of it he thought they ought to raise, and a stamp duty was intended for that purpose.’ He then proceeded to defend the particular tax which he had selected. It was the easiest. It was the most equitable. It would fall exclusively on property. It could be collected by very few officers. It would be equally spread over America and the West Indies. ‘I am not, however,’ he continued, ‘set upon this tax. If the Americans dislike it, and prefer any other method of raising the money themselves, I shall be content. Write therefore to your several colonies, and if they choose any other mode I shall be satisfied, provided the money be but raised.’1 He hinted that by agreeing to the tax the Americans could make a precedent for their being always consulted by the ministry before they were taxed by Parliament.1
Grenville has been much blamed for not having made a formal requisition to each colonial Assembly, as was usual in time of war, requesting them to raise a sum for the support of the army; but it is almost certain that such a requisition would in most, if not all, cases have been refused, and the demand would have been made use of as a proof that Parliament had no right to impose the required tax. It is evident, however, that if the colonies were anxious to avoid what they regarded as the oppression of parliamentary taxation, by themselves making the provision for the required army, they had ample time and opportunity to do so. They were, however, quite resolved not to contribute to the army in any form. They had not asked for it. They disliked and dreaded it as strengthening the English Government. Their own taxes were much increased by burdens inherited from the war; a great part of the country was still suffering from recent devastations by the Indians, and the irritation caused by the measures against smuggling was very strong. The proposed tax was discussed in every provincial Assembly, and the result was a long series of resolutions and addresses to Parliament denying in the most emphatic terms the right of Parliament to tax America, and asserting that if the scheme of the minister were carried into effect, ‘it would establish the melancholy truth that the inhabitants of the colonies are the slaves of the Britons from whom they are descended.’2 The Pennsylvanians alone made some advance in the direction of compromise by resolving that, ‘as they always had thought, so they always shall think it their duty to grant aid to the Crown, according to their abilities, whenever required of them in the usual constitutional manner,’ but they took no measure to carry their resolution into effect. In New England the doctrine that Parliament had no right whatever to legislate for America was now loudly proclaimed, and Otis was as usual active in fanning resistance to the Government.
It was obvious that a very dangerous spirit was arising in the colonies. A few voices were raised in favour of the admission of American representatives into Parliament; but this plan, which was advocated by Otis and supported by the great names of Franklin and of Adam Smith, would have encountered enormous practical difficulties, and it found few friends in either country. Grenville himself, however, appears to have for a time seriously contemplated it. As he was accustomed to say to his friends, he had never entertained the smallest design against American liberty, and the sole object of his colonial policy was to induce or oblige America to contribute to the expense of her own defence in the same manner as Ireland. He had consulted the colonial agents in order that the colonies might themselves suggest the form of the contribution, and establish the precedent of being always in such cases consulted. He had deferred the Stamp Act for a whole year in order that the colonies might, if they chose, make imperial taxation unnecessary; and if the Americans thought that their liberties would become more secure by the introduction of American representatives into the British Parliament, he was quite ready to support such a scheme.1 He would probably, however, have found it not easy to carry in England, and it was soon after utterly repudiated in America. At the same time, after the open denial of the competence of Parliament to tax the colonies, it was especially difficult to recede, and Grenville had some reason to think that the colonial addresses exaggerated the sentiments of the people. When the project was first laid before the agents of the colonies, the Agent for Rhode Island was the only one who unequivocally repudiated it.1 The form of the tax was not one which would naturally attract much attention, and it might be hoped that public opinion would soon look upon it as of the same nature as the postal revenue which the Imperial Parliament had long levied in the colonies.
In February 1765 the agents of several of the colonies had an interview with Grenville, and made one last effort to dissuade him from introducing the measure. Grenville, in his reply, expressed his sincere regret if he was exciting resentments in America, but, he said, ‘it is the duty of my office to manage the revenue. I have really been made to believe that, considering the whole circumstances of the mother country and the colonies, the latter can and ought to pay something to the public cause. I know of no better way than that now pursuing to lay such a tax. If you can tell of a better I will adopt it.’ Benjamin Franklin, who had shortly before come over as Agent for Philadelphia, presented the resolution of the Assembly of his province, and urged that the demand for money should be made in the old constitutional way to the Assembly of each province in the form of a requisition by the governor. ‘Can you agree,’ rejoined Grenville, ‘on the proportions each colony should raise?’ The question touched the heart of the difficulty; the agents were obliged to answer in the negative, and the interview speedily closed. A few days later the fatal Bill was introduced into a nearly empty House, and it passed through all its stages almost unopposed. It made it necessary for all bills, bonds, leases, policies of insurance, newspapers, broadsides, and legal documents of all kinds to be written on stamped paper, to be sold by public officers at varying prices prescribed by the law. The proceeds were to be paid into his Majesty's treasury, and they were to be applied, under the direction of the Parliament, exclusively to the protection and defence of the colonies.1 Offences against the Stamp Act were to be cognisable in America as in England by the Courts of Admiralty, and without the intervention of juries. In order to soften the opposition, and to consult, to the utmost of his power, the wishes of the colonists, Grenville informed the colonial agents that the distribution of the stamps should be confided not to Englishmen but to Americans, and he requested them to name such persons in their respective provinces as they thought best qualified for the purpose and most acceptable to the inhabitants. They all complied with the request, and Franklin named one of his intimate friends as stamp distributor for Pennsylvania.
The Stamp Act, when its ultimate consequences are considered, must be deemed one of the most momentous legislative Acts in the history of mankind; but in England it passed almost completely unnoticed. The Wilkes excitement absorbed public attention, and no English politician appears to have realised the importance of the measure. It is scarcely mentioned in the contemporary correspondence of Horace Walpole, of Grenville, or of Pitt. Burke, who was not yet a member of the House of Commons, afterwards declared that he had followed the debate from the gallery, and that he had never heard a more languid one in the House; that not more than two or three gentlemen spoke against the Bill; that there was but one division in the whole course of the discussion, and that the minority in that division was not more than thirty-nine or forty. In the House of Lords he could not remember that there had been either a debate or division, and he was certain that there was no protest.1 Pitt was at this time confined to his bed by illness, and Conway, Beckford, and Barré appear to have been almost the only opponents of the measure. The latter, whose American experience during the Canadian war had given him considerable weight, described the colonists, in a fine piece of declamation, as ‘sons of liberty’ planted in America by the oppression and strengthened by the neglect of England, and he predicted that the same love of freedom which had led them into an uncultivated and inhospitable country, and had supported them through so many hardships and so many dangers, would accompany them still, and would inspire them with an indomitable resolution to vindicate their violated liberty. His words appear to have excited no attention in England, and were not even reported in the contemporary parliamentary history; but they were at once transmitted to America by the Agent for Connecticut, who had been present in the gallery, and they contributed not a little to stimulate the flame. The ‘sons of liberty’ became from this time the favourite designation of the American associations against the Stamp Act.
In truth, the measure, although it was by no means as unjust or as unreasonable as has been alleged, and although it might perhaps in some periods of colonial history have passed almost unperceived, did unquestionably infringe upon a principle which the English race both at home and abroad have always regarded with a peculiar jealousy. The doctrine that taxation and representation are in free nations inseparably connected, that constitutional government is closely connected with the rights of property, and that no people can be legitimately taxed except by themselves or their representatives, lay at the very root of the English conception of political liberty. The same principle that had led the English people to provide so carefully in the Great Charter, in a well-known statute of Edward I., and in the Bill of Rights, that no taxation should be drawn from them except by the English Parliament; the same principle which had gradually invested the representative branch of the Legislature with the special and peculiar function of granting supplies, led the colonists to maintain that their liberty would be destroyed if they were taxed by a Legislature in which they had no representatives, and which sat 3,000 miles from their shore. It was a principle which had been respected by Henry VIII. and Elizabeth in the most arbitrary moments of their reigns, and its violation by Charles I. was one of the chief causes of the Rebellion. The principle which led Hampden to refuse to pay 20s. of ship money was substantially the same as that which inspired the resistance to the Stamp Act. It might be impossible to show by the letter of the law that there was any generical distinction between taxing and other legislative Acts; but in the constitutional traditions of the English people a broad line did undoubtedly exist. As Burke truly said, ‘the great contests for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly on the question of taxing.’ The English people have always held that as long as their representatives retain the power of the purse they will be able at last to check every extravagance of tyranny, but that whenever this is given up the whole fabric of their liberty is undermined. The English Parliament had always abstained from imposing taxes on Wales until Welsh members sat among them. When the right of self-taxation was withdrawn from Convocation, the clergy at once assumed and exercised the privilege of voting for Members of Parliament in virtue of their ecclesiastical freeholds. The English Parliament repeatedly asserted its authority over the Parliament of Ireland, and it often exerted it in a manner which was grossly tyrannical; but it never imposed any direct tax upon the Irish people. The weighty language of Henry Cromwell, who governed Ireland in one of the darkest periods of her history, was remembered: ‘I am glad,’ he wrote, ‘to hear that as well non-legal as contra-legal ways of raising money are not hearkened to. … Errors in raising money are the compendious ways to cause a general discontent; for whereas other things are but the concernments of some, this is of all. Wherefore, I hope God will in His mercy not lead us into temptation.’1
It is quite true that this theory, like that of the social contract which has also borne a great part in the history of political liberty, will not bear a severe and philosophical examination. The opponents of the American claims were able to reply, with undoubted truth, that at least nine-tenths of the English people had no votes; that the great manufacturing towns, which contributed so largely to the public burdens, were for the most part wholly unrepresented; that the minority in Parliament voted only in order to be systematically overruled; and that, in a country where the constituencies were as unequal as in England, that minority often represented the large majority of the voters. It was easy to show that the financial system of the country consisted chiefly of a number of particular taxes imposed on particular classes and industries, and that in the great majority of cases these taxes were levied not only without the consent but in spite of the strenuous opposition of the representatives of those who paid them. The doctrine that ‘whatever a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, and cannot without robbery be taken from him, except by his own consent,’ if it were applied rigidly to taxation, would reduce every society to anarchy; for there is no tax which on such principles a large proportion of the taxpayers would not be authorised in resisting. It was a first principle of the Constitution that a Member of Parliament was the representative not merely of his own constituency, but also of the whole Empire. Men connected with, or at least specially interested in the colonies, always found their way into Parliament; and the very fact that the colonial arguments were maintained with transcendent power within its walls was sufficient to show that the colonies were virtually represented.
Such arguments gave an easy dialectic victory to the supporters of the Stamp Act; but in the eyes of a true statesman they are very insufficient. Severe accuracy of definition, refinement and precision of reasoning, are for the most part wholly out of place in practical polities. It might be true that there was a line where internal and external taxation, taxation for purposes of commerce and taxation for purposes of revenue, faded imperceptibly into one another; but still there was a broad, rough distinction between the two provinces which was sufficiently palpable to form the basis of a colonial policy. The theory connecting representation with taxation was susceptible of a similar justification. A Parliament elected by a considerable part of the English people, drawn from the English people, sitting in the midst of them, and exposed to their social and intellectual influence, was assumed to represent the whole nation, and the decision of its majority was assumed to be the decision of the whole. If it be asked how these assumptions could be defended, it can only be answered that they had rendered possible a form of government which had arrested the incursions of the royal prerogative, had given England a longer period and a larger measure of self-government than was enjoyed by any other great European nation, and had created a public spirit sufficiently powerful to defend the liberties that had been won. Such arguments, however worthless they might appear to a lawyer or a theorist, ought to be very sufficient to a statesman. Manchester and Sheffield had no more direct representation in Parliament than Boston or Philadelphia; but the relations of unrepresented Englishmen and of colonists to the English Parliament were very different. Parliament could never long neglect the fierce beatings of the waves of popular discontent around its walls. It might long continue perfectly indifferent to the wishes of a population 3,000 miles from the English shore. When Parliament taxed the English people, the taxing body itself felt the weight of the burden it imposed; but Parliament felt no part of the weight of colonial taxation, and had therefore a direct interest in increasing it. The English people might justly complain that they were taxed by a body in which they were very imperfectly represented; but this was a widely different thing from being taxed by the Legislature of another country. To adopt the powerful language of an Irish writer, no free people will ever admit ‘that persons distant from them 1,000 leagues are to tax them to what amount they please, without their consent, without knowing them or their concerns, without any sympathy of affection or interest, without even sharing themselves in the taxes they impose—on the contrary, diminishing their own burdens exactly in the degree they increase theirs.’1
The Stamp Act received the royal assent on March 22, 1765, and it was to come into operation on the 1st of November following. It was accompanied by a measure granting the colonies bounties for the import of their timber into England, permitting them to export it freely to Ireland, Madeira, the Azores, and any part of Europe south of Cape Finisterre; and in some other ways slightly relaxing the trade restrictions.2 A measure was also passed which obliged the colonists to provide the British troops stationed among them with quarters, and also with fire, candles, beds, vinegar, and salt. Neither of these measures, however, at the time excited much attention, and public interest in the colonies was wholly concentrated upon the Stamp Act. The long delay, which had been granted in the hope that it might lead to some proposal of compromise from America, had been sedulously employed by skilful agitators in stimulating the excitement; and when the news arrived that the Stamp Act had been carried, the train was fully laid, and the indignation of the colonies rose at once into a flame. Virginia set the example by a series of resolutions which were termed ‘the alarum bell to the disaffected,’ and which were speedily copied in the other provinces. They declared that the colonists were entitled by charter to all the liberties and privileges of natural-born subjects; ‘that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, … is the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist,’ and that this inestimable right had always been recognised by the King and people of Great Britain as undoubtedly belonging to the colonies. A congress of representatives of nine States was held at New York, and in an extremely able State paper they drew up the case of the colonies. They acknowledged that they owed allegiance to the Crown, and ‘all due subordination to that august body, the Parliament of Great Britain;’ but they maintained that they were entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of natural-born subjects; ‘that it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them but with their own consent, given personally or by their representatives;’ that the colonists ‘are not, and from their local circumstances cannot be, represented in the House of Commons of Great Britain;’ that the only representatives of the colonies, and therefore the only persons constitutionally competent to tax them, were the members chosen in the colonies by themselves; and ‘that all supplies of the Crown being free gifts from the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British Constitution for the people of Great Britain to grant to his Majesty the property of the colonies.’ A petition to the King and memorials to both Houses of Parliament were drawn up embodying these views.1
It was not, however, only by such legal measures that the opposition was shown. A furious outburst of popular violence speedily showed that it would be impossible to enforce the Act. In Boston, Oliver, the secretary of the province, who had accepted the office of stamp distributor, was hung in effigy on a tree in the main street of the town. The building which had been erected as a Stamp Office was levelled with the dust; the house of Oliver was attacked, plundered, and wrecked, and he was compelled by the mob to resign his office and to swear beneath the tree on which his effigy had been so ignominiously hung, that he never would resume it. A few nights later the riots recommenced with redoubled fury. The houses of two of the leading officials connected with the Admiralty Court and with the Custom-house were attacked and rifled, and the files and records of the Admiralty Court were burnt. The mob, intoxicated with the liquors which they had found in one of the cellars they had plundered, next turned to the house of Hutchinson, the Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of the province. Hutchinson was not only the second person in rank in the colony, he was also a man who had personal claims of the highest kind upon his countrymen. He was an American, a Calvinist, a member of one of the oldest colonial families, and in a country where literary enterprise was very uncommon he had devoted a great part of his life to investigating the history of his native province. His rare ability, his stainless private character, and his great charm of manner were universally recognised;2 he had at one time been one of the most popular men in the colony, and he had been selected by the great majority of the Assembly as their agent to oppose in England the restrictive commercial laws of Grenville. Bernard, however, considering this position incompatible with the office of Lieutenant-Governor, which Hutchinson had held since 1758, induced him to decline it; and although Hutchinson was opposed to the policy of the Stamp Act, the determination with which he acted as Chief Justice in supporting the law soon made him obnoxious to the mob. He had barely time to escape with his family, when his house, which was the finest in Boston, was attacked and destroyed. His plate, his furniture, his pictures, the public documents in his possession, and a noble library which he had spent thirty years in collecting, were plundered and burnt. Resolutions were afterwards carried in the town for suppressing riots, but nothing was done, and it was evident that the prevailing feeling was with the rioters. Mayhew, one of the most popular preachers of Boston, had just before denounced the Stamp Act from the pulpit, preaching from the text, ‘I would that they were even cut off which trouble you.’ A leading tradesman who had been notoriously a ringleader was apprehended by the sheriffs, but he was released without inquiry in consequence of a large portion of the civic guard having threatened to disband themselves if he were committed to prison. Eight or ten persons of inferior note were actually imprisoned, but the mob compelled the gaoler to surrender the keys and release them, and not a single person was really punished.1
The flame rapidly spread. In the newly annexed provinces, indeed, and in most of the West India islands, the Act was received without difficulty, but in nearly every American colony those who had consented to be stamp distributors were hung and burnt in effigy, and compelled by mob violence to resign their posts. The houses of many who were known to be supporters of the Act or sympathisers with the Government were attacked and plundered. Some were compelled to fly from the colonies, and the authority of the Home Government was exposed to every kind of insult. In New York the effigy of the Governor was paraded with that of the devil round the town and then publicly burnt, and threatening letters were circulated menacing the lives of those who distributed stamps.1 The merchants of the chief towns entered into agreements to order no more goods from England, to cancel all orders already given, in some cases even to send no remittances to England in payment of their debts, till the Stamp Act was repealed. The lawyers combined to make no use of the stamped papers. In order that the colonies might be able to dispense with assistance from England, great efforts were made to promote manufactures. The richest citizens set the example of dressing in old or homespun clothes rather than wear new clothes imported from England; and in order to supply the deficiency of wool, a general agreement was made to abstain from eating lamb.
When the 1st of November arrived, the bells were tolled as for the funeral of a nation. The flags were hung half-mast high. The shops were shut, and the Stamp Act was hawked about with the inscription, ‘The folly of England and the ruin of America.’ The newspapers were obliged by the new law to bear the stamp, which probably contributed much to the extreme virulence of their opposition, and many of them now appeared with a death's head in the place where the stamp should have been. It was found not only impossible to distribute stamps, but even impossible to keep them in the colonies, for the mob seized on every box which was brought from England and committed it to the flames. Stamps were required for the validity of every legal document, yet in most of the colonies not a single sheet of stamped paper could be found. The law courts were for a time closed, and almost all business was suspended. At last the governors, considering the impossibilty of carrying on public business or protecting property under these conditions, took the law into their own hands, and issued letters authorising non-compliance with the Act on the ground that it was absolutely impossible to procure the requisite stamps in the colony.
The determination of the opponents of the Act was all the greater because in the interval between its enactment and the period in which it was to come into operation a change had taken place in the Administration at home. The Grenville Ministry had fallen in July, and had been succeeded by that of Rockingham; and Conway, who had been one of the few opponents of the Stamp Act, was now Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Up to this time colonial affairs had scarcely excited any attention in the English political world. The Duke of Cumberland, in a long and detailed memorial,1 has recounted the negotiations he was instructed to carry on with Pitt in April and May 1765, with a view to inducing that statesman to combine with the Rockingham party in a new ministry, and it is very remarkable that in this memorial there is not a word relating to the colonies. The general political condition of the country was carefully reviewed. Much was said about the Regency Bill, the Cyder Bill, the dismissal of officers on account of their votes, the illegality of general warrants, the abuses of military patronage, the growing power of the House of Bourbon, the propriety of attempting a new alliance with Prussia; but there is not the smallest evidence that either Pitt or Cumberland, or any of the other statesmen who were concerned in the negotiation, were conscious that any serious question was impending in America. The Stamp Act had contributed nothing to the downfall of Grenville; it attracted so little attention that it was only in the last days of 1765 or the first days of 1766 that the new ministers learnt the views of Pitt upon the subject;1 it was probably a complete surprise to them to learn that it had brought the colonies to the verge of rebellion, and in the first months of their power they appear to have been quite uncertain what policy they would pursue. One of the first persons in England who fully realised the magnitude of the question was the King. On December 5, 1765, he wrote to Conway: ‘I am more and more grieved at the accounts of America. Where this spirit will end is not to be said. It is undoubtedly the most serious matter that ever came before Parliament; it requires more deliberation, candour, and temper than I fear it will meet with.’2
The ministers would gladly have left the question of American taxation undecided, but this was no longer possible. Parliament had almost unanimously asserted its right, and the colonial Assemblies had defiantly denied it. The servants of the Crown had in nearly every colony been insulted or plundered, and the honour of England and of the Parliament was deeply touched. The Ministry was very weak; Pitt had refused to join it; the King disliked and distrusted it, and he was strongly in favour of the coercion of America. On the other hand, it was clear that the Act could not be enforced without war, and the merchants all over England were suffering seriously from the suspension of the American trade. Petitions were presented from the traders of London, Bristol, Liverpool, and other towns, stating that the colonists were indebted to the merchants of this country to the amount of several millions sterling for English goods which had been exported to America; that the colonists had hitherto faithfully made good their engagements, but that they now declared their inability to do so; that they would neither give orders for new goods nor pay for those which they had actually received; and that unless Parliament speedily retraced its steps, multitudes of English manufacturers would be reduced to bankruptcy. In Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, and many other towns, thousands of artisans had been thrown out of employment. Glasgow complained that the Stamp Act was threatening it with absolute ruin, for its trade was principally with America, and not less than half a million of money was due by the colonists of Maryland and Virginia alone to Glasgow merchants.1
Parliament met on December 17, 1765, and the attitude of the different parties was speedily disclosed. A powerful Opposition, led by Grenville and Bedford, strenuously urged that no relaxation or indulgence should be granted to the colonists. In two successive sessions the policy of taxing America had been deliberately affirmed, and if Parliament now suffered itself to be defied or intimidated its authority would be for ever at an end. The method of reasoning by which the Americans maintained that they could not be taxed by a Parliament in which they were not represented, might be applied with equal plausibility to the Navigation Act and to every other branch of imperial legislation for the colonies, and it led directly to the disintegration of the Empire. The supreme authority of Parliament chiefly held the different parts of that Empire together. The right of taxation was an essential part of the sovereign power. The colonial constitutions were created by royal charter, and it could not be admitted that the King, while retaining his own sovereignty over certain portions of his dominions, could by a mere exercise of his prerogative withdraw them wholly or in part from the authority of the British Parliament. It was the right and the duty of the Imperial Legislature to determine in what proportions the different parts of the Empire should contribute to the defence of the whole, and to see that no one part evaded its obligations and unjustly transferred its share to the others. The conduct of the colonies, in the eyes of these politicians, admitted of no excuse or palliation. The disputed right of taxation was established by a long series of legal authorities, and there was no real distinction between internal and external taxation. It now suited the Americans to describe themselves as apostles of liberty, and to denounce England as an oppressor. It was a simple truth that England governed her colonies more liberally than any other country in the world. They were the only existing colonies which enjoyed real political liberty. Their commercial system was more liberal than that of any other colonies. They had attained, under British rule, to a degree of prosperity which was surpassed in no quarter of the globe. England had loaded herself with debt in order to remove the one great danger to their future; she cheerfully bore the whole burden of their protection by sea. At the Peace of Paris she had made their interests the very first object of her policy, and she only asked them in return to bear a portion of the cost of their own defence. Somewhat more than eight millions of Englishmen were burdened with a national debt of 140,000,000l. The united debt of about two millions of Americans was now less than 800,000l. The annual sum the colonists were asked to contribute in the form of stamp duties was less than 100,000l., with an express provision that no part of that sum should be devoted to any other purpose than the defence and protection of the colonies. And the country which refused to bear this small tax was so rich that in the space of three years it had paid off 1,755,000l. of its debt. No demand could be more moderate and equitable than that of England; and amid all the high-sounding declamations that were warted across the Atlantic, it was not difficult to perceive that the true motive of the resistance was of the vulgarest kind. It was a desire to pay as little as possible; to throw as much as possible upon the mother country.
Nor was the mode of resistance more respectable—the plunder of private houses and custom houses; mob violence connived at by all classes and perfectly unpunished; agreements of merchants to refuse to pay their private debts in order to attain political ends. If this was the attitude of America within two years of the Peace of Paris, if these were the first fruits of the new sense of security which British triumphs in Canada had given, could it be doubted that concessions would only be the prelude to new demands? Already the Customhouse officers were attacked by the mobs almost as fiercely as the stamp distributors. Already Otis, the most popular advocate of the American cause, was ridiculing the distinction between internal and external taxation, and denying that the British Legislature possessed any rightful authority in America. Already a highly seditious press had grown up in the colonies, and to talk scarcely disguised treason had become the best passport to popular favour. It would be impossible for Parliament, if it now receded, to retain permanently any legislative authority over the colonies; and if this, too, were given up, the unity of the Empire would be but a name, and America would in reality contribute nothing to its strength. If ministers now repealed the Stamp Act they would be guilty of treachery to England. They would abdicate a vital portion of the sovereignty which England rightfully possessed. They would humiliate the British Parliament before the Empire and before the world. They would establish the fatal principle that it must never again ask any of the distant portions of the Empire to contribute to the burden of their own permanent defence. They would establish the still more fatal precedent that the best way of inducing Parliament to repeal an obnoxious tax was to refuse to pay it, and to hound on mobs against those who were entrusted with its collection.
These were the chief arguments on the side of the late ministers. Pitt, on the other hand, rose from his sick-bed, and in speeches of extraordinary eloquence, which produced an amazing effect on both sides of the Atlantic, he justified the resistance of the colonists. He stood apart from all parties, and, while he declared that ‘every capital measure’ of the late ministry was wrong, he ostentatiously refused to give his confidence to their successors. He maintained in the strongest terms the doctrine that self-taxation is the essential and discriminating circumstance of political freedom. His opinion on the great question at issue cannot be better expressed than in his own terse and luminous sentences. ‘It is my opinion,’ he said, ‘that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time I assert the authority of this kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever. … Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone. In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike concerned; but the concurrence of the peers and the Crown to a tax is only necessary to close with the form of a law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. … The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty. … The Commons of America, represented in their several Assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this, their constitutional right of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed it. At the same time this kingdom, as the supreme governing and legislative power, has always bound the colonies … in everything, except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.’ In his reply to Grenville he reiterated these principles with still stronger emphasis. ‘I rejoice,’ he said, ‘that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest. … In such a cause your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, would fall like the strong man with his arms around the pillars of the Constitution. … When two countries are connected together like England and her colonies without being incorporated, the one must necessarily govern; the greater must rule the less, but so rule it as not to contradict the fundamental principles that are common to both. If the gentleman does not understand the difference between external and internal taxes, I cannot help it; but there is a plain distinction between taxes levied for the purpose of raising a revenue, and duties imposed for the regulation of trade for the accommodation of the subject; although in the consequences some revenue might incidentally arise from the latter. … I will be bold to affirm that the profit to Great Britain from the trade of the colonies through all its branches is two millions a year. This is the fund that carried you triumphantly through the last war. … This is the price America pays for her protection. … I dare not say how much higher these profits may be augmented. … The Americans have not acted in all things with prudence and temper. They have been driven to madness by injustice. Will you punish them for the madness you have occasioned? Rather let prudence and temper come first from this side. I will undertake for America that she will follow the example. … Upon the whole I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my opinion. It is that the Stamp Act should be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately; that the reason for the repeal should be assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle. At the same time let the sovereign authority of this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever; that we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power whatsoever—except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.’1
These views were defended in the strongest terms by Lord Camden, who pledged his great legal reputation to the doctrine that taxation is not included under the general right of legislation, and that taxation and representation are morally inseparable. ‘This position,’ he very rashly affirmed, ‘is founded on the laws of nature; nay, more, it is itself an eternal law of nature. For whatever is a man's own is absolutely his own. No man has a right to take it from him without his consent, either expressed by himself or representative. Whoever attempts to do it attempts an injury. Whoever does it commits a robbery.’1
The task of the ministers in dealing with this question was extremely difficult. The great majority of them desired ardently the repeal of the Stamp Act; but the wishes of the King, the abstention of Pitt, and the divided condition of parties had compelled Rockingham to include in his Government Charles Townshend, Barrington, and Northington, who were all strong advocates of the taxation of America, and Northington took an early opportunity of delivering an invective against the colonies which seemed specially intended to prolong the exasperation. ‘If they withdraw allegiance,’ he concluded, ‘you must withdraw protection, and then the little State of Genoa or the kingdom of Sweden may soon overrun them.’ The King himself, though he was prepared to see the Stamp Act altered in some of its provisions, was decidedly hostile to the repeal. When the measure was first contemplated, two partisans of Bute came to the King offering to resign their places, as they meant to oppose the repeal, but they were at once told that they might keep their places and vote as they pleased. The hint was taken, and the King's friends were among the most active, though not the most conspicuous, opponents of the ministers.2 And in addition to all these difficulties the ministers had to deal with the exasperation which was produced in Parliament by the continual outrages and insults to which all who represented the English Government in America were exposed.
Their policy consisted of two parts. They asserted in the strongest and most unrestricted form the sovereignty of the British Legislature, first of all by resolutions and then by a Declaratory Act affirming the right of Parliament to make laws binding the British colonies ‘in all cases whatsoever,’ and condemning as unlawful the votes of the colonial Assemblies which had denied to Parliament the right of taxing them. Side by side with this measure they brought in a Bill repealing the Stamp Act.1 It was advocated both in its preamble and in the speeches of its supporters on the ground of simple expediency. The Stamp Act had already produced evils far outweighing any benefits that could flow from it. To enforce it over a vast and thinly populated country, and in the face of the universal and vehement opposition of the people, had proved hitherto impossible, and would always be difficult, dangerous, and disastrous. It might produce rebellion. It would certainly produce permanent and general disaffection, great derangement of commercial relations, a smothered resistance which could only be overcome by a costly and extensive system of coercion. It could not be wise to convert the Americans into a nation of rebels who were only waiting for a European war to throw off their allegiance. Yet this would be the natural and almost inevitable consequence of persisting in the policy of Grenville. The chief interests of England in her colonies were commercial, and these had been profoundly injured by the Stamp Act. As long as it continued, the Americans were resolved to make it their main effort to abstain as much as possible from English goods, and the English commercial classes were unanimous in favour of the repeal. The right of the country was affirmed and the honour of Parliament vindicated by the Declaratory Act. It now remained only—if possible without idle recrimination—to pursue the course which was most conducive to the interests of England. And that course was plainly to retire from a position which had become utterly untenable.
The debates on this theme were among the fiercest and longest ever known in Parliament. The former ministers opposed the repeal at every stage, and most of those who were under the direct influence of the King plotted busily against it. Nearly a dozen members of the King's household, nearly all the bishops, nearly all the Scotch, nearly all the Tories voted against the ministry, and in the very agony of the contest Lord Strange spread abroad the report that he had heard from the King's own lips that the King was opposed to the repeal. Rockingham acted with great decision. He insisted on accompanying Lord Strange into the King's presence, and in obtaining from the King a written paper stating that he was in favour of the repeal rather than the enforcement of the Act, though he would have preferred its modification to either course. The great and manifest desire of the commercial classes throughout England had much weight; the repeal was carried through the House of Commons, brought up by no less than 200 members to the Lords, and finally carried amid the strongest expressions of public joy. Burke described it as ‘an event that caused more universal joy throughout the British dominions than perhaps any other that can be remembered.’1
Of these two measures the repeal of the Stamp Act was that which was most violently denounced at the time; but the Declaratory Act, which passed almost unopposed, is the one which now requires defence. It has been represented as the source of all the calamities that ensued, for as long as the right of Parliament to tax America was asserted, the liberty of the colonies was precarious. I have already stated my opinion that no just blame attaches to the ministry on this matter. It would no doubt have been better if the question of the right of taxation had never been raised, and no one asserted this more constantly than Burke, who largely inspired the policy of the Government. But the ministers had no alternative. Parliament had already twice asserted its right to tax. With the exception of Lord Camden, the first legal authorities in the country unanimously maintained it. The Americans had openly denied it, and they had aggravated their denial by treating an Act of Parliament and those who were appointed to administer it with the grossest outrage. It was quite impossible that Parliament with any regard to its own dignity could acquiesce tamely in these proceedings. It was quite impossible that a weak ministry, divided on this very question and undermined by the Court, could have carried the repeal, if it had been unaccompanied by an assertion of parliamentary authority on the matter that was in dispute. All accounts concur in showing that the proceedings of the Americans had produced a violent and very natural irritation,1 and every mail brought news which was only too well fitted to aggravate it. The judgment on this subject of Sir George Savile, who was one of the most sagacious members of the Rockingham party, is of great weight. In a letter addressed to the Americans he wrote: ‘You should know that the great obstacle in the way of the ministers has been unhappily thrown in by yourselves—I mean the intemperate proceedings of various ranks of people on your side the water—and that the difficulties of the repeal would have been nothing if you had not by your violence in word and action awakened the honour of Parliament, and thereby involved every friend of the repeal in the imputation of betraying the dignity of Parliament. This is so true that the Act would certainly not have been repealed if men's minds had not been in some measure satisfied with the Declaration of Right.’1
Franklin, in the very remarkable evidence which he at this time gave before a committee of the House of Commons about the political condition and prospects of America, having been asked whether he thought the Americans would be contented with a repeal of the Stamp Act even if it were accompanied by an assertion of the right of Parliament to tax them, answered, ‘I think the resolutions of right will give them very little concern, if they are never attempted to be carried into practice.’2 There can be little doubt that this judgment was a just one. All testimony concurs in showing that the repeal of the Stamp Act produced, for a time at least, a complete pacification of America. As Adams, who was watching the current of American feeling with great keenness, wrote, ‘The repeal of the Stamp Act has hushed into silence almost every popular clamour, and composed every wave of popular disorder into a smooth and peaceful calm.’1
In addition to these measures, the colonial Governors were instructed to ask the Assemblies to compensate those whose property had been destroyed in the late riots. An Act was carried indemnifying those who had violated the Stamp Act, and some considerable changes were made in that commercial system which was by far the most real of the grievances of America. It was impossible for a Government which had just won a great victory for the Americans, by the assistance of the commercial and manufacturing classes, to touch either the laws prohibiting some of the chief forms of manufacture in the colonies or the general principle of colonial monopoly; and the favourite argument of the opponents of the Stamp Act was that the trade advantages arising from that monopoly were the real contribution of America to the defence and prosperity of the Empire. Within these limits, however, much remained to be done. The restrictions imposed upon the trade with the French West India islands, and especially upon the importation of molasses, had been, as we have seen, the main practical grievance of the commercial system. The prohibition of manufactures, however unreasonable and unjust, was of no serious consequence to a country where agriculture, fisheries, and commerce were naturally the most lucrative forms of enterprise; but an abundant supply of molasses was essential to the great distilleries at Boston. The duty when it was 1s. a gallon had been a mere dead letter. When Grenville reduced it to 6d. a gallon, the most violent measures had still been unable to suppress a great smuggling trade, and the duty only yielded 2,000l. a year. The Rockingham Government lowered it to 1d., and this small duty, being no longer a grievance, produced no less than 17,000l. The duties imposed on coffee and pimento from the British plantations, and on foreign cambrics and lawns, imported into America, were at the same time lowered; and the British West India islands, in whose favour the colonial trade with the French islands had been restricted, were compensated by the opening in them of some free ports and by some other commercial favours.1
‘The Americans,’ said Chatham a few years later, when describing this period, ‘had almost forgot, in their excess of gratitude for the repeal of the Stamp Act, any interest but that of the mother country; there seemed an emulation among the different provinces who should be most dutiful and forward in their expressions of loyalty.’2 The Rockingham Ministry had undoubtedly, under circumstances of very great difficulty, restored confidence to America, and concluded for the present a contest which would probably have ended in a war. In most of the provincial Assemblies and in many public meetings of citizens, addresses of thanks were carried to the King, to the Ministry, to Pitt, Camden, and Barré; and in more than one province statues were raised to the King and to Pitt. The shrewd Philadelphian Quakers passed a characteristic resolution, ‘that to demonstrate our zeal to Great Britain, and our gratitude for the repeal of the Stamp Act, each of us will on the 4th of June next, being the birthday of our gracious Sovereign, dress ourselves in a new suit of the manufactures of England, and give what homespun clothes we have to the poor.’1 A feeling of real and genuine loyalty to the mother-country appears to have at this time existed in the colonies, though it required much skill to maintain it.
The Americans had in truth won a great victory, which inspired them with unbounded confidence in their strength. They had gone through all the excitement of a violent and brilliantly successful political campaign; they had realised for a time the union which appeared formerly so chimerical; they had found their natural leaders in the struggle, and had discovered the weakness of the mother country. Many writers and speakers had arisen who had learnt the lesson that a defiance of English authority was one of the easiest and safest paths to popular favour, and the speeches of Pitt had kindled a fierce enthusiasm of liberty through the colonies. There was no want of men who regretted that the agitation had ceased, who would gladly have pressed on the struggle to new issues, and who were ready to take advantage of the first occasion for quarrel. It was not easy for an ambitious man in these distant colonies to make his name known to the world; but if events ever led to a collision, a great field of ambition would be suddenly opened. Besides this, principles of a far-reaching and revolutionary character had become familiar to the people. It is a dangerous thing when nations begin to scrutinise too closely the foundations of political authority, the possible results to which political principles may logically lead, the exact limits by which the different powers of a heterogeneous and prescriptive government must be confined. The theory of English lawyers that a Parliament in which the Americans were unrepresented might fetter their commerce in all its parts, and exact in taxation the last shilling of their fortunes, and that their whole representative system existed only by the indulgence of England, would, if fully acted on, have reduced the colonies to absolute slavery. On the other hand, Otis and other agitators were vehemently urging that the principles of Chatham and Camden would authorise the Americans to repudiate all parliamentary restrictions on American trade. No objection seems indeed to have been felt to the bounties which England conferred upon it, or to the protection of their coasts by English vessels; but in all other respects parliamentary interference was profoundly disliked. Lawyers had assumed during the late troubles a great prominence in colonial politics, and a litigious, captious, and defining spirit was abroad.
It was noticed that in the addresses to the King and to the Government thanking them for the repeal of the Stamp Act, as little as possible was said about the supremacy of Parliament, and in the most exuberant moments of colonial gratitude there were no signs of any disposition, in any province, to undertake, under proper guarantees and limitation, the task of supporting English troops stationed in America. Had the colonies after the Peace of Paris been willing to contribute this small service to the support of the Empire, the constitutional question might never have been raised; had they now offered to do so, it would probably never have been revived. The requisitions to the colonial Assemblies to compensate the sufferers in the late riots were very unpopular. In one or two provinces the money was, it is true, frankly and promptly voted; but in most cases there was much delay. Massachusetts, where the most scandalous riots took place, rebelled violently against the too peremptory terms of the requisition; refused at first to pass any vote of compensation; yielded at last, after a long delay, and by a small majority, but accompanied its grant by a clause indemnifying the rioters, which was afterwards annulled by the King.
Bernard, who since the beginning of 1760 had been Governor of Massachusetts, had of late become extremely unpopular, and his name has been pursued with untiring virulence to the present day. His letters are those of an honest and rather able, but injudicious and disputatious man, who was trying, under circumstances of extreme difficulty, to do his duty both to the Government and the people, but who was profoundly discontented with the constitution of the province. In 1763 and 1764 he exerted all his influence to procure the lowering or the abolition of the duties in the Sugar Act, and in general a larger amount of free trade for the colonies. In 1765 he opposed the Stamp Act as inexpedient, though he maintained that Parliament had the right of taxing the colonies, provided those taxes were exclusively applied for the benefit of those who paid them. Up to this time he appears to have been generally liked and esteemed;1 but he was now called upon to take the most prominent part in maintaining the policy of the English Government, and his letters give a vivid picture of the difficulties he encountered. He describes himself as placed ‘in the midst of those who first stirred up these disturbances, without a force to protect my person, without a council to advise me, watched by every eye, and misrepresented or condemned for everything I do on the King's behalf.’ He laments that the governments of the colonies ‘were weak and impotent to an amazing degree,’ that ‘the governors and officers of the Crown were in several of the chief provinces entirely dependent upon the people for subsistence,’ that ‘the persons of the governors and Crown officers are quite defenceless and exposed to the violence of the people, without any possible resort for protection,’ and he continually urged that as long as the Council, which was the natural support of the Executive, was elected annually by the Assembly, and as long as almost all the civil officers were mainly dependent for their salaries on an annual vote of the Assembly, it would be impossible to enforce in Massachusetts any unpopular law or to punish any outrage which was supported by popular favour. It was his leading doctrine that if British rule was to be perpetuated in America, and if a period of complete anarchy was to be averted, it was necessary to put an end to the obscurity which rested upon the relations of the colonies to the Home Government; to establish finally and decisively the legislative ascendency of the British Parliament, and to remodel the constitutions of the colonies on a uniform type. He proposed that the Assemblies should, as at present, remain completely representative; but that the democratic element in the Constitution should be always balanced by a council consisting of a kind of life peers, appointed directly by the King, and that there should be a fixed civil list from which the King's officers should derive a certain provision. As such changes were wholly incompatible with the charters of the more democratic colonies, he proposed that American representatives should be temporarily summoned to the British Parliament, and that Parliament should then authoritatively settle the colonial system.1
These views were of course at first only communicated confidentially to the Government, but in the open acts of Bernard there was much that was offensive to the people. His addresses were often very injudicious; he had a bad habit of entering into elaborate arguments with the Assembly, and he was accused of straining the small amount of prerogative which he possessed. The Assembly, shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act, showed its gratitude by electing Otis, the most violent assailant of the whole legislative authority of England, as its Speaker, and Bernard negatived the choice. The Assembly, contrary to immemorial usage, refused to elect Hutchinson, the Lieutenant-Governor, Oliver, the Secretary of the Province, and the other chief officers of the Crown, members of the Council. Bernard remonstrated strongly against the exclusion; he himself negatived six ‘friends of the people’ who had been elected, and he countenanced a claim of Hutchinson to take his seat in his capacity of Lieutenant-Governor among the councillors. The relations between the Executive and the Assembly were thus extremely tense, while the inhabitants of Boston were very naturally and very pardonably intoxicated with the triumph they had obtained. The little town, which was probably hardly known even by name in Europe outside commercial circles, had bearded the Government of England, and it was deeply sensible of the heroism it had displayed. The rioters were never punished, but were, on the contrary, the objects of general sympathy, and the ‘sons of liberty’ resolved to meet annually to commemorate their resistance to the Stamp Act, and to express their admiration for one another. Attempts to enforce the revenue Acts were continually resisted. It was observed that the phrase, ‘No representation, no taxation!’ which had been the popular watch-cry, was beginning to be replaced by the phrase, ‘No representation, no legislation!’ and many ‘patriots’ whose names are emblazoned in American history, with unbounded applause and with the most perfect security were hurling highly rhetorical defiances at the British Government.
The clause in the Mutiny Act requiring the colonists to supply English troops with some of the first necessaries of life, was another grievance. Boston, as usual, disputed it at every point with the Governor; and New York positively refused to obey. In a very able book called ‘The Farmer's Letters,’ written by a lawyer named Dickinson, which appeared about this time, it was maintained that if the British Legislature has the right of ordering the colonies to provide a single article for British troops, it has a right to tax: ‘An Act of Parliament commanding to do a certain thing, if it has any validity, is a tax upon us for the expense that accrues in complying with it.’
It is evident that great wisdom, moderation, and tact were needed if healthy relations were to be established between England and her colonies, and unfortunately these qualities were conspicuously absent from English councils. The downfall of the Rockingham Ministry, and the formation of a ministry of which Grafton was the nominal and Pitt the real head, seemed on the whole a favourable event. The influence and popularity of Pitt were even greater in America than in England. His acceptance of the title of Earl of Chatham, which injured him so deeply in English opinion, was a matter of indifference to the colonists; and he possessed far beyond all other English statesmen the power of attracting or conciliating great bodies of men, and firing them with the enthusiasm of loyalty or patriotism. Camden, who next to Chatham was the chief English advocate of the colonial cause, was Chancellor. Conway, who moved the repeal of the Stamp Act, was one of the Secretaries of State; and Shelburne, who at the age of twenty-nine was placed over American affairs, had on the question of taxing America been on the side of Chatham and Camden. Illness, however, speedily withdrew Chatham from public affairs, and in the scene of anarchy which ensued it was left for the strongest man to seize the helm. Unfortunately, in the absence of Chatham, that man was unquestionably the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend.
From this time the English government of America is little more than a series of deplorable blunders. A feeling of great irritation against the colonies had begun to prevail in English political circles. The Court party continually repeated that England had been humiliated by the repeal of the Stamp Act.1 Grenville maintained that if that Act had been enforced with common firmness, the stamp duties in America would soon have been collected with as little difficulty as the land tax in England; and he pointed to the recent news as a conclusive proof that the policy of conciliation had failed; and that through the vacillation or encouragement of English statesmen, the spirit of rebellion and of anarchy was steadily growing beyond the Atlantic. There was a general feeling that it was perfectly equitable that America should support an army for her own defence, and for that of the neighbouring islands; and also, that this had become a matter of vital and pressing importance to the British Empire. The political correspondence of the time teems with intimations of the incessant activity with which France and Spain were intriguing to regain the position they had lost in the late war. The dispute about the Manilla ransom and the annexation of Corsica were the most conspicuous, but they were not the most significant, signs of the attitude of those Powers. Plans for the invasion of England had been carefully elaborated. French spies had surveyed the English coast. In 1764 and 1765 an agent of Choiseul had minutely studied the American colonies, and had reported to his master that the English troops were so few and scattered that they could be of no real service, and that democratic and provincial jealousy had prevented the erection of a single citadel in all New England.1 The King fully agreed with his wisest ministers that the army was wholly insufficient to protect the Empire, and the scheme of Chatham for averting the rapidly growing dangers from France by a new alliance with Prussia had signally failed. England was beginning to learn the lesson that in the crisis of her fate she could rely on herself alone, and that in political life gratitude is of all ties the frailest and the most precarious. At the same time, the country gentlemen who remembered the days of Walpole, when England was more prosperous though less great, murmured at the heavy land tax in time of peace, and had begun to complain bitterly that the whole expense of the defence of wealthy colonies was thrown on them. The factious vote, in which the partisans of Grenville and most of the partisans of Rockingham, with the notable exception of Burke, concurred, which reduced the land tax proposed by the Government from 4s. to 3s. in the pound, made it necessary to seek some other source of revenue.1 Shelburne himself fully adopted the view that America should support her own army, and he imagined that if it were reduced to the smallest proportions the required sum might be gradually raised by enforcing strictly the quit rents of the Crown, which appear to have fallen into very general neglect, and by turning the grants of land to real benefit.2 Townshend, however, had other schemes, and he lost little time in forcing them upon Parliament.
On January 26, 1767, in a debate on the army, George Grenville moved that America, like Ireland, should support an establishment of her own; and in the course of the discussion which followed, Townshend took occasion to declare himself a firm advocate of the principle of the Stamp Act. He described the distinction between external and internal taxes as ridiculous, in the opinion of every one except the Americans; and he pledged himself to find a revenue in America nearly sufficient for the purposes that were required.3 His colleagues listened in blank astonishment to a pledge which was perfectly unauthorised by the Cabinet, and indeed contrary to the known decision of all its members; but, as the Duke of Grafton afterwards wrote, no one in the ministry had sufficient authority in the absence of Chatham to advise the dismissal of Towns-hend, and this measure alone could have arrested his policy. Shelburne, who was the official chief of the colonies, wrote to Chatham, who was then an almost helpless invalid, relating the circumstances and expressing his complete ignorance of the intentions of his colleague. The news had just arrived that New York had openly repudiated an Act of Parliament by refusing to furnish troops with the first necessaries of life; and it produced an indignation in Parliament which Chatham himself appears fully to have shared. ‘America,’ he wrote confidentially to Shelburne, ‘affords a gloomy prospect. A spirit of infatuation has taken possession of New York. Their disobedience to the Mutiny Act will justly create a great ferment here, open a fair field to the arraigners of America, and leave no room to any to say a word in their defence. I foresee confusion will ensue. The petition of the merchants of New York is highly improper;. … they are doing the work of their worst enemies themselves. The torrent of indignation in Parliament will, I apprehend, become irresistible.’1 In a letter written a few days later he says, ‘The advices from America afford unpleasing views. New York has drunk the deepest of the baneful cup of infatuation, but none seem to be quite sober and in full possession of reason. It is a literal truth to say that the Stamp Act of most unhappy memory has frightened those irritable and umbrageous people quite out of their senses.’2 Letters from colonial governors painted the state of feeling in the darkest colours. At every election, in the bestowal of every kind of popular favour, to have opposed parliamentary authority in America was now the first title to success; to have supported it, the most fatal of disqualifications. The pulpit, the press, the lawyers, the ‘sons of liberty’—all those classes who subsist or flourish by popularity—were busy in inflaming the jealousy against England, and in extending the field of conflict. There was a general concurrence of opinion among American officials that, even apart from the necessity of providing for the defence of the colonies, it was indispensable, if any Act of Parliament was henceforth to be obeyed, that a small army should be permanently established in America, and that the Executive should be strengthened by making at least the governor, who represented the English Crown, and the judges, who represented English law, independent of the favour of the Assemblies. It is remarkable that among the officials who advocated these views was the son of Benjamin Franklin, who had been appointed Crown Governor of New Jersey. It was urged, too, that the more democratic constitutions among the colonies must be remodelled; that, while the Assembly should always be the legitimate and unfettered representative of the people, the Council must always be chosen by the Governor.
Very strong arguments might be urged in favour of these changes; but there was one still stronger against them—that it was absolutely impossible to effect them. On May 13, 1767, however, when Chatham was completely incapacitated, and when all other statesmen had sunk before the ascendency of Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in his measure. With that brilliancy of eloquence which never failed to charm the House, he dilated upon the spirit of insubordination that was growing up in all the colonies, upon the open defiance of an Act of Parliament by New York, and upon the absolute necessity of asserting with dignity and decision the legal ascendency of Parliament. The measures which he ultimately brought forward and carried were of three kinds: By one Act of Parliament the legislative functions of the New York Assembly were suspended, and the Governor was forbidden to give his sanction to any local law in that province till the terms of the Mutiny Act had been complied with.1 By another Act a Board of Commissioners of the Customs with large powers was established in America for the purpose of superintending the execution of the laws relating to trade.2 By a third Act the proposal of taxing America was resumed. Townshend explained that the distinction between internal and external taxation was in his eyes entirely worthless; but in the discussions on the Stamp Act the Americans had taken their stand upon it. They had represented it as transcendently important, and had professed to be quite willing that Parliament should regulate their trade by duties, provided it raised no internal revenue. This distinction Townshend said he would observe. He would raise a revenue, but he would do so only by a port duty imposed upon glass, red and white lead, painters' colours, paper, and tea, imported into the colonies. The charge on the last-named article was to be 3d. in the pound. The whole annual revenue expected from these duties amounted to less than 40,000l.,3 and it was to be employed in giving a civil list to the Crown. Out of that civil list, salaries were to be paid to the governors and judges in America; and in the very improbable event of there being any surplus, it was to go towards defraying the expense of protecting the colonies. In order to assist in the enforcement of the law, writs of assistance were formally legalised. Coffee and cocoa exported from England to the colonies were at the same time freed from the duty which they had previously paid on importation into England. Tea exported to the colonies obtained a similar indulgence for five years, but the drawback on the export of china earthenware to America was withdrawn.1
It is a strange instance of the fallibility of political foresight if Townshend imagined that America would acquiesce in these measures, that England possessed any adequate means of enforcing them, or that she could a second time recede from her demands and yet maintain her authority over the colonies. It is mournful to notice how the field of controversy had widened and deepened, and how a quarrel which might at one time have been appeased by slight mutual concessions was leading inevitably to the disruption of the Empire. England was originally quite right in her contention that it was the duty of the colonies to contribute something to the support of the army which defended the unity of the Empire. She was quite right in her belief that in some of the colonial constitutions the Executive was far too feeble, that the line which divides liberty from anarchy was often passed, and that the result was profoundly and permanently injurious to the American character. She was also, I think, quite right in ascribing a great part of the resistance of America to the disposition, so common and so natural in dependencies, to shrink as much as possible from any expense that could possibly be thrown on the mother country, and in forming a very low estimate of the character and motives of a large proportion of those ambitious lawyers, newspaper writers, preachers, and pamphleteers who, in New England at least, were labouring with untiring assiduity to win popular applause by sowing dissension between England and her colonies. But the Americans were only too well justified in asserting that the suppression of several of their industries and the monopoly by England of some of the chief branches of their trade, if they did not benefit the mother country, at least imposed sacrifices on her colonies fully equivalent to a considerable tax.1 They were also quite justified in contending that the power of taxation was essential to the importance of their Assemblies, and that an extreme jealousy of any encroachment on this prerogative was in perfect accordance with the traditions of English liberty. They had before their eyes the hereditary revenue, the scandalous pension list, the monstrous abuses of patronage, in Ireland, and they were quite resolved not to suffer similar abuses in America.2 The judges only held their seats during the royal pleasure. Ministerial patronage in the colonies, as elsewhere, was often grossly corrupt,3 and in the eyes of the colonists the annual grant was the one efficient control upon maladministration.
A period of wild and feverish confusion followed. Counsels of the most violent kind were freely circulated, and for a time it seemed as if the appointment of the new Board of Commissioners would be resisted by force; but Otis and some of the other popular leaders held back from the conflict, and in several colonies a clear sense of the serious nature of the struggle that was impending exercised a sobering influence. Georgia, which had been inclined to follow the example of New York, was brought to reason by the prospect of being left without the protection of English troops in the midst of the negroes and the Indians.1 The central and southern colonies hesitated for some time to follow the lead of New England. Hutchinson wrote to the Government at home that Boston would probably find no other town to follow her in her career of violence; and De Kalb, the secret agent of Choiseul, who was busily employed in fomenting rebellion in the colonies, appears for a time to have thought it would all end in words, and that England, by keeping her taxes within very moderate limits, would maintain her authority.2 Massachusetts, however, had thrown herself with fierce energy into the conflict, and she soon carried the other provinces in her wake. Non-importation agreements binding all the inhabitants to abstain from English manufactures, and especially from every article on which duties were levied in England, spread from colony to colony, and the Assembly of Massachusetts issued a circular addressed to all the other colonial Assemblies denouncing the new laws as unconstitutional, and inviting the different Assemblies to take united measures for their repeal. The Assembly at the same time drew up a petition to the King and addresses to the leading English supporters of the American cause.1 These addresses, which were intended to act upon English opinion, were composed with great ability and moderation; and while expressing the firm resolution of the Americans to resist every attempt at parliamentary taxation, they acknowledged fully the general legislative authority of Parliament, and disclaimed in the strongest language any wish for independence.
In America the language commonly used was less decorous. One of the Boston newspapers dilated furiously upon the ‘obstinate malice, diabolical thirst for mischief, effrontery, guileful treachery, and wickedness’ of the Governor2 in such terms that the paper was brought before the Assembly, but that body would take no notice of it, and the grand jury refused to find a true bill against its publisher. The Commissioners of the revenue found that it was idle to attempt to enforce the Revenue Acts without the presence of British troops. Riots were absolutely unpunished, for no jury would convict the rioters. Bernard wrote that his position was one of utter and humiliating impotence, and that the first condition of the maintenance of English authority in Massachusetts was to quarter a powerful military force at Boston.
While these things were happening in America, the composition of the Ministry at home was rapidly changing. On September 4, 1767, after a short fever, Charles Townshend died, leaving to his successors the legacy of his disastrous policy in America, but having achieved absolutely nothing to justify the extraordinary reputation he possessed among his contemporaries. Nothing of the smallest value remains of an eloquence which some of the best judges placed above that of Burke and only second to that of Chatham,1 and the two or three pamphlets which are ascribed to his pen hardly surpass the average of the political literature of the time. Exuberant animal spirits, a brilliant and ever ready wit, boundless facility of repartee, a clear, rapid, and spontaneous eloquence, a gift of mimicry which is said to have been not inferior to that of Garrick and of Foote, great charm of manner, and an unrivalled skill in adapting himself to the moods and tempers of those who were about him, had made him the delight of every circle in which he moved, the spoilt child of the House of Commons. He died when only forty-two, but he had already much experience of official life. He had been made a Lord of the Admiralty in 1754, Treasurer of the Chamber and member of the Privy Council in 1756, Secretary of War in 1761, President of the Board of Trade in 1763, Paymaster-General in 1765, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1766. The extraordinary quickness of apprehension which was his most remarkable intellectual gift, soon made him a perfect master of official business, and no man knew so well how to apply his knowledge to the exigencies of debate, and how to pursue every topic to the exact line which pleased and convinced without tiring the House. Had he possessed any earnestness of character, any settled convictions, any power of acting with fidelity to his colleagues, or any self-control, he might have won a great name in English politics. He sought, however, only to sparkle and to please, and was ever ready to sacrifice any principle or any connection for the excitement and the vanity of a momentary triumph. In the absence of Chatham, whom he disliked and feared, he had been rapidly rising to the foremost place. He had obtained a peerage for his wife, and the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for his brother; he had won the favour of the King, and was the idol of the House of Commons, and he had forced the Government into a line of policy which was wholly opposed to that of Camden, Grafton, and Shelburne. In a few months, or perhaps weeks, he would probably have been the head of a new ministry. Death called him away in the full flush of his triumph and his powers, and he obeyed the summons with the same good-humoured levity which he had shown in so many periods of his brief and agitated career.1
He was replaced by Lord North, the favourite minister of the King, and one of the strongest advocates of American taxation, and in the course of the next few months nearly all those who were favourable to America disappeared from the Government. Conway, Shelburne, and Chatham successively resigned, and though Camden remained for a time in office he restricted himself exclusively to his judicial duties, and took no part in politics. Lord Hillsborough was entrusted as Secretary of State with the special care of the colonies, and the Bedford party, who now joined and in a great measure controlled the Government, were strenuous supporters of the policy of coercing America.
The circular of the Massachusetts Assembly calling the other provincial Assemblies to assist in obtaining the repeal of the recent Act was first adverted to Hillsborough, in an angry circular addressed to the governors of the different provinces, urged them to exert their influence to prevent the Assemblies of their respective provinces from taking any notice of it, and he characterised it in severe terms as ‘a flagitious attempt to disturb the public peace’ by ‘promoting an unwarrantable combination and exhibiting an open opposition to and denial of the authority of Parliament.’ He at the same time called on the Massachusetts Assembly to rescind its proceedings on the subject. After an animated debate the Assembly, in the summer of 1768, refused by 92 votes to 17. It was at once dissolved, and no new Chamber was summoned till the following year. The Assembly of Virginia was dissolved on account of resolutions condemning the whole recent policy of England, and in the course of a few months a similar step was taken in Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, and New York. It was a useless measure, for the new Assemblies which were summoned in obedience to the charter were very similar to their predecessors. In the meantime, two regiments escorted by seven ships of war were sent to Boston to strengthen the Government. More energetic attempts were made to enforce the revenue laws, and several collisions took place. Thus the sloop ‘Liberty,’ belonging to Hancock, a leading merchant of the patriot party, arrived at Boston in June 1768, laden with wines from Madeira, and a Customhouse officer went on board to inspect the cargo. He was seized by the crew and detained for several hours while the cargo was landed, and a few pipes of wine were entered on oath at the Custom-house as if they had been the whole. On the liberation of the officer the vessel was seized for a false entry, and in order to prevent the possibility of a rescue it was removed from the wharf under the guns of a man-of-war. A great riot followed, and the Custom-house officers were obliged to fly to a ship of war, and afterwards to the barracks, for protection.1 On another occasion a cargo of smuggled Madeira was ostentatiously carried through the streets of Boston with an escort of thirty or forty strong men armed with bludgeons, and the Custom-house officers were so intimidated that they did not dare to interfere.2 At Newport an inhabitant of the town was killed in an affray with some midshipmen of a ship of war,1 and a few months later a revenue cutter which was lying at the wharf was attacked and burnt.2 At Providence, an active Custom-house officer was tarred and feathered.3 Effigies of the new Commissioners were hung on the liberty tree at Boston. The Governor and other officials were insulted by the mob, and new non-importation engagements were largely subscribed.
The first troops from England arrived in Massachusetts between the dissolution of the old and the election of the new Assembly, but shortly before their arrival the inhabitants of Boston gathered together in an immense meeting and voted that a standing army could not be kept in the province without its consent. Much was said about Brutus, Cassius, Oliver Cromwell, and Paoli; the arms belonging to the town were brought out, and Otis declared that if an attempt was made against the liberties of the people they would be distributed. A day of prayer and fasting was appointed; a very significant resolution was carried by an immense majority, calling upon all the inhabitants to provide themselves with arms and ammunition, and no one was deceived by the transparent pretext that they might be wanted against the French. Open treason was freely talked, and many of the addresses to the Governor were models of grave and studied insolence.
These documents were chiefly composed by Samuel Adams, a very remarkable man who had now begun to exercise a dominant influence in Boston politics, and who was one of the chief authors of the American Revolution. He had an hereditary antipathy to the British Government, for his father seems to have been ruined by the restrictions the English Parliament imposed on the circulation of paper money, and a bank in which his father was largely concerned had been dissolved by Act of Parliament, leaving debts which seventeen years later were still unpaid. It appears that Hutchinson was a leading person in dissolving the bank. Samuel Adams had taken part in various occupations. He was at one time a small brewer and at another a tax-gatherer, but in the last capacity he entirely failed, for a large sum of money which ought to have passed into the Exchequer was not forthcoming. It seems, however, that no more serious charge could be substantiated against him than that of unbusiness-like habits and an insufficient stringency in levying the public dues; the best judges appear to have been fully convinced of his integrity in money matters, and it is strongly confirmed by the austere and simple tenor of his whole later life.1
He early became one of the most active writers in the American Press, and was the soul of every agitation against the Government. It was noticed that he had a special skill in discovering young men of promise and brilliancy, and that, without himself possessing any dazzling qualities, he seldom failed by the force of his character and the intense energy of his convictions in obtaining an ascendency over their minds. It was only in 1765, when Adams was already forty-three, that he obtained a seat in the Assembly, where, with Otis and two or three others, he took a chief part in organising opposition to the Government. In the lax moral atmosphere of the eighteenth century he exhibited in perfection the fierce and sombre type of the seventeenth-century Covenanter. Poor, simple, ostentatiously austere and indomitably courageous, the blended influence of Calvinistic theology and of republican principles had permeated and indurated his whole character, and he carried into politics all the fervour of an apostle and all the narrowness of a sectarian. Hating with a fierce hatred, monarchy and the English Church, and all privileged classes and all who were invested with dignity and rank; utterly incapable of seeing any good thing in an opponent, or of accepting any form of political compromise, he advocated on all occasions the strongest measures, and appears to have been one of the first both to foresee and to desire an armed struggle. He had some literary talent, and his firm will and clearly defined principles gave him for a time a greater influence than abler men. He now maintained openly that any British troops which landed should be treated as enemies, attacked, and, if possible, destroyed. More moderate counsels prevailed; yet measures verging on revolution were adopted. As the Governor alone could summon or prorogue the Assembly, a convention was held at Boston when it was not sitting, to which almost every town and every district of the province sent its delegate, and it assumed all the semblance of a legislative body.
The Assembly itself, when it met, pronounced the establishment of a standing army in the colony in time of peace to be an invasion of natural rights and a violation of the Constitution, and it positively refused to provide quarters for the troops, on the ground that the barracks in an island three miles from the town, though within the municipal circle of Boston, were not yet full. The plea was ingenious and strictly legal, and the troops were accordingly quartered as well as paid at the expense of the Crown. The simple presence among the colonists of English soldiers was, however, now treated as an intolerable grievance; the regiments were absurdly called ‘an unlawful assembly,’ and they were invariably spoken of as if they were foreign invaders. The old distinction between internal and external taxation, the old acquiescence in commercial restrictions, and the old acknowledgment of the general legislative authority of Parliament, had completely disappeared from Boston politics. The treatise which, half a century earlier, Molyneux had written on the rights of the Irish Parliament now became a text-book in the colonies, and it was the received doctrine that they owed allegiance indeed to the King, but were wholly independent of the British Parliament. They scornfully repudiated at the same time the notion of maintaining like Ireland a military establishment for the general defence of the Empire. It is also remarkable that the project of a legislative union with Great Britain, which was at this time advocated by Pownall in England, was absolutely repudiated in America. Pownall wished the colonial Assemblies to continue, but to send representatives to the English Parliament, which would thus possess the right of taxing the colonists. But this scheme found no favour in America. It was pronounced impracticable and dangerous. It was said that the colonial representatives would speedily be corrupted, that the colonists could never hope to obtain a representation adequate to their importance, and that inadequate representation was even a greater grievance than taxation without representation. Bernard now strongly advocated the permanent admission of American representatives into the British Parliament as the only possible solution, but he acknowledged that the idea was unpopular, and he alleged that the true reason was that if the colonies were represented in Parliament they could have no pretext for disobeying it.1 It was evident that every path of compromise was closing, and that disaffection was steadily rising to the height of revolution. Foreign observers saw that the catastrophe was fast approaching, and Choiseul noticed that the English had no cavalry and scarcely 10,000 infantry in America, while the colonial militia numbered 400,000 men, including several cavalry regiments. It was not difficult, he concluded, to predict that if America could only find a Cromwell she would speedily cease to form a part of the British Empire.1
For the present, except a few revenue riots, resistance was purely passive. The Massachusetts Assembly petitioned for the removal of the troops and for the removal of the Governor. Acute lawyers contested every legal point that could possibly be raised against the Government. The grand juries being elected by the townships were wholly on the side of the people, and they systematically refused to present persons guilty of libel, riot, or sedition. Non-importation agreements spread rapidly from town to town, and had a serious effect upon English commerce. The troops had little to do as there was no open resistance, but they found themselves treated as pariahs and excluded from every kind of society, and they had even much difficulty in procuring the necessaries of life.
The English Parliament in December 1768 and January 1769 greatly aggravated the contest. Both Houses passed resolutions condemning the disloyal spirit of Massachusetts, the non-importation agreements, and the Boston convention; and addresses were carried thanking the Sovereign for the measures he had taken to maintain the authority of England; promising a full support to future measures taken with that end, and suggesting that the names of the most active agitators should be transmitted to one of the Secretaries of State, and that a long disused law of Henry VIII. which empowered the Governor to bring to England for trial, persons accused of treason outside England, should be put in force.1 This last measure was due to the Duke of Bedford, and although it was certainly not unprovoked, it excited a fierce and legitimate indignation in America, and added a new and very serious item to the long list of colonial grievances. Already, the colonial advocates were accustomed to say, a Parliament in which the colonies were wholly unrepresented, claimed an absolute power of restricting their commerce, of taxing them, and even, as in the case of New York, or suspending their legislative assemblies. British troops were planted among them to coerce them. Their governors and judges were to be made independent of their Assemblies, and now the protection of a native jury, which alone remained, was to be destroyed. By virtue of an obsolete law, passed in one of the darkest periods of English history and at a time when England possessed not a single colony, any colonist who was designated by the Governor as a traitor might be carried three thousand miles from his home, from his witnesses, from the scene of his alleged crime, from all those who were acquainted with the general tenor of his life, to be tried by strangers of the very nation which he was supposed to have offended. Combine all these measures, it was said, and what trace of political freedom would be left in the colonies?
This measure was apparently intended only to intimidate the more violent agitators, and it was never put in action. The Cabinet were much divided about their American policy, and signs of weakness speedily appeared. Townshend's Act had brought America to the verge of revolution, and had entailed great expense on the country, but it had hitherto produced no appreciable revenue, and there was little or no prospect of improvement. It was stated that the total produce of the new taxes for the first year was less than 16,000l., that the net proceeds of the Crown revenue in America were only about 295l., and that extraordinary military expenses amounting to 170,000l. had in the same period been incurred.1 Pownall, who had preceded Bernard as Governor of Massachusetts, strongly urged in Parliament the repeal of the new duties, and a considerable section of the Cabinet supported his view. After much discussion it was resolved to adopt a policy of compromise2 —to repeal the duties on glass, paper, and painters' colours, and to retain that on tea for the purpose of keeping up the right. Less than 300l. had hitherto been obtained by this charge; but the King, the Bedford section of the Cabinet, and Lord North determined, in opposition to Grafton and Camden, to retain it, and they carried their point in the Cabinet by a majority of one vote. A circular intimating the intention of the Government was despatched in the course of 1769 to the governors of the different colonies, and in this circular Lord Hillsborough officially informed them that the Cabinet ‘entertained no design to propose to Parliament to lay any further taxes on America for the purpose of raising a revenue.’3 Governor Bernard, whose relations with the Assembly and Council of Massachusetts had long been as hostile as possible, was rewarded for his services to the Crown by a baronetcy, but in the August of 1769 he was recalled to England amid a storm of insult and rejoicing from the people he had governed; and after about a year, Hutchinson, who, though equally devoted to the Government, was somewhat less unpopular with the colonists, was promoted to the ungrateful post. Some slight signs of improvement were visible. New York submitted to the Mutiny Act, and its Assembly accordingly regained its normal powers. The non-importation agreements had for some time been very imperfectly observed, and it was soon noticed that a good deal of tea was imported in small quantities, and that the port duty was paid without difficulty.1
Hitherto, though the townspeople of Boston had done everything in their power to provoke and irritate the soldiers who were quartered among them, there had been no serious collision. The condition of the town, however, was such that it was scarcely possible that any severity of discipline could long avert it. There was a perfect reign of terror directed against all who supported the revenue Acts and who sympathised with authority. Soldiers could scarcely appear in the streets without being the objects of the grossest insult. A Press eminently scurrilous and vindictive was ceaselessly employed in abusing them: they had become, as Samuel Adams boasted, ‘the objects of the contempt even of women and children.’ Every offence they committed was maliciously exaggerated and vindictively prosecuted, while in the absence of martial law they were obliged to look passively on the most flagrant insults to authority. At one time the ‘sons of liberty’ in a procession a mile and a half long marched round the State House to commemorate their riots against the Stamp Act, and met in the open fields to chant their liberty song and drink ‘strong halters, firm blocks, and sharp axes to such as deserve them.’ At another an informer who was found guilty of giving information to revenue officers was seized by a great multitude, tarred and feathered, and led through the streets of Boston, which were illuminated in honour of the achievement. A printer who had dared to caricature the champions of freedom was obliged to fly from his house, to take refuge among the soldiers, and ultimately to escape from Boston in disguise. Merchants who had ventured to import goods from England were compelled by mob violence to give them up to be destroyed or to be re-embarked. A shopkeeper who sold some English goods found a post planted in the ground with a hand pointing to his door, and when a friend tried to remove it he was stoned by a fierce mob through the streets. A popular minister delighted his congregation by publicly praying that the Almighty would remove from Boston the English soldiers. It was said that they corrupted the morals of the town, that their drums and fifes were heard upon the Sabbath-day, that their language was often violent, threatening, or profane, that on several occasions they had struck citizens who insulted them.1 On March 2, 1770, there was a scuffle at a ropewalk between some soldiers and the rope-makers, and on the night of the 5th there occurred the tragedy which, in the somewhat grandiloquent phrase of John Adams, ‘laid the foundation of American independence.’ A false alarm of fire had called a crowd into the streets, and a mob of boys and men amused themselves by surrounding and insulting a solitary sentinel who was on guard before one of the public buildings. He called for rescue, and a party consisting of a corporal and six common soldiers, under the command of Captain Preston, appeared with loaded muskets upon the scene. The mob, however, refused to give way. Some forty or fifty men—many of them armed with sticks—surrounded the little band of soldiers, shouting, ‘Rascals, lobsters, bloody backs!’1 and defying them to use their arms. They soon proceeded to violence. Snowballs and, according to some testimony, stones were thrown. The crowd pressed violently on the soldiers, and it was afterwards alleged that one of the soldiers was struck by a club. Whether it was panic or resentment, or the mere necessity of self-defence, was never clearly established, but a soldier fired, and in another moment seven muskets, each loaded with two balls, were discharged with deadly effect into the crowd. Five men fell dead or dying, and six others were wounded.
There are many dreadful massacres recorded in the page of history—the massacre of the Danes by the Saxons, the massacre of the Sicilian Vespers, the massacre of St. Bartholomew—but it may be questioned whether any of them had produced such torrents of indignant eloquence as the affray which I have described. The ‘Boston massacre,’ or, as the Americans, desiring to distinguish it from the minor tragedies of history, loved to call it, ‘The bloody massacre,’ at once kindled the colonies into a flame. The terrible tale of how the bloody and brutal myrmidons of England had shot down the inoffensive citizens in the streets of Boston raised an indignation which was never suffered to flag. In Boston, as soon as the tidings of the tragedy were spread abroad, the church bells rang, the drums beat to call the people to arms, and next day an immense meeting of the citizens resolved that the soldiers must no longer remain in the town. Samuel Adams and the other leading agitators, as the representatives of the people, rushed into the presence of Hutchinson, and rather commanded than asked for their removal. Hutchinson hesitated much. He was not yet governor. Bernard was in England. Hutchinson had himself asked for the troops to be sent to Boston. He knew that their removal would, under the circumstances, be a great humiliation to the Government and a great encouragement to the mob, and that if once removed it would be extremely difficult to recall them. On the other hand, if they remained it was only too probable that in a few hours the streets of Boston would run with blood. He consulted the council, and found it as usual an echo of the public voice. He yielded at last, and the troops were removed to Fort William, on an island three miles from Boston, and the wish of the townsmen was thus at last accomplished. An immense crowd accompanied the bodies of the ‘martyred’ citizens to their last resting-place. An annual celebration was at once resolved upon, and for several years the citizens were accustomed on every anniversary to meet in the chief towns of America in chapels hung with crape, while the most popular orators described the horrors of the Boston massacre, the tyranny of England, and the ferocious character of standing armies.1
Few things contributed more to the American Revolution than this unfortunate affray. Skilful agitators perceived the advantage it gave them, and the most fantastic exaggerations were dexterously diffused. The incident had, however, a sequel which is extremely creditable to the American people. It was determined to try the soldiers for their fives, and public feeling ran so fiercely against them that it seemed as if their fate was sealed. The trial, however, was delayed for seven months, till the excitement had in some degree subsided. Captain Preston very judiciously appealed to John Adams, who was rapidly rising to the first place both among the lawyers and the popular patriots of Boston, to undertake his defence. Adams knew well how much he was risking by espousing so unpopular a cause, but he knew also his professional duty, and, though violently opposed to the British Government, he was an eminently honest, brave, and humane man. In conjunction with Josiah Quincy, a young lawyer who was also of the patriotic party, he undertook the invidious task, and he discharged it with consummate ability. It was clearly shown that the popular account which had been printed in Boston and circulated assiduously through the colonies, representing the affair as a deliberate and premeditated massacre of unoffending citizens, was grossly untrue. As was natural in the case of a confused scuffle in the dark, there was much conflict of testimony about the exact circumstances of the affair, but there was no sufficient evidence that Captain Preston had given an order to fire; and although no soldier was seriously injured, there was abundant evidence that the soldiers had endured gross provocation and some violence. If the trial had been the prosecution of a smuggler or a seditious writer, the jury would probably have decided against evidence, but they had no disposition to shed innocent blood. Judges, counsel, and jurymen acted bravely and honourably. All the soldiers were acquitted, except two, who were found guilty of manslaughter, and who escaped with very slight punishment.
It is very remarkable that after Adams had accepted the task of defending the incriminated soldiers, he was elected by the people of Boston as their representative in the Assembly, and the public opinion of the province appears to have fully acquiesced in the verdict.1 In truth, although no people have indulged more largely than the Americans in violent, reckless, and unscrupulous language, no people have at every period of their history been more signally free from the thirst for blood, which in moments of great political excitement has been often shown both in England and France. It is a characteristic fact that one of the first protests against the excessive multiplication of capital offences in the English legislation of the eighteenth century was made by the Assembly of Massachusetts, which in 1762 objected to death as a punishment for forgery on the ground that ‘the House are very averse to capital punishment in any case where the interest of the Government does not absolutely require it,’ and where some other punishment will be sufficiently deterrent.2 In the long period of anarchy, riot, and excitement which preceded the American Revolution there was scarcely any bloodshed and no political assassination, and the essential humanity of American public opinion which was shown so conspicuously during the trial of the soldiers at Boston, was afterwards displayed on a far wider field and in still more trying circumstances during the fierce passions of the revolutionary war, and still more remarkably in the triumph of the North in the War of Secession.
While these things were taking place in America, Lord North carried through Parliament his measure repealing all the duties imposed by Townshend's Act, with the exception of that on tea,1 which he maintained in spite of a very able opposition led by Pownall. His defence of the distinction was by no means destitute of plausibility or even of real force. The other duties, he said, were imposed on articles of English manufacture imported into America, and such duties were both unprecedented and economically inexpedient, as calculated to injure English industry. The duty on tea, however, was of another kind, and it was in perfect accordance with commercial precedents. The Americans had themselves drawn a broad distinction between external and internal taxation. No less than thirty-two Acts binding their trade had been imposed and submitted to, and the power of Parliament to impose port duties had, till the last two years, been unquestioned.2 Whatever might be said of the Stamp Act, the tea duty was certainly not a grievance to America, for Parliament had relieved the colonies of a duty of nearly 12d, in the pound, which had hitherto been levied in England, and the colonists were only asked in compensation to pay a duty of 3d. in the pound on the arrival of the tea in America. The measure was, therefore, not an act of oppression but of relief, making the price of tea in the colonies positively cheaper than it had been before.1 It was coupled with the circular of Lord Hillsborough pledging the English Government to raise no further revenue from America. At the same time the quartering Act, which had been so much objected to, was allowed silently to expire.2
It will probably strike the reader that every argument which showed that the tea duty was not a grievance to the colonies, was equally powerful to show that it was perfectly useless as a means of obtaining a revenue from them. It would be difficult, indeed, to find a more curious instance of legislative incapacity than the whole transaction displayed. The repeal of the greater part of Townshend's Act had given the agitators in America a signal triumph; the maintenance of the tea duty for the avowed purpose of obtaining a colonial revenue left them their old pretext for agitation, and at the same time that duty could not possibly attain the end for which it was ostensibly intended, and the Government by the circular of Lord Hillsborough had precluded themselves from increasing it. Hutchinson, whose judgment of American opinion is entitled to the highest respect, has expressed his firm conviction that the Government might have raised the whole revenue they expected from Townshend's Act without the smallest difficulty, if they had simply adopted the expedient of levying the duty on goods exported to America in England instead of in the colonies.3
The object of maintaining the tea duty was, of course, to assert the right of Parliament to impose port duties, and this assertion was thought necessary on account of the recent conduct and language of the Americans.1 At the same time North, like Grenville, continually maintained that the plan of obliging America to pay for her own army might have been easily and peaceably carried out had the condition of English parties rendered possible any steady, systematic, and united policy. It was the changes, vacillation, divisions, and weaknesses of English ministries, the utter disintegration of English parties, the rapid alternations of severity and indulgence, the existence in Parliament of a powerful section who had at every step of the struggle actively supported the Americans and encouraged them to resist, the existence outside Parliament of a still more democratic party mainly occupied with political agitation—it was these things which had chiefly lured the colonies to their present state of anarchy, had rendered all resistance to authority a popular thing, and had introduced the habit of questioning the validity of Acts of Parliament. The evil, however, was accomplished. The plan of making America pay for her defence was virtually abandoned, and the ministers were only trying feebly and ineffectively to uphold the doctrine of the Declaratory Act, that Parliament had a right to draw a revenue from America, by maintaining a duty which was in full accordance with American precedents and which was a positive boon to the American people.
The policy was not quite unsuccessful. The nonimportation agreements had lately been so formidable that the English exports to America, which amounted to 2,378,000l. in 1768, amounted only to 1,634,000l. in 1769;1 but the merchants in the colonies, after some hesitation, now resolved to abandon these agreements, and commerce with England resumed its old activity. An exception, however, was still made in the case of tea, and associations were formed binding all classes to abstain from that beverage, or at least to drink only what was smuggled. The next two or three years of colonial history were somewhat less eventful, though it was evident that the spirit of insubordination and anarchy was extending. In North Carolina, in 1771, some 1,500 men, complaining of extortions and oppressions of their local courts, rose to arms, and refused to pay taxes, and the colony was rapidly dividing into a civil war. The Governor, however, at the head of rather more than 1,000 militia, completely defeated the insurgents in a pitched battle. Some hundreds were killed or wounded, and six were afterwards hanged for high treason. In Massachusetts the troops were not again brought into Boston, but Castle William, which commanded the harbour, and to which the Boston patriots had once been so anxious to relegate them, was placed under martial law, and the provincial garrison was withdrawn. There were long and acrimonious disputes between Hutchinson and the Massachusetts Assembly about the right of the former to convene the Assembly at Cambridge instead of Boston; about the extent to which the salaries of Crown officers should be exempted from taxation; about the refusal of the Governor to ratify the grant of certain sums of money to the colonial agents in England. In 1772, Hutchinson, to the great indignation of the colony, informed the Assembly that, as his salary would henceforth be paid by the Crown, no appropriation would be required for that purpose. Otis, who had long been the most fiery of the Boston demagogues, had now nearly lost his intellect as well as his influence; and John Adams, who was a far abler man, had for a time retired from agitation, and devoted himself to his profession. Samuel Adams, however, still retained his influence in the Assembly, and he was unwearied in his efforts to excite ill feeling against England, and to push the colony into rebellion.
In Rhode Island a revenue outrage of more than common daring took place. A ship of war, called the ‘Gaspee,’ commanded by Lieutenant Duddingston, and carrying eight guns, was employed under the royal commission in enforcing the revenue Acts along the coast, and the commander is said to have discharged his duty with a zeal that often outran both discretion and law. He stopped and searched every ship that entered Narraganset Bay; compelled all ships to salute his flag; sent a captured cargo of smuggled rum, contrary to law, out of the colony to Boston on the ground that it could not be safely detained in Newport; seized more than one vessel upon insufficient evidence; searched for smuggled goods with what was considered unnecessary violence, and made himself extremely obnoxious to the colony, in which smuggling was one of the most flourishing and most popular of trades. The Chief Justice gave an opinion that the commander of one of his Majesty's ships could exercise no authority in the colony without having previously applied to the Governor, and shown him his warrant. Duddingston appealed to the Admiral at Boston, who fully justified his conduct, and an angry altercation ensued between the civil and naval authorities. On June 9, 1772, the ‘Gaspee,’ when chasing a suspected vessel, ran aground on a shoal in the river some miles from Providence, and the ship which had escaped brought the news to that town. Soon after a drum was beat through the streets, and all persons who were disposed to assist in the destruction of the King's ship were summoned to meet at the house of a prominent citizen. There appears to have been no concealment or disguise, and shortly after ten at night eight boats, full of armed men, started with muffled oars on the expedition. They reached the stranded vessel in the deep darkness of the early morning. Twice the sentinel on board vainly hailed them, when Duddingston himself appeared in his shirt upon the gunwale and asked who it was that approached. The leader of the party answered with a profusion of oaths that he was the sheriff of the county come to arrest him, and while he was speaking one of his men deliberately shot the lieutenant, who fell badly wounded on the deck. In another minute the ‘Gaspee’ was boarded. The crew were soon overpowered, bound, and placed upon the shore. Duddingston, his wounds having been dressed, was landed at a neighbouring house; the party then set fire to the ‘Gaspee’ and while its flames announced to the whole country the success of their expedition, they returned in the broad daylight to Providence. Large rewards were offered by the British Government for their detection; but, though they were universally known, no evidence could be obtained, and the outrage was entirely unpunished.1 An American historian complains that this event, though due to a mere ‘sudden impulse,’ inspired at least one English statesman with a deep hostility to the charter of the colony, according to which Governor, Assembly, and Council were all elected directly by the people.1
It is a curious coincidence that, just before this outrage took place, the British Parliament had passed an Act for the protection of his Majesty's ships, dockyards, and naval stores, by which their destruction was made a felony, and the ministry were empowered, if they pleased, to try those who were accused of such acts in England.2 This law, though it applied to the colonies, was not made with any special reference to them, but it became one of their great grievances. Perhaps the state of feeling disclosed in the town of Providence at the time of the destruction of the ‘Gaspee,’ may be regarded as the strongest argument in its defence.
A considerable step towards uniting the colonies was taken in this year and in 1773 by the appointment in Massachusetts, Virginia, and some other colonies of committees specially charged with the task of collecting and publishing colonial grievances, maintaining a correspondence between the different provinces, and procuring authentic intelligence of all the acts of the British Parliament or Ministry relating to them. In England they were already represented by agents of great ability, the most prominent being Benjamin Franklin, who at this time possessed a greater reputation than any other living American.
He was born in 1706, and was therefore now in the decline of life. A younger son in a large and poor family, ill treated by his elder brother, and little favoured by casual good fortune, he had risen by his own energies from a humble journeyman printer at Boston and Philadelphia to a foremost place among his countrymen; and he enjoyed a reputation which the lapse of a century has scarcely dimmed. Franklin is, indeed, one of the very small class of men who can be said to have added something of real value to the art of living. Very few writers have left so many profound and original observations on the causes of success in life, and on the best means of cultivating the intellect and the character. To extract from surrounding circumstances the largest possible amount of comfort and rational enjoyment, was the ideal he placed before himself and others, and he brought to its attainment one of the shrewdest and most inventive of human intellects, one of the calmest and best balanced of human characters. ‘It is hard,’ he once wrote, ‘for an empty sack to stand upright;’ and it was his leading principle that a certain amount of material prosperity is the almost indispensable condition as well as the chief reward of integrity of character. He had no religious fervour, and no sympathy with those who appeal to strong passions or heroic self-abnegation; but his busy and somewhat pedestrian intellect was ceaselessly employed in devising useful schemes for the benefit of mankind. He founded societies for mutual improvement, established the first circulating library in America, introduced new methods for extinguishing fires, warming rooms, paving and lighting the streets, gave a great impulse to education in Pennsylvania, took part in many schemes for strengthening the defences and improving the police of the colony, and was the soul of more than one enterprise of public charity. ‘Poor Richard's Almanac,’ which he began in 1732, and which he continued for twenty-five years, attained an annual circulation of near 10,000, and he made it a vehicle for diffusing through the colonies a vast amount of practical knowledge and homely wisdom.
His brother printed the fourth newspaper which ever appeared in America, and Franklin wrote in it when still a boy. He had afterwards a newspaper of his own, and there were few questions of local politics in which he did not take an active part. He was very ambitious of literary success, and within certain limits he has rarely been surpassed. How completely blind he was to the sublime and the poetical in literature, he indeed conclusively showed when he tried to improve the majestic language of the Book of Job or the Lord's Prayer by translating them into ordinary eighteenth-century phraseology; but on his own subjects no one wrote better. His style was always terse, luminous, simple, pregnant with meaning, eminently persuasive. There is scarcely an obscure or involved or superfluous sentence, scarcely an ambiguous term in his works, and not a trace of that false and inflated rhetoric which has spoilt much American writing, and from which the addresses of Washington himself are not quite free. He was a most skilful and plausible reasoner, abounding in ingenious illustration, and with a happy gift of carrying into difficult and intricate subjects that transparent simplicity of style which is, perhaps, the highest reach of art. At the same time his researches and writings on electricity gave him a wide reputation in the scientific world, and in 1752 his great discovery of the lightning conductor made his name universally known through Europe. It was indeed pre-eminently fitted to strike the imagination; and it was a strange freak of fortune that one of the most sublime and poetic of scientific discoveries should have fallen to the lot of one of the most prosaic of great men.
In every phase of the struggle with England he took a prominent part; and it may be safely asserted that if he had been able to guide American opinion, it would never have ended in revolution. During a great portion of the struggle he always professed a warm attachment for England and the English Constitution. In conversation with Burke he expressed the greatest concern at the impending separation of the two countries; predicted that ‘America would never again see such happy days as she had passed under the protection of England, and observed that ours was the only instance of a great empire in which the most distant parts and members had been as well governed as the metropolis and its vicinage.’1 A man so eminently wise and temperate must have clearly seen that colonies situated 3,000 miles from the mother country, doubling their population every twenty-five years, possessing representative institutions of the freest and most democratic type, and inhabited by a people who, from their circumstances and their religion, carried the sentiment of independence to the highest point, were never in any real danger of political servitude, and that there was no difference between America and England which reasonable men might not easily have compromised. Personally, no one had less sympathy than Franklin with anarchy, violence, and declamation, and in some respects his natural leaning was towards the Tories. It is remarkable that when he was in England at the time of the Middlesex election, his sympathies ran strongly against Wilkes, he spoke with indignation of the punishment that must await a people ‘who are ungratefully abusing the best Constitution and the best King any nation was ever blessed with;’2 and he fully adopted the Tory maxim that the whole political power of a nation belongs of right to the freeholders.3 He held under the Government the position of Postmaster-General for America. He was once thought of as Under-Secretary of State for the colonies under Lord Hillsborough, and his son was royal Governor of New Jersey.
His writings are full of suggestions which, if they had been acted on, might have averted the disruption. As we have already seen, he had advocated an union of the colonies for defensive purposes as early as 1754, and in 1764 had regarded with great equanimity, and even approval, the possible establishment of an English army in America, paid for by duties imposed on the colonies. He opposed the Stamp Act; but it is quite evident, from his conduct, that he neither expected nor desired that it should be resisted. In one of his writings, he very wisely suggested that England should give up her trade monopoly, and that America should in return agree to pay a fixed annual sum for the military purposes of the Empire. In another, he advocated a legislative union, which would have enabled the English Parliament, without injustice, to tax America. He strongly maintained the reality of the distinction between internal and external taxation, and asserted with great truth that ‘the real grievance is not that Britain puts duties upon her own manufactures exported to us, but that she forbids us to buy like manufactures from any other country.’
He was Agent for Pennsylvania at the time of the Stamp Act, and, in his examination soon after, before the House of Commons, he defended the colonial cause with an ability, a presence of mind, and a moderation that produced a great impression upon Parliament. His many tracts in defence of their cause, though they are very far from a fair or candid statement even of the facts of the case, were undoubtedly the ablest and most plausible arguments advanced on the American side. In 1767 he mentioned the assiduity with which the French ambassador was courting him, and he added: ‘I fancy that intriguing nation would like very well to meddle on occasion and blow up the coals between Britain and her colonies; but I hope we shall give them no opportunity.’1 In his confidential correspondence with American politicians, he constantly advocated moderation and patience. ‘Our great security,’ he wrote in 1773, ‘lies in our growing strength both in numbers and wealth, that creates an increasing ability of assisting this nation in its wars, which will make us more respectable, our friendship more valued, and our enmity feared. … In confidence of this coming change in our favour, I think our prudence is, meanwhile, to be quiet, only holding up our rights and claims on all occasions … but bearing patiently the little present notice that is taken of them. They will all have their weight in time, and that time is at no great distance.’2 ‘There seems to be among us some violent spirits who are for an immediate rupture; but I trust the general prudence of our country will see that by our growing strength we advance fast to a situation in which our claims must be allowed; that by a premature struggle we may be crippled and kept down another age … that between governed and governing every mistake in government, every encroachment on right, is not worth a rebellion … remembering withal that this Protestant country (our mother, though lately an unkind one) is worth preserving, and that her weight in the scale of Europe, and her safety in a great degree, may depend on our union with her.’3
In addition to his position of Agent for Pennsylvania, he became Agent for New Jersey, for Georgia, and in 1770 for Massachusetts. His relations, however, with the latter colony were not always absolutely cordial. His religious scepticism, his known hatred of war, his personal relations to the British Government, his dislike to violent counsels, and to that exaggerated and declamatory rhetoric which was peculiarly popular at Boston, all placed him somewhat out of harmony with his constituents; and although they were justly proud of his European reputation, even this was sometimes a cause of suspicion. They felt that he, and he alone, of living Americans, by his own unassisted merit, had won a great position in England, and they doubted whether he could be as devoted to their cause as men whose reputation was purely provincial. In 1771, Arthur Lee, of Virginia, who was fully identified with the extreme party, was appointed his colleague, and there were several other symptoms that Franklin was looked on with some distrust. The suspicions of his sincerity were, however, wholly groundless. His heart was warmly in the American cause, and although he would have gladly moderated the policy of his countrymen, he was by no means disposed to suffer himself to be stranded and distanced. His views became more extensive, and his language more emphatic; he now maintained with great ability the position that the colonies, like Hanover, or like Scotland before the Union, though they were subject to the English king, were wholly independent of the British Legislature; and in 1773 he was concerned in a transaction which placed him at open war with English opinion.
It had been for a long time the habit of Hutchinson, the Governor-General of Massachusetts; of Oliver, who was now Lieutenant-Governor; and of some other politicians of the province who were attached to the Crown, to carry on a strictly private and confidential correspondence about the state of the colonies with Whately, who had formerly been private secretary to George Grenville. In June 1772 Whately died, and in December, by some person and some means that have never been certainly disclosed, the letters of his American correspondents were stolen and carried to Franklin. The letters of Hutchinson had, with one exception, been written before his appointment as Governor, but at a time when he held high office in the colony, and they were written with the perfect freedom of confidential intercourse. Whately, though peculiarly conversant with colonial matters, held at this time no office under the Crown, and was a simple member of the Opposition. Hutchinson, in writing to him, dilated upon the turbulent and rebellious disposition of Boston, the factious character of the local agitators, the weakness of the Executive, the necessity of a military force to support the Government, and the excessive predominance of the democratic element in the constitution of Massachusetts. ‘I never think,’ he wrote in the letter which was afterwards most violently attacked, ‘of the measures necessary for the peace and good order of the colonies without pain. There must be an abridgment of what are called English liberties. … I doubt whether it is possible to project a system of government in which a colony 3,000 miles distant from the parent State shall enjoy all the liberty of the parent State. … I wish the good of the colony when I wish to see some further restraint of liberty rather than the connection with the parent State should be broken, for I am sure such a breach must prove the ruin of the colony.’ Oliver argued with more detail that the Council or Upper Chamber should consist exclusively of landed proprietors, that the Crown officers should have salaries independent of popular favour, that the popular election of grand juries should be abolished, and that there should be a colonial representation in the English Parliament. All this appears to have been most honestly written, but it was written without the reserve and the caution which would have been maintained in letters intended to be published. Both Hutchinson and Oliver impressed on their correspondent their desire that these letters should be deemed strictly confidential.xs1 They were brought to Franklin as political information for his perusal. He at once perceived the advantage they would give to the popular party, and he asked and obtained permission to send them to Massachusetts on condition that they should not be printed or copied; that they should be shown only to a few of the leading people, that they should be eventually returned, and that the source from which they were obtained should be concealed.
The letters were accordingly sent to Thomas Cushing, the Speaker of the Assembly of Massachusetts, and, as might have been expected, they soon created a general ferment. As Franklin acutely wrote, ‘there was no restraint proposed to talking of them, but only to copying.’ They were shown to many of the leading agitators. John Adams was suffered to take them with him on his judicial circuit, and they were finally brought before the Assembly in a secret sitting. The Assembly at once carried resolutions censuring them as designed to sow discord and encourage the oppressive acts of the British Government, to introduce arbitrary power into the province and subvert its constitution, and with the concurrence of the Council it petitioned the King to remove Hutchinson and Oliver from the Government. The letters were soon generally known. The sole obstacle to their diffusion was the promise that they should not be copied or printed, and it was not likely that this would be observed. According to one account,1 copies were produced which were falsely said to have come by the last mail from England, and which were therefore not included under the original promise. According to another account,2 Hancock, one of the leading patriots, took ‘advantage of the implied permission of Hutchinson’ to have copies made. Hutchinson had indeed been challenged with the letters, and been asked for copies of them and of such others as he should think proper to communicate. After some delay, he answered evasively, ‘If you desire copies with a view to make them public, the originals are more proper for the purpose than the copies,’ and this sentence appears to have been considered a sufficient authorisation. The letters were accordingly printed and scattered broadcast over the colonies.
When the printed copies arrived in England, they excited great astonishment, and William Whately, the brother and executor of the late Secretary, was filled with a very natural consternation at a theft which was likely to have such important consequences, and for which public opinion was inclined to make him responsible. He, in his turn, suspected a certain Mr. Temple, who had been allowed to look through the papers of his deceased brother, for the purpose of perusing one relating to the colonies, and a duel ensued, in which Whately was wounded. Franklin then, for the first time, in a letter to a newspaper, disclosed the part he had taken. He stated that he, and he alone, had obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in question, that they had never passed into the hands of William Whately, and that it was therefore impossible either that Whately could have communicated them or that Temple could have taken them from his papers. There is some reason to believe that the original owner had left them carelessly in a public office, from whence they had been abstracted, but the mystery was never decisively solved.
Franklin always maintained that in this matter he had simply done his duty, and that his conduct was perfectly honourable. The letters, he said, ‘were written by public officers to persons in public stations, on public affairs, and intended to procure public measures.’ They were brought to him as the Agent for Massachusetts, and it was his duty as such to communicate to his constituents intelligence that was of such vital importance to their affairs. He even urged, more ingeniously than plausibly, that he was animated by a virtuous desire to lessen the breach between England and the colonies. Like most Americans, he said, he had viewed with indignation the coercive measures which emanated, as he supposed, from the British Government, but his feelings were much changed when it was proved that their real origin might be traced to Americans holding high offices in their native country. It was to convince him of this truth that the letters had been originally brought to him. It was to spread a similar conviction among his countrymen that he had sent them across the Atlantic. With more force his apologists have urged that the sanctity of private correspondence was not then regarded as it is regarded now, and that the Government itself continually tampered with it for political purposes.1 In 1766 the Duke of Bedford discovered, to his great indignation, that a letter which he had written to the Duke of Grafton had been opened; and among the items of secret-service money during the administration of Grenville was a sum to a Post Office official ‘for engraving the many seals we are obliged to make use of.’2 If Government was not ashamed to resort to such methods, was it reasonable to expect that an agent who was endeavouring in a hostile country and against overwhelming obstacles to maintain the interests of his colony would be more scrupulous? Letters of Franklin himself, written to the colony, had been opened, and their contents had been employed for political purposes. Hutchinson had been concerned in this proceeding, and could therefore hardly complain that his own weapons were turned against himself.1
These considerations, no doubt, palliate the conduct of Franklin. Whether they do more than palliate it, must be left to the judgment of the reader. In England that conduct was judged with the utmost severity. For the purpose of ruining honourable officials, it was said, their most confidential letters, written several years before to a private Member of Parliament who had at that time no connection with the Government, had been deliberately stolen; and although the original thief was undiscovered, the full weight of the guilt and of the dishonour rested upon Franklin. He was perfectly aware that the letters had been written in the strictest confidence, that they had been dishonestly obtained without the knowledge either of the person who received them or of the persons who wrote them, and that their exposure would be a deadly injury to the writers. Under these circumstances he procured them. Under these circumstances he sent them to a small group of politicians whom he knew to be the bitterest enemies of the Governor, and one of the consequences of his conduct was a duel in which the brother of the man whose private papers had been stolen was nearly killed. Any man of high and sensitive honour, it was said, would sooner have put his hand in the fire than have been concerned in such a transaction. When the petition for the removal of Hutchinson and Oliver arrived, the Government referred it to the Committee of the Privy Council, that the allegations might be publicly examined with counsel on either side, and the case excited an interest which had been rarely paralleled. No less than thirty-five Privy Councillors attended. Among the distinguished strangers who crowded the Bar were Burke, Priestley, and Jeremy Bentham. Dunning and Lee, who spoke for the petitioners, appear to have made no impression; while on the other side, Wedderburn, the Solicitor-General, made one of his most brilliant but most virulent speeches. After a brief but eloquent eulogy of the character and services of Hutchinson, he passed to the manner in which the letters were procured, and turning to Franklin, who stood before him, he delivered an invective which appears to have electrified his audience. ‘How the letters came into the possession of anyone but the right owners,’ he said, ‘is still a mystery for Dr. Franklin to explain. He was not the rightful owner, and they could not have come into his hands by fair means. Nothing will acquit Dr. Franklin of the charge of obtaining them by fraudulent or corrupt means for the most malignant of purposes, unless he stole them from the person who stole them. I hope, my Lords, you will brand this man for the honour of this country, of Europe, and of mankind. … Into what country will the fabricator of this iniquity hereafter go with unembarrassed face? Men will watch him with a jealous eye. They will hide their papers from him, and lock up their escritoires. Having hitherto aspired after fame by his writings, he will henceforth esteem it a libel to be called a man of letters—homo trium literarum.1 But he not only took away those papers from one brother—he kept himself concealed till he nearly occasioned the murder of another. It is impossible to read his account, expressive of the coolest and most deliberate malice, without horror. Amid these tragical events, of one person nearly murdered, of another answerable for the issue, of a worthy Governor hurt in his dearest interests, the fate of America in suspense—here is a man who, with the utmost insensibility of remorse, stands up and avows himself the author of all. I can compare him only to Zanga in Dr. Young's “Revenge”:
I ask, my Lords, whether the revengeful temper attributed by poetic fiction only to the bloody African, is not surpassed by the coolness and apathy of the wily American?’
The scene was a very strange one, and it is well suited to the brush of an historical painter. Franklin was now an old man of sixty-seven, the greatest writer, the greatest philosopher America had produced, a member of some of the chief scientific societies in Europe, the accredited representative of the most important of the colonies of America, and for nearly an hour and in the midst of the most distinguished of living Englishmen he was compelled to hear himself denounced as a thief or the accomplice of thieves. He stood there conspicuous and erect, and without moving a muscle, amid the torrent of invective, but his apparent composure was shared by few who were about him. With the single exception of Lord North, the Privy Councillors who were present lost all dignity and all self-respect. They laughed aloud at each sarcastic sally of Wedderburn. ‘The indecency of their behaviour,’ in the words of Shelburne, ‘exceeded, as is agreed on all hands, that of any committee of elections;’ and Fox, in a speech which he made as late as 1803, reminded the House how on that memorable occasion ‘all men tossed up their hats and clapped their hands in boundless delight at Mr. Wedderburn's speech.’ The Committee at once voted that the petition of the Massachusetts Assembly was ‘false, groundless, and scandalous, and calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a spirit of clamour and discontent in the province.’ The King in Council confirmed the report, and Franklin was ignominiously dismissed from his office of Postmaster. It was an office which had yielded no revenue before he had received it, but which his admirable organisation had made lucrative and important. The colonists accepted the insults directed against their great representative as directed against themselves,1 and from this time the most sagacious of American leaders had a deep personal grudge against the British Government.2
In the meantime a serious attempt was made to make the tea duty a reality. About seventeen million pounds of tea lay unsold in the warehouses of the East India Company. The Company was at this time in extreme financial embarrassment, almost amounting to bankruptcy, and in order to assist it the whole duty which had formerly been imposed on the exportation to America was remitted.3 Hitherto the Company had been obliged to send their tea to England, where it was sold by public sale to merchants and dealers, and by them exported to the colonies. The Company were now permitted to export tea direct from their warehouses on their own account on obtaining a licence from the Treasury,1 and they accordingly selected their own agents in the different colonies. As the East India Company had of late been brought to a great extent under the direction of the Government, the consignees were such as favoured the Administration, and in Boston they included the two sons of Hutchinson. Several ships freighted with tea were sent to the colonies, and the Government hoped, and the ‘sons of liberty’ feared, that if it were once landed it would probably find purchasers, for owing to the drawback of the duty on exportation it could be sold much cheaper than in England itself, and cheaper than tea imported from any other country. The colonies at once entered into a conspiracy to prevent the tea being landed, and a long series of violent measures were taken for the purpose of intimidating those who were concerned in receiving it.
At last, in December 1773, three ships laden with tea arrived at Boston, and on the 16th of that month forty or fifty men disguised as Mohawk Indians, and under the direct superintendence of Samuel Adams, Hancock,2 and other leading patriots, boarded them, and posting sentinels to keep all agents of authority at a distance, they flung the whole cargo, consisting of 342 chests, into the sea. In the course of the violent proceedings at Boston in this year, the Council, the militia, the corps of cadets had been vainly asked to assist in maintaining the law. The sheriff of the town was grossly insulted. The magistrates would do nothing, and, as usual, the crowning outrage of the destruction of the tea was accomplished with perfect impunity, and not a single person engaged in it was in any way molested. At Charleston a ship arrived with tea, but the consignees were intimidated into resignation, and the tea was stored in cellars, where it ultimately perished. At New York and Philadelphia the inhabitants obliged the captains of the tea ships at once to sail back with their cargoes to the Thames.
While the law was thus openly defied, the popular party were inflexibly opposed to the project of granting the judges fixed salaries from the Crown, and thus making them in some degree independent of the Assemblies. In Massachusetts the Assembly declared all judges who received salaries from the Crown instead of the people unworthy of public confidence, and it threatened to impeach them before the Council and the Governor. In February 1774, proceedings of this kind were actually instituted against Oliver, the Chief Justice of the province, because he had accepted an annual stipend from the Crown. Out of 100 members who voted, no less than 92 supported the impeachment. Hutchinson of course refused to concur in the measure, and on March 30 he prorogued the House, and at the same time accused it of having been guilty of proceedings which ‘strike directly at the honour and authority of the King and Parliament.’
The news of these events convinced most intelligent Englishmen that war was imminent, and that the taxation of America could only be enforced by the sword. Several distinct lines of policy were during the next two or three years advocated in England. Tucker, the Dean of Gloucester, a bitter Tory, but one of the best living writers on all questions of trade, maintained a theory which was then esteemed visionary and almost childish, but which will now be very differently regarded. He had no respect for the Americans; he dissected with unsparing severity the many weaknesses in their arguments, and the declamatory and rhetorical character of much of their patriotism; but he contended that matters had now come to such a point that the only real remedy was separation. Colonies which would do nothing for their own defence, which were in a condition of smothered rebellion, and which were continually waiting for the difficulties of the mother country in order to assert their power, were a source of political weakness and not of political strength, and the trade advantages which were supposed to spring from the connection were of the most delusive kind. Trade, as he showed, will always ultimately flow in the most lucrative channels. The most stringent laws had been unable to prevent the Americans from trading with foreign countries if they could do so with advantage, and in case of separation the Americans would still resort to England for most of their goods, for the simple reason that England could supply them more cheaply than any other nation. The supremacy of English industry did not rest upon political causes. ‘The trade of the world is carried on in a great measure by British capital. British capital is greater than that of any other country in the world, and as long as this superiority lasts it is morally impossible that the trade of the British nation can suffer any very great or alarming diminution.’ No single fact is more clearly established by history than that the bitterest political animosity is insufficient to prevent nations from ultimately resorting to the markets that are most advantageous to them, and as long as England maintained the conditions of her industrial supremacy unimpaired she was in this respect perfectly secure. But nothing impairs these conditions so much as war, which wastes capital unproductively and burdens industry with a great additional weight of debt, military establishments, and taxation. The war which began about the Spanish right of search had cost sixty millions, and had scarcely produced any benefit to England. The last war cost ninety millions, and its most important result had been, by securing the Americans from French aggression, to render possible their present rebellion. Let England, then, be wise in time, and before she draws the sword let her calculate what possible advantage she could derive commensurate with the permanent evils which would inevitably follow. The Americans have refused to submit to the authority and legislation of the Supreme Legislature, or to bear their part in supporting the burden of the Empire. Let them, then, cease to be fellow-members of that Empire. Let them go their way to form their own destinies. Let England free herself from the cost, the responsibility, and the danger of defending them, retaining, like other nations, the right of connecting herself with them by treaties of commerce or of alliance.1
The views of Adam Smith, though less strongly expressed, are not very different from those of Tucker. The ‘Wealth of Nations’ was published in 1776, and although it had little political influence for at least a generation after its appearance, its publication has ultimately proved one of the most important events in the economical, and indeed in the intellectual, history of modern Europe. No part of it is more remarkable than the chapters devoted to the colonies. Adam Smith showed by an exhaustive examination that the liberty of commerce which England allowed to her colonies, though greatly and variously restricted, was at least more extensive than that which any other nation conceded to its dependencies, and that it was sufficient to give them a large and increasing measure of prosperity. The laws, however, preventing them from employing their industry in manufactures for themselves, he described as ‘a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind,’ and likely ‘in a more advanced state’ to prove ‘really oppressive and insupportable.’ Hitherto, however, these laws, though they were ‘badges of slavery imposed without any sufficient reason,’ had been of little practical importance; for, owing to the great cheapness of land and the great dearness of labour in the colonies, it was obviously the most economical course for the Americans to devote themselves to agriculture and fisheries, and to import manufactured goods. His chief contention, however, was that the system of trade monopoly which, with many exceptions and qualifications, was maintained in the colonies for the benefit of England, was essentially vicious; that the colonies were profoundly injured by the restrictions which confined them to the English market, and that these restrictions were not beneficial, but were indeed positively injurious to England herself. These positions were maintained in a long, complicated, but singularly luminous argument, and it followed that the very keystone of English colonial policy was a delusion. ‘The maintenance of this monopoly has hitherto been the principal, or, more properly, perhaps, the sole end and purpose of the dominion which Great Britain assumes over the colonies.’ The burden of a great peace establishment by land and sea, maintained almost exclusively from English revenue, two great wars which had arisen chiefly from colonial questions, and the risk and probability of many others, were all supposed to be counterbalanced by the great advantage which the mother country derived from the monopoly of the colonial trade. The truth, however, is that ‘the monopoly of the colony trade depresses the industry of all other countries, but chiefly that of the colonies, without in the least increasing, but, on the contrary, diminishing, that of the country in whose favour it is established.’ ‘Under the present system of management, therefore, Great Britain derives nothing but loss from the dominion which she assumes over the colonies.’
Like Tucker, Adam Smith would gladly have seen a peaceful separation. ‘Great Britain,’ he wrote, ‘would not only be immediately freed from the whole annual expense of the peace establishment of the colonies, but might settle with them such a treaty of commerce as would effectually secure to her a free trade more advantageous to the great body of the people, though less so to the merchants, than the monopoly which she at present enjoys.’ She would at the same time probably revive that good feeling between the two great branches of the English race which was now rapidly turning to hatred. Such a solution, however, though the best, must be put aside as manifestly impracticable. No serious politician would propose the voluntary and peaceful cession of the great dominion of England in America with any real hope of being listened to. ‘Such a measure never was and never will be adopted by any nation in the world.’
Dismissing this solution, then, Adam Smith agreed with Grenville that every part of the British Empire should be obliged to support its own civil and military establishments, and to pay its proper proportion of the expense of the general government or defence of the British Empire. He also agreed with Grenville that it naturally devolved upon the British Parliament to determine the amount of the colonial contributions, though the colonial Legislatures might decide in what way those contributions should be raised. It was practically impossible to induce the colonial Legislatures of themselves to levy such taxation, or to agree upon its proportionate distribution. Moreover, a colonial Assembly, though, like the vestry of a parish, it is an admirable judge of the affairs of its own district, can have no proper means of determining what is necessary for the defence and support of the whole Empire. This ‘can be judged of only by that Assembly which inspects and superintends the affairs of the whole nation.’ ‘The Parliament of England,’ he added, ‘has not upon any occasion shown the smallest disposition to overburden those parts of the Empire which are not represented in Parliament. The islands of Jersey and Guernsey … are more lightly taxed than any parts of Great Britain. Parliament … has never hitherto demanded of the colonies anything which even approached to a just proportion of what was paid by their fellow-subjects at home,’ and the fear of an excessive taxation might be easily met by making the colonial contribution bear a fixed proportion to the English land tax. The colonists, however, almost unanimously refused to submit to taxation by a Parliament in which they were not represented. The only solution, then, was to give them a representation in it, and at the same time to open to them all the prizes of English politics. The colonists should ultimately be subjected to the same taxes as Englishmen, and should be admitted, in compensation, to the same freedom of trade and manufacture.
If we pass from the political philosophers to active politicians, we find that Chatham and Burke were substantially agreed upon the line they recommended. Burke, who had long shown a knowledge and a zeal on American questions which no other politician could rival, had in the preceding year accepted, with very doubtful propriety, the position of paid agent of New York; and in 1774 he made his great speech on American taxation. In the same year Chatham reappeared in the House of Lords, and took a prominent part in the American debates. Burke and Chatham continued to differ on the question of the abstract right of Parliament to tax America, but they agreed in maintaining that the union to the British Crown of a vast, civilised and rapidly progressive country, evidently destined to take a foremost place in the history of the world, was a matter of vital importance to the future of the Empire. In the speeches and letters of Chatham especially, this doctrine is maintained in the most emphatic language. ‘I fear the bond between us and America,’ he wrote in 1774, ‘will be cut off for ever. Devoted England will then have seen her best days, which nothing can restore again.’1 ‘Although I love the Americans as men prizing and setting a just value upon that inestimable blessing, liberty, yet if I could once persuade myself that they entertain the most distant intention of throwing off the legislative supremacy and great constitutional superintending power and control of the British Legislature, I should myself be the very first person … to enforce that power by every exertion this country is capable of making.’2
In the speeches of Burke, no passages of equal emphasis will be found; but Burke, like Chatham, entirely refused at this time to contemplate the separation of the colonies from the Empire; and he maintained that the only good policy was a policy of conciliation, reverting to the condition of affairs which existed before the Stamp Act, and repealing all the coercive and aggressive laws which had since then been promulgated. This was what the Americans themselves asked. In presenting a petition from the Assembly of Massachusetts in August 1773, Franklin, their Agent, had written ‘that a sincere disposition prevails in the people there to be on good terms with the mother country; that the Assembly have declared their desire only to be put into the situation they were in before the Stamp Act. They aim at no revolution.’1 In this spirit Burke urged their claims. ‘Revert to your old principles … leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into a distinction of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions. I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. … Let the memory of all actions in contradiction to that good old mode, on both sides be extinguished for ever. Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their trade. Do not burthen them with taxes; you were not used to do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave the rest to the schools; for there only they may be discussed with safety. If intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government by urging subtle deductions and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question.’
The duty on tea should especially be at once repealed. It was said that it was an external tax such as the Americans had always professed themselves ready to pay; that port duties had been imposed by Grenville as late as 1764 without exciting any protest, and that it was therefore evident that the claims of the Americans were extending. But the American distinction had always been that they would acknowledge external taxes, which were intended only to regulate trade; but not internal taxes, which were intended to raise revenue. Townshend, with unhappy ingenuity, proved that an external tax could be made to raise revenue like an internal tax, and this purpose was expressly stated in the preamble of the Act. ‘It was just and necessary,’ the preamble said, ‘that a revenue should be raised there;’ and again, the Commons ‘being desirous to make some provision in the present Session of Parliament towards raising the said revenue.
It would also be difficult to conceive a more absurd position than that of the ministry which retained the tea duty. It was an intelligible policy to force the Americans to support an army for the defence of the Empire; but it was calculated that the duty would at the utmost produce 16,000l. a year, and the ministry had precluded themselves from the possibility of increasing the revenue. Townshend no doubt had meant to do so; but Lord North had authorised Lord Hillsborough to assure the colonial Governors, in his letter of May 1769,’ that his Majesty's present Administration have at no time entertained a design to propose to Parliament to lay any further taxes upon America for the purpose of raising a revenue.’ 16,000l. a year was therefore the utmost the Ministers expected from a policy which had led England to the brink of an almost inevitable war. But even this was not all. In order to impose this unhappy port duty of 3d. in the pound on the Americans, Parliament had actually withdrawn a duty of 1s. in the pound which had hitherto been paid without question and without difficulty upon exportation from England, and which necessarily fell chiefly, if not wholly, upon those who purchased the tea. ‘Incredible as it may seem, you have deliberately thrown away a large duty which you held secure and quiet in your hands, for the vain hope of getting three-fourths less, through every hazard, through certain litigation, and possibly through war.’1 It was said that the duty was merely an assertion of right, like the Declaratory Act of 1766. The answer is to be found in the very preamble of the new Act, which asserted not merely the justice, but also the expediency, of taxing the colonies. A simple repeal was the one possible form of conciliation, for a legislative union between countries 3,000 miles apart was wholly impracticable, and the idea was absolutely repudiated by the colonies. On the subject of the restrictive trade laws, Burke wisely said as little as possible. He knew that the question could not be raised without dividing the friends of America, and probably without alienating the commercial classes, who were the chief English opponents of American taxation.
Whether the policy of Burke and Chatham would have succeeded is very doubtful. After so much agitation and violence, after the promulgation of so many subversive doctrines in America, and the exhibition of so much weakness and vacillation in England, it could scarcely be expected that the tempest would have been calmed, and that the race of active agitators would have retired peaceably into obscurity. Philosophers in their studies might draw out reasonable plans of conciliation, but pure reason plays but a small part in politics, and the difficulty of carrying these plans into execution was enormous. Party animosities, divisions, and subdivisions; the personal interests of statesmen who wanted to climb into office, and of agitators who wanted to retain or increase their power; the obstinacy of the Court, which was opposed to all concession to the colonies, and no less opposed to a consolidation of parties at home; the spirit of commercial monopoly, which made one class averse to all trade concessions; the heavy weight of the land tax, which made another class peculiarly indignant at the refusal of the colonists to bear the burden of their own defence; the natural pride of Parliament, which had been repeatedly insulted and defied; the anger, the jealousy, and the suspicion which recent events had created on both sides of the Atlantic; the doubts which existed in England about the extent to which the disloyal spirit of New England had permeated the other colonies; the doubts which existed in America about which of the many sections of English public opinion would ultimately obtain an ascendency; and, finally, the weak characters, the divided opinions, the imperfect information, and the extremely ordinary capacities of the English ministers, must all be taken into account. Had Chatham been at the head of affairs and in the full force of his powers, conciliation might have been possible; but such a policy required a firm hand, an eagle eye, a great personal ascendency.
Popular opinion in England, which had supported the repeal of the Stamp Act, and had acquiesced in the repeal of the greater part of Townshend's Act, was now opposed to further concession. England, it was said, had sufficiently humiliated herself. The claims and the language of the colonial agitators excited profound and not unnatural indignation, and every mail from America brought news that New England at least was in a condition of virtual rebellion; that Acts of Parliament were defied and disobeyed with the most perfect impunity; that the representatives of the British Government were habitually exposed to the grossest insult, and reduced to the most humiliating impotence. The utility of colonies to the mother country was becoming a doubtful question to some. Ministers, it was said, admitted in Parliament that ‘it might be a great question whether the colonies should not be given up.’1 England, indeed, was plainly staggering under the weight of her empire. In 1774, on the very eve of its gigantic struggle, Parliament resounded with complaints of the magnitude of the peace establishment, and there were loud cries for reduction. It was noticed that the land tax was 1s. higher than in any previous peace establishment; that the Three per Cents, which some years ago were above 90, had now fallen to about 86; that the land and malt taxes were almost entirely absorbed by the increased expenditure required for the navy.2 All this rendered the attitude of the colonies peculiarly irritating. The publication of the letters of Hutchinson produced great indignation among English politicians; and the burning of the ‘Gaspee,’ the destruction of tea in Boston harbour, and the manifest connivance of the whole population in the outrage, raised that indignation to the highest point. The time for temporising, it was said, was over. It was necessary to show that England possessed some real power of executing her laws and protecting her officers, and the ministers were probably supported by a large majority of the English people when they resolved to throw away the scabbard, and to exert all the powers of Parliament to reduce Massachusetts to obedience.
The measures that were taken were very stringent. By one Act the harbour of Boston was legally closed. The Custom-house officers were removed to Salem. All landing, lading, and shipping of merchandise in Boston harbour was forbidden, and English men-of-war were appointed to maintain the blockade. The town, which owed its whole prosperity to its commercial activity, was debarred from all commerce by sea, and was to continue under this ban till it had made compensation to the East India Company for the tea which had been destroyed, and had satisfied the Crown that trade would for the future be safely carried on in Boston, property protected, laws obeyed, and duties regularly paid.1
By another Act, Parliament exercised the power which, as the supreme legislative body of the Empire, Mansfield and other lawyers ascribed to it, of remodelling by its own authority the Charter of Massachusetts. The General Assembly, which was esteemed the legitimate representative of the democratic element in the Constitution, was left entirely untouched; but the Council, or Upper Chamber, which had been hitherto elected by the Assembly, was now to be appointed, as in most of the other colonies of America, by the Crown, and the whole executive power was to cease to emanate from the people. The judges and magistrates of all kinds, including the sheriffs, were to be appointed by the royal governor, and were to be revocable at pleasure. Jurymen, instead of being chosen by popular election, were to be summoned by the sheriffs. The right of public meeting, which had lately been much employed in inciting the populace against the Government, was seriously abridged. No meeting except election meetings might henceforth be held, and no subject discussed, without the permission of the governor.2
It was more than probable that such grave changes would be resisted by force, that blood would be shed, and that English soldiers would again be tried for their lives before a civil tribunal. The conduct of the Boston judges and of the Boston jury at the trial of Captain Preston and his soldiers had redounded to their immortal honour; but Government was resolved that no such risk should be again incurred, and that soldiers who were brought to trial for enforcing the law against the inhabitants of Boston, should never again be tried by a Boston jury. To remove the trial of prisoners from a district where popular feeling was so violent that a fair trial was not likely to be obtained, was a practice not wholly unknown to English law. Scotch juries were not suffered to try rebels, or Sussex juries smugglers; and an Act was now passed ‘for the impartial administration of justice,’ which provided that if any person in the province of Massachusetts were indicted for murder or any other capital offence, and if it should appear to the governor that the incriminated act was committed in aiding the magistrates to suppress tumult and riot, and also that a fair trial cannot be had in the province, the prisoner should be sent for trial to any other colony, or to Great Britain.1
These were the three great coercive measures of 1774. It is not necessary to dilate upon them, for their character is transparently evident, and the provocation that produced them has been sufficiently explained. The colonial estimate of them was tersely stated in the remonstrance of the province. ‘By the first,’ they say, ‘the property of unoffending thousands is arbitrarily taken away for the act of a few individuals; by the second our chartered liberties are annihilated, and by the third our lives may be destroyed with impunity.’ General Gage, who had for some years been commander-in-chief of the whole English army in America, was appointed Governor of Massachusetts, and entrusted with the task of carrying out the coercive policy of Parliament; and in order to assist him, an Act was carried, quartering soldiers on the inhabitants.1
One other measure relating to the colonies was carried during this session, which met with great opposition, and which, though important in American history, is still more important in the history of religious liberty. It was the famous Quebec Act, for the purpose of ascertaining the limits and regulating the condition of the new province of Canada.2 The great majority of the inhabitants of that province were French, who had been accustomed to live under an arbitrary government, and whose religious and social conditions differed widely from those of the English colonists. The Government resolved, as the event showed very wisely, that they would not subvert the ancient laws of the province, or introduce into them the democratic system which existed in New England. The English law with trial by jury was introduced in all criminal cases; but as all contracts and settlements had hitherto been made under French law, and as that law was most congenial to their tastes and habits and traditions, it was maintained.3 In all civil cases, therefore, French law without trial by jury continued in force. A legislative Council, varying from seventeen to twenty-three members, open to men of both religions, and appointed by the Crown, managed all legislative business except taxation, which was expressly reserved. The territory of the province, determined by the proclamation of 1763, was enlarged so as to include some outlying districts, which were chiefly inhabited by French; and by a bold measure, which excited great indignation both among the Puritans of New England and among the Whigs at home, the Catholic religion, which was that of the great majority of the inhabitants, was virtually established. The Catholic clergy obtained a full parliamentary title to their old ecclesiastical estates, and to tithes paid by members of their own religion; but no Protestant was obliged to pay tithes.
The Quebec Act was little less distasteful to the colonists than the coercive measures that have been related. The existence upon their frontiers of an English state governed on a despotic principle was deemed a new danger to their liberties, while the establishment of Catholicism offended their deepest religious sentiment. Its toleration had indeed been provided for by the Peace of Paris, and on the death of the last French bishop the Government had agreed to recognise a resident Catholic bishop on the condition that he and his successors should be designated by itself, but the political position of the Catholics had been for some time undetermined. The Protestant grand jurors at Quebec had insisted that no Catholic should be admitted to grand or petty juries, and the party they represented would have gladly concentrated all civil and political power in the hands of an infinitesimal body of Protestant immigrants, degraded the Catholics into a servile caste, and reproduced in America in a greatly aggravated form the detestable social condition which existed in Ireland. At home the strength of the anti-Catholic feeling was a few years later abundantly shown, out, with the exception of some parts of Scotland, no portion of the British Islands was animated with the religious fervour of New England, and no sketch of the American Revolution is adequate which does not take this influence into account. In this as in many other respects these colonies presented a vivid image of an England which had long since passed away. Their democratic church government, according to which each congregation elected its own minister, their historical connection with those austere republicans who had abandoned their native country to worship Grod after their own fashion in a desert land, and the intensely Protestant type of their belief, had all conspired to strengthen the Puritan spirit, and in the absence of most forms of intellectual life the pulpit had acquired an almost unparalleled ascendency. The chief and almost the only popular celebration in Massachusetts before the struggle of the Revolution was that of the 5th of November.1 In Boston, which was the chief centre of the political movement, the theological spirit was especially strong, for the population was unusually homogeneous both in race and in religion. The Congregationalists were three or four times as numerous as the Episcopalians, and other sects were as yet scarcely represented.2
The spirit of American puritanism was indeed so fierce and jealous that the American Episcopalians who were connected with the English Church were never suffered in the colonial period to have a bishop among them, but remained under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. Berkeley, Butler, and Seeker had vainly represented how injurious this system was to the spiritual welfare of the American Episcopalians. Sherlock complained bitterly that he was made responsible for the religious welfare of a vast country which he had never seen, which he never would see, and over which he could exercise no real influence. Gibson tried to exercise some control over the colonial clergy, but found that he had no means of enforcing his will. Archbishop Tenison had even left a legacy for the endowment of two bishoprics in America. The Episcopalians themselves petitioned earnestly for a resident bishop, and stated in the clearest terms that they wished him to be only a spiritual functionary destitute of all temporal authority. ‘The powers exercised in the consistory courts in England,’ it was said, ‘are not desired for bishops residing in America.’ They were not to be supported by any tax; they were not to be placed either in New England or Pennsylvania, where non-episcopal forms of religion prevailed, or to be suffered in any colony to exercise any authority, except over the members of their own persuasion.1 It was urged that those who were in communion with the Established Church of England were the only Christians in America who were deprived of what they believed to be the necessary means of religious discipline; that the rite of confirmation, which is so important in the Anglican system, was unknown among them; that it was an intolerable grievance and a fatal discouragement to their creed, that every candidate for ordination was obliged to travel 6,000 miles before he could become qualified to conduct public worship in his own village. By a very low computation, it was said, this necessity alone imposed on each candidate an expenditure of 100l., and out of fifty-two candidates who, in 1767, crossed the sea from the Northern colonies, no less than ten had died on the voyage or from its results.1 More than once the propriety of sending out one or two bishops to the colonies had been discussed, but the notion always produced such a storm of indignation in New England that it was speedily abandoned. It was not indeed a question on which the Ministers at all cared to provoke American opinion; and it is a curiously significant illustration of the theological indifference of the English Government that the first Anglican colonial bishop was the Bishop of Nova Scotia, who was only appointed in 1787; and that the first Anglican Indian bishop was the Bishop of Calcutta, who was appointed by the influence of Wilberforce in 1814.
It is easy to conceive how fiercely a Protestantism as jealous and sensitive as that of New England must have resented the establishment of Catholicism in Canada; and in the New England colonies the political influence exercised by the clergy was very great. Public meetings were held in the churches. Proclamations were read from the pulpit. The Episcopalianism of a large proportion of the Government officers contributed perceptibly to their unpopularity; political preaching was almost universal, and the sermons of Mayhew, Chauncey, and Samuel Cooper had much influence in stimulating resistance. The few clergymen who abstained from introducing politics into the pulpit were looked upon with great suspicion or dislike.1 The fast days which were held in every important crisis diffused, intensified, and consecrated the spirit of resistance, and gave a semi-religious tone to the whole movement. There were a few prominent leaders, indeed, who were of a different character. Otis lamented bitterly that the profession of a saintly piety was in New England the best means of obtaining political power. Franklin was intensely secular in the character of his mind, and his theology was confined to an admiration for the pure moral teaching of the Evangelists, while Jefferson sympathised with the freethinkers of France; but such ways of thinking were not common in America, and the fervid Puritanism of New England had a very important bearing upon the character of the struggle.
It was soon evident that the Americans were not intimidated by the Coercion Acts, and that the hope of the ministry that resistance would be confined to Massachusetts, and perhaps to Boston, was wholly deceptive. The closing of the port of Boston took place on the 1st of June, 1774, but before that time the sympathies of the other colonies had been clearly shown. The Assembly of Virginia, which was in session when the news of the intended measure arrived, of its own authority appointed the 1st of June to be set apart as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, ‘to implore the divine interposition to avert the heavy calamity which threatened destruction to their civil rights, with the evils of civil war and to give one heart and one mind to the people firmly to oppose every injury to the American rights.’ The Governor at once dissolved the House, but its members reassembled, drew up a declaration expressing warm sympathy with Boston, and called upon all the colonies to support it.
The example was speedily followed. Subscriptions poured in for the relief of the Boston poor who were thrown out of employment by the closing of the port. Virginia, South Carolina, and Maryland sent great quantities of corn and rice. Salem and Marblehead, which were expected to grow rich by the ruin of Boston, offered the Boston merchants the free use of their harbours, wharfs, and warehouses. Provincial, town, and county meetings were held in every colony encouraging Boston to resist, and the 1st of June was generally observed throughout America as a day of fasting and prayer. The Assembly of Massachusetts was convoked by the new Governor, and soon after removed from Boston to Salem, and it showed its feelings by calling on him to appoint a day of general fasting and prayer, by recommending the assembly of a congress of representatives of all the colonies to take measures for the security of colonial liberty, by accusing the British Government of an evident design to destroy the free constitutions of America, and to erect in their place systems of tyranny and arbitrary sway, and by appealing to their constituents to give up every kind of intercourse with England till their wrongs were redressed. As was expected in Boston, the Assembly was at once dissolved, but the movement of resistance was unchecked. An attempt made by some loyalists to procure a resolution from a public meeting in favour of paying the East India Company for the tea which had been destroyed was defeated by a great majority. The system of committees charged in every district with organising resistance and keeping up correspondence between the colonies, which had been found so efficient in 1765 and 1767, was revived; the press and the pulpit all over America called on the people to unite; and a ‘solemn league and covenant’ was formed, binding the subscribers to abstain from all commercial intercourse with Great Britain till the obnoxious Acts were repealed. It was agreed that all delinquents should be held up in the newspapers to popular vengeance, and on the 5th of September, 1774, the delegates of the twelve States assembled in Congress at Philadelphia.
‘The die is now cast,’ wrote the King at this time; ‘the colonies must either submit or triumph.’ The war did not indeed yet break out, but both sides were rapidly preparing. Fresh ships of war and fresh troops were sent to Boston. General Gage fortified the neck of land which connected it with the continent; he took possession, amid fierce demonstrations of popular indignation, of the gunpowder in some of the arsenals of New England; he issued a proclamation describing the new ‘league and covenant’ as ‘an illegal and traitorous combination.’ but he was unable to obtain any prosecution. He tried to erect new barracks in Boston, but found it almost impossible to obtain builders. Most of the new councillors appointed by the Crown were obliged by mob violence to resign their posts, and the few who accepted the appointment were held up to execration as enemies of their country. Riots and outrages were of almost daily occurrence. Conspicuous Tories were tarred and feathered, or placed astride of rails, and carried in triumph through the streets of the chief towns. One man was fastened in the body of a dead ox which he had bought from an obnoxious loyalist, and thus carted for several miles between Plymouth and Kingston. Another was nearly suffocated by being confined in a room with a fire, while the chimney and all other apertures were carefully closed. Juries summoned under the new regulations refused to be sworn. Judges who accepted salaries from the Crown were prevented by armed mobs from going to their courts. Most of the courts of justice in Massachusetts were forcibly closed, and the judges of the Supreme Court informed General Gage that it was totally impossible for them to administer justice in the province, that no jurors could be obtained, and that the troops were altogether insufficient for their protection.
Conspicuous politicians, even members of the Congress, are said to have led the mobs. In Berkshire the mob actually forced the judges from the bench and shut up the court-house. At Worcester, about 5,000 persons, a large proportion of them being armed, having formed themselves in two files, compelled the judges, sheriffs, and gentlemen of the bar to pass between them with bare heads, and at least thirty times to read a paper promising to hold no courts under the new Acts of Parliament. At Springfield the judges and sheriffs were treated with the same ignominy. At Westminster, in the province of New York, the court-house and gaol were captured by the mob, and the judges, sheriffs, and many loyalist inhabitants were locked up in prison. A judge in the same province had the courage to commit to prison a man who was employed in disarming the loyalists. The prisoner was at once rescued, and the judge carried, tarred and feathered, five or six miles through the country.1 Great numbers of loyalists were driven from their estates or their business; and except under the very guns of British soldiers, they could find no safety in New England. As the Crown possessed scarcely any patronage in the colonies to reward its friends, all but the most courageous and devoted were reduced to silence, or hastened to identify themselves with the popular cause. ‘Are not the bands of society,’ wrote a very able loyalist at this time, ‘cast asunder, and the sanctions that hold man to man trampled upon? Can any of us recover debts, or obtain compensation for an injury, by law? Are not many persons whom we once respected and revered driven from their homes and families, and forced to fly to the army for protection, for no other reason but their having accepted commissions under our King? Is not civil government dissolved? … What kind of offence is it for a number of men to assemble armed, and forcibly to obstruct the course of justice, even to prevent the King's courts from being held at their stated terms; to seize upon the King's provincial revenue, I mean the moneys collected by virtue of grants made to his Majesty for the support of his government within this province; to assemble without being called by authority, and to pass Governmental Acts; to take the militia out of the hands of the King's representative, or to form a new militia; to raise men and appoint officers for a public purpose without the order or permission of the King or his representative, or to take arms and march with a professed design of opposing the King's troops? ‘Committees not known in law … frequently elect themselves into a tribunal, where the same persons are at once legislators, accusers, witnesses, judges, and jurors, and the mob the executioners. The accused has no day in court, and the execution of the sentence is the first notice he receives. This is the channel through which liberty matters have been chiefly conducted the summer and fall past. … It is chiefly owing to these committees that so many respectable persons have been abused and forced to sign recantations and resignations; that so many persons, to avoid such reiterated insults as are more to be deprecated by a man of sentiment than death itself, have been obliged to quit their houses, families, and business, and fly to the army for protection; that husband has been separated from wife, father from son, brother from brother, the sweet intercourse of conjugal and natural affection interrupted, and the unfortunate refugee forced to abandon all the comforts of domestic life.’1 Even in cases which had little or no connection with politics, mob violence was almost uncontrolled. Thus a customhouse officer named Malcolm, who in a street riot had struck or threatened to strike with a cutlass a person who insulted him, was dragged out of his house by the mob, stripped, tarred and feathered, then carted for several hours during an intense frost, and finally scourged, with a halter round his neck, through the streets of Boston, and all this was done in the presence of thousands of spectators, and with the most absolute impunity. At Marblehead the mob, believing that an hospital erected for the purpose of inoculation was spreading contagion, burnt it to the ground, and for several days the whole town was in their undisputed possession.2
Among many graver matters, an amusing indignation was about this time excited by a proclamation which General Gage, according to a usual custom, issued ‘for the encouragement of piety and virtue, and the prevention of vice, profaneness, and immorality.’ The General knew that the Boston preachers made it a favourite theme that the presence of British soldiers was fatal to the purity of New England morals, and he now for the first time inserted ‘hypocrisy’ in the list of the vices against which the people were warned. The vehemence with which this was resented as a studied insult to the clergy, convinced many impartial persons that the insinuation was not wholly undeserved.
The people were in the meantime rapidly arming. Guns were collected from all sides, the militia was assiduously drilled, and its organisation was improved; bodies of volunteers called ‘minute men’ were formed, who were bound to rise to arms at the shortest notice, and New England had all the aspect of a country at war. A false alarm was spread abroad—possibly in order to ascertain the number who would rise in case of insurrection—that the British troops and vessels were firing upon Boston, and in a few hours no less than 30,000 men from Massachusetts and Connecticut are said to have been in arms. The collision was happily averted, but this incident gave the popular party new confidence in their strength, and over the greater part of New England their ascendency was undisputed. The new seat of government at Salem was abandoned; the new councillors, and all or nearly all the officers connected with the revenue, fled for safety to Boston, and although the troops were not openly resisted they experienced on every side the animosity of the people. Farmers refused to sell them provisions. Straw which they had purchased was burnt. Carts with wood were overturned, boats with bricks were sunk, when it was discovered that they were for the King's service, and at the same time colonial agents were industriously tempting individual soldiers to desert.
The Congress which met in Philadelphia, though it had no legal authority, was obeyed as the supreme power in America. It consisted of delegates selected by the Provincial Assemblies which then were sitting, and, in cases where the Governors had refused to convoke these Assemblies, by Provincial Congresses called together for that purpose. Except Georgia, all the colonies which existed before the peace of 1763 were represented. The number of delegates varied according to the magnitude of the States, but after much discussion it was determined that no colony should count for more than one in voting. The Congress in the first place expressed its full and unqualified approbation of the conduct of the inhabitants of Boston, exhorted them to continue unflinching in their opposition to the invasion of their Constitution, and invited the other colonies to contribute liberally to their assistance. It next drew up a series of extremely able State papers defining and enforcing the position of the Americans. After long debate and violent difference of opinion, it was resolved not to treat the commercial restrictions as a grievance, or to deny the general legislative authority of Parliament over America. Franklin, as we have seen, had recently contended that the colonies, though subject to the King, were by right wholly independent of the Parliament, and, this doctrine had been formally maintained by the Assembly of Massachusetts in its addresses of 1773, but it was not the contention of the original opponents of the Stamp Act,1 and it was not generally accepted in the other colonies.2 The Congress, therefore, while asserting in the strongest terms the exclusive right of the provincial legislatures in all cases of taxation and internal policy, at last consented to add these remarkable words in their declaration of rights: ‘From the necessity of the case and in regard to the mutual interests of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such Acts of the British Parliament as are bond fide restrained to the regulation of our external commerce for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole Empire to the mother country and the commercial benefits of its respective members.’ They enumerated, however, a long series of Acts carried during the present reign which were violations of their liberty, and which must be repealed if the two countries were to continue in amity. Among them were the Acts closing the harbour of Boston, changing the constitution of Massachusetts, establishing despotic government and the Popish religion in Canada, interfering with the right of public meeting, quartering British troops upon the colonists, and above all imposing taxation by Imperial authority.
They pronounced it unnecessary to maintain a standing army in the colonies in time of peace, and illegal to do so without the consent of the local legislatures. They complained also that their assemblies had been arbitrarily dissolved, that their governors had conspired against their liberty, and that in several cases they had been deprived of their constitutional right of trial by jury or at least by a ‘jury of the vicinage.’ The Court of Admiralty tried revenue cases without a jury, and the Governor had power to send for trial out of the colony those who were accused of treason, of destroying the King's ships or naval stores, or of homicide committed in suppressing riot or rebellion. All this mass of legislation Parliament must speedily and absolutely repeal. For the present, however, the Congress resolved to resort only to peaceful means, and their weapon was a rigid non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, which was to be imposed by their authority upon all the colonies they represented and was to continue until their grievances had been fully redressed.
From December 1 following, the members of the Congress bound themselves and their constituents to import no goods from Great Britain, to purchase no slave imported after that date and no tea imported on account of the East India Company, and to extend the same prohibition to the chief products of the British plantations, to the wines of Madeira and the West India islands which were unloaded to pay duty in England, and to foreign indigo. On September 10, 1775, if the grievances were not yet redressed a new series of measures were to come into force, and no commodity whatever was to be exported from America to Great Britain, Ireland, or the West Indies, except rice to Europe; committees were to be appointed in every town and county to observe the conduct of all persons touching this association, and to publish in the ‘Gazette’ the name of anyone who had violated it; and all dealings with such persons and with any portion of the colonies which refused to join the association were forbidden. At the same time the Congress agreed for themselves and their constituents to do the utmost in their power to encourage frugality and promote manufactures, to suppress or suspend every form of gambling and expensive amusement, to abandon the custom of wearing any other mourning than a black ribbon or necklace for the dead, and to diminish the expenditure at funerals.
In addition to these measures, they issued very powerful addresses to the King and to the people of England professing their full loyalty to the Crown, but enumerating their grievances in emphatic terms. In the address to the people of England they skilfully appealed to the strong anti-Catholic feeling of the nation, denying the competence of the Legislature ‘to establish a religion fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets,’ ‘a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion through every part of the world;’ and they predicted that if the ministers succeeded in their designs, ‘the taxes from America, the wealth and, we may add, the men, and particularly the Roman Catholics of this vast continent, will be in their power’ to enslave the people of Great Britain. Their own attachment to Great Britain they emphatically affirmed. ‘You have been told,’ they said, ‘that we are seditious, impatient of government, and desirous of independency. Be assured that these are not facts but calumnies. … Place us in the same situation that we were at the close of the last war, and our former harmony will be restored.’ At the same time, in an ingenious address to the Canadians they endeavoured to alienate them from England, to persuade them that they were both oppressed, deceived, and insulted by the present ministers, and to induce them to join with the other colonies in vindicating their common freedom. Difference of religion, they maintained, could be no bar to co-operation. ‘We are too well acquainted,’ they said, ‘with the liberality of sentiment distinguishing your nation to imagine that difference of religion will prejudice you against a hearty amity with us,’ and they referred to the example of the Swiss cantons, where Protestant and Catholic combined with the utmost concord to vindicate and guard their political liberty. Having issued these addresses, the Congress dissolved itself in less than eight weeks; but it determined that unless grievances were first redressed, another Congress should meet at Philadelphia on May 10 following, and it recommended all the colonies to choose deputies as soon as possible.1
Such were the proceedings of this memorable body, which laid the foundation of American independence. Perhaps the most perplexing question raised by its proceedings is the degree of sincerity that can be ascribed to the disclaimer of all wish for separation. That a considerable party in New England anticipated and desired an open breach with England appears to me undoubted, but it is equally certain that many of the leading agents in the Revolution expressed up to the last moment a strong desire to remain united to England. It was in August 1774, when the Americans were busily arming themselves for the struggle, that Franklin assured Chatham that there was no desire for independence in the colonies.1 John Adams, who had not, like Franklin, the excuse of absence from his native country, wrote in March 1775, even of the people of Massachusetts, ‘that there are any that pant after independence is the greatest slander on the province.’ Jefferson declared that before the Declaration of Independence he had never heard a whisper of disposition to separate from Great Britain; and Washington himself, in the October of 1774, denied in the strongest terms that there was any wish for independence in any province in America.2
The truth seems to be that the more distinguished Americans were quite resolved to appeal to the sword rather than submit to parliamentary taxation and to the other oppressive laws that were complained of, but if they could restore the relations to the mother country which subsisted before the Stamp Act, they had no desire whatever to sever the connection. In 1774 and during the greater part of 1775 very few Americans wished for independence, and long after this period many of those who took an active part in the Revolution would gladly have restored the connection if they could have done so on terms which they considered compatible with their freedom. The instructions of the chief colonies to their delegates in Congress are on this subject very unequivocal. Thus New Hampshire instructed its delegates to endeavour ‘to restore that peace, harmony, and mutual confidence which once happily subsisted between the parent country and her colonies.’ Massachusetts spoke of ‘the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies most ardently desired by all good men.’ Pennsylvania enjoined its representatives to aim not only at the redress of American grievances and the definition of American rights, but also at the establishment of ‘that union and harmony between Great Britain and her colonies which is indispensably necessary to the welfare and the happiness of both.’ Virginia aspired after ‘the return of that harmony and union so beneficial to the whole Empire and so ardently desired by all British America,’ and North and South Carolina adopted a similar language.1 In 1775 the Convention of South Carolina assured their new governor that they adhered to the British Crown, though they had taken arms against British tyranny. The Virginian Convention in the same year declared ‘before God and the world’ that they bore their faith to the King, and would disband their forces whenever the liberties of America were restored; the Assembly of New Jersey, while their State was in open rebellion, rebuked their governor for supposing the Americans to be aiming at national independence;2 and, lastly, the Provincial Congress of New York, when congratulating Washington on his appointment as commander-in-chief of the insurgent force, took care to add their assurance ‘that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our mother country, you will cheerfully resign the deposit committed into your hands.’1
Many other public documents might be cited showing that the Americans took up arms to redress grievances and not to establish independence, and that it was only very slowly and reluctantly that they became familiarised with the idea of a complete separation from England. Nor is there, I think, any reason to believe that this language was substantially untrue. In March 1776 General Reed, in confidential letters to Washington, lamented that the public mind in Virginia was violently opposed to the idea of independence.2 Galloway, one of the ablest of the Pennsylvanian loyalists, afterwards expressed his belief before a committee of the House of Commons that at the time when the Americans took up arms less than a fifth part of them ‘had independence in view;’3 and John Adams when an old man related how, when he first went to the Congress at Philadelphia, the leading conspirators in that town said to him, ‘You must not utter the word independence or give the least hint or insinuation of the idea either in congress or any private conversation; if you do you are undone, for the idea of independence is as unpopular in Pennsylvania and in all the Middle and Southern States as the Stamp Act itself.’4 Adams tells how, when a letter which he had written in 1775 advocating independence was intercepted and published, he was ‘avoided like a man infected with the leprosy,’ and ‘walked the streets of Philadelphia in solitude, borne down by the weight of care and unpopularity.’5 Few men contributed more to hasten the separation between the two countries, yet he afterwards wrote these remarkable words: ‘For my own part there was not a moment during the Revolution when I would not have given everything I possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the contest began, provided we could have a sufficient security for its continuance.’1
In 1774 also, it is evident that a large proportion of the most ardent patriots imagined that redress could be obtained without actual fighting, and that the Legislature of the greatest country in the world would repeal no less than eleven recent Acts of Parliament in obedience to a mere threat of resistance. They knew that numerous urgent petitions in favour of conciliation had been presented by English merchants, and that many of the most conspicuous English politicians, including Chatham, Camden, Shelburne, Conway, Barré, and Burke, were on their side, and they overrated greatly the strength of their friends, and especially the effect of the non-importation agreements upon English prosperity. ‘England,’ it was argued in the Congress, ‘is already taxed as much as she can bear. She is compelled to raise ten millions in time of peace. Her whole foreign trade is but four and half millions, while the value of the importations to the colonies is probably little, if at all, less than three millions.’ ‘A total non-importation and non-exportation to Great Britain and the West Indies must produce a national bankruptcy in a very short space of time.’2 Richard Henry Lee, one of the most prominent Virginian politicians, was so confident in the effect of non-importation that he declared himself ‘absolutely certain that the same ship which carries home the resolution will bring back the redress.’1 Washington was more doubtful, but he expressed his opinion privately that by a non-importation and a non-exportation agreement combined, America would win the day, though one alone would be insufficient. John Adams, Hawley, and Patrick Henry, however, were of opinion that the proceedings of the Congress were very useful in uniting the colonies, but that they were quite insufficient to coerce Great Britain, and that the question must ultimately be decided by the sword.2
In England, on the other hand, there was to the very last a great disbelief in the reality of a colonial union. Nearly all the rumours of violence and insubordination had come from two or three of the New England States and from Virginia, and it was supposed that in the moment of crisis the other States would hold aloof, and that even in the insurgent colonies a large party of active loyalists could be fully counted on. Provincial governors being surrounded by such men were naturally inclined to underrate the capacity or the sincerity of their opponents, and they thought that the wild talk of lawyers and demagogues and the demonstrations of mob violence would speedily collapse before firm action. Hutchinson, who lived in the centre of the disaffection, and who ought to have known the New England character as well as any man, predicted that the people of America would not attempt to resist a British army, and that if they did a few troops would be sufficient to quell them.3 His opinion appears to have had considerable weight with George III., and it greatly strengthened him in his determination to coerce.4 General Gage for some time took the same view. He assured the King in the beginning of 1774 that the Americans ‘will be lions while we are lambs, but if we take the resolute part they will undoubtedly prove very meek,’ and he thought that ‘four regiments, intended to relieve as many regiments in America, if sent to Boston’ would be ‘sufficient to prevent any disturbance.’1 It is true that Carleton, the Governor of Canada, and Tryon, the Governor of New York, though they had no doubt of the ability of England to crush insurrection, warned the Government that the task would be a very serious one, and would require much time and large armies,2 but the prevailing English opinion was that any armed movement could be easily repressed. Soldiers spoke of the Americans with professional arrogance, as if volunteers and militias organised by skilful and experienced officers, consisting of men who were accustomed from childhood to the use of arms, and fighting with every advantage of numbers and situation, were likely to be as helpless before regular troops as a Middlesex mob. Unfortunately, this ignorant boasting was not confined to the mess-room, and Lord Sandwich, in March 1775, expressed the prevailing infatuation with reckless insolence in the House of Lords. He described the Americans as ‘raw, undisciplined, cowardly men.’ He said that the more they produced in the field, the easier would be their conquest. He accused them of having shown egregious cowardice at the siege of Louisburg, and he predicted that they would take to flight at the very sound of a cannon.3 Whether, under the most favourable circumstances, the subjugation would produce any advantages commensurate with the cost; whether, assuming that England had conquered her colonies, she could permanently hold them contrary to their will; and whether other nations were likely to remain passive during the struggle, were questions which appear to have scarcely occurred to the ordinary English mind.
It was, however, quite true that in America there was much difference of opinion, and that large bodies were only dragged with extreme reluctance into war. In New York a powerful and wealthy party sympathised strongly with the Government, and they succeeded in June 1775 in inducing their Assembly to refuse its approbation to the proceedings of the Congress.1 Even in New England a few meetings were held repudiating the proceedings at Philadelphia.2 Three out of the four delegates of South Carolina in the Congress declined to sign the non-importation agreements until a provision had been made to permit the exportation of rice to Europe.3 The Pennsylvanian Quakers recoiled with horror from the prospect of war, and the Convention of the province gave instructions to their delegates in the Congress, which were eminently marked by wisdom and moderation. They desired that England should repeal absolutely the obnoxious Acts; but, in order that such a measure should not be inconsistent with her dignity, they recommended an indemnity to the East India Company, promised obedience to the Act of Navigation, disowned with abhorrence all idea of independence, and declared their willingness of their own accord to settle an annual revenue on the King, subject to the approbation of Parliament. Virginia had been very prominent in hurrying the colonies into war, and its great orator, Patrick Henry, exerted all his powers in stimulating resistance; but even Virginia insisted, in opposition to John Adams and to other New Englanders, on limiting the list of grievances to Acts passed since 1763, in order that there might be some possibility of reconciliation.1
Among the Episcopalians, and among the more wealthy and especially the older planters, the English party always predominated, and a large section of the mercantile class detested the measures which suspended their trade, and believed that America could not subsist without the molasses, sugar, and other products of the British dominions. There was a wide-spread dislike to the levelling principles of New England, to the arrogant, restless, and ambitious policy of its demagogues, to their manifest desire to invent or discover grievances, foment quarrels, and keep the wound open and festering.2 There were brave and honest men in America who were proud of the great and free Empire to which they belonged, who had no desire to shrink from the burden of maintaining it, who remembered with gratitude all the English blood that had been shed around Quebec and Montreal, and who, with nothing to hope for from the Crown, were prepared to face the most brutal mob violence and the invectives of a scurrilous Press, to risk their fortunes, their reputations, and sometimes even their lives, in order to avert civil war and ultimate separation. Most of them ended their days in poverty and exile, and as the supporters of a beaten cause history has paid but a scanty tribute to their memory, but they comprised some of the best and ablest men America has ever produced, and they were contending for an ideal which was at least as worthy as that for which Washington fought. It was the maintenance of one free, industrial, and pacific empire, comprising the whole English race, holding the richest plains of Asia in subjection, blending all that was most venerable in an ancient civilisation with the redundant energies of a youthful society, and likely in a few generations to outstrip every competitor and acquire an indisputable ascendency on the globe. Such an ideal may have been a dream, but it was at least a noble one, and there were Americans who were prepared to make any personal sacrifices rather than assist in destroying it.
Conspicuous among these politicians was Galloway, one of the ablest delegates from Pennsylvania, who saw clearly that a change in the American Constitution was necessary if England was to remain united to her colonies. He proposed that a President-General appointed by the Crown should be placed over the whole group of American colonies; that a Grand Council, competent to tax the colonies and to legislate on all matters relating to more colonies than one, should be elected by the Provincial Assemblies; that Parliament should have the right of revising the Acts of this Grand Council, and that the Council should have the right of negative upon any parliamentary measure relating to the colonies.1 The proposal at first met with considerable support in the Congress, and it was finally defeated by a majority of only one vote. Dickinson, whose ‘Farmer's Letters’ had been one of the ablest statements of the American case, shrank with horror from the idea of rebellion. He bitterly accused John Adams and the other New Englanders of opposing all measures of reconciliation, and declared that he and his friends would no longer co-operate with them, but would carry on the opposition in their own way.1 The remarkable eloquence and the touching and manifest earnestness of the letters which appeared at Boston under the signature of ‘Massachusettensis,’ urging the people to shrink from the great calamity of civil war, had for a time some influence upon opinion. As usual, however, in such a crisis, the more energetic and determined men directed the movement, and the fierce spirit of New England substantially triumphed over all opposition. The Congress agreed, it is true, to profess its loyalty, to petition the King, and to limit its grievances to measures carried since 1763, but it offered no basis of compromise; it demanded only an unqualified submission, and it enumerated so long a list of laws that must be repealed that it was quite impossible that Parliament could comply. General Gage deemed the aspect of affairs so threatening that he suspended by proclamation the writs which he had issued summoning the Assembly of Massachusetts to meet at Salem in October 1774. But a provincial congress was at once convened. It was obeyed as if it had been a regular branch of the Legislature, and it proceeded to organise the revolution. Measures were taken for enlisting soldiers for the defence of the province; general officers were selected. It was resolved to enroll as speedily as possible an army of 12,000 men within the province, and Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut were asked to join to raise the number of men to 20,000. A committee was at the same time formed for corresponding with the people of Canada, and a circular was sent round to all the New England clergy asking them to use their influence in the cause.2
Before the end of the year intelligence arrived that a proclamation had been issued in England forbidding the exportation of military stores, and it was at once responded to by open violence. In Rhode Island, by order of the Provincial Assembly, forty cannon with a large amount of ammunition were removed from Fort George, which defended the harbour, and placed under a colonial guard at Providence. The captain of a King's ship which was stationed off the province demanded an explanation. The Governor replied that the cannon had been removed lest the King's officers should seize them, and that they would be used against any enemy of the colony. In New Hampshire a small fort called William and Mary, garrisoned by one officer and five private soldiers, was surprised and captured by a large body of armed colonists, and the military stores which it contained were carried away. Mills for manufacturing gunpowder and arms were set up in several provinces, and immediate orders were given for casting sixty heavy cannon.
Though no blood had yet been shed, it is no exaggeration to say that the war had already begun, and in England the indignation rose fierce and high. Parliament had been unexpectedly dissolved, and the new Parliament met on November 30, 1774, but no serious measure relating to America was taken till January 1775, when the House reassembled after the Christmas vacation. The ministers had a large majority, and even apart from party interest the genuine feeling of both Houses ran strongly against the Americans. Yet at no previous period were they more powerfully defended. I have already noticed that Chatham, having returned to active politics after his long illness in 1774, had completely identified himself with the American cause, and had advocated with all his eloquence measures of conciliation. He reiterated on every occasion his old opinion that self-taxation is the essential condition of political freedom, described the conduct of the British Legislature in establishing Catholicism in Canada as not less outrageous than if it had repealed the Great Charter or the Bill of Rights,1 and moved an address to the King praying that he would as soon as possible, ‘in order to open the way towards a happy settlement of the dangerous troubles in America.’ withdraw the British troops stationed in Boston. In the course of his speech he represented the question of American taxation as the root-cause of the whole division, and maintained that the only real basis of conciliation was to be found in a distinct recognition of the principle that ‘taxation is theirs, and commercial regulation ours;’ that England has a supreme right of regulating the commerce and navigation of America, and that the Americans have an inalienable right to their own property. He fully justified their resistance, predicted that all attempts to coerce them would fail, and eulogised the Congress at Philadelphia as worthy of the greatest periods of antiquity. Only eighteen peers voted for the address, while sixty-eight opposed it.
On February 1 he reappeared with an elaborate Bill for settling the troubles in America. It asserted in strong terms the right of Parliament to bind the colonies in all matters of imperial concern, and especially in all matters of commerce and navigation. It pronounced the new colonial doctrine that the Crown had no right to send British soldiers to the colonies without the assent of the Provincial Assemblies, dangerous and unconstitutional in the highest degree, but at the same time it recognised the sole right of the colonists to tax themselves, guaranteed the inviolability of their charters, and made the tenure of their judges the same as in England. It proposed to make the Congress which had met at Philadelphia an official and permanent body, and asked it to make a free grant for imperial purposes. England, in return, was to reduce the Admiralty Courts to their ancient limits, and to suspend for the present the different Acts complained of by the colonists. The Bill was not even admitted to a second reading.
Several other propositions tending towards conciliation were made in this session. On March 22, 1775, Burke, in one of his greatest speeches, moved a series of resolutions recommending a repeal of the recent Acts complained of in America, reforming the Admiralty Court and the position of the judges, and leaving American taxation to the American Assemblies, without touching upon any question of abstract right. A few days later, Hartley moved a resolution calling upon the Government to make requisitions to the colonial Assemblies to provide of their own authority for their own defence; and Lord Camden in the House of Lords and Sir G. Savile in the House of Commons endeavoured to obtain a repeal of the Quebec Act. All these attempts, however, were defeated by enormous majorities. The petition of Congress to the King was referred to Parliament, which refused to receive it, and Franklin, after vain efforts to effect a reconciliation, returned from England to America. The Legislature of New York, separating from the other colonies, made a supreme effort to heal the wound by a remonstrance which was presented by Burke on May 15. Though strongly asserting the sole right of the colonies to tax themselves, and complaining of the many recent Acts inconsistent with their freedom, it was drawn up in terms that were studiously moderate and respectful. It disclaimed ‘the most distant desire of independence of the parent kingdom.’ It acknowledged fully the general superintending power of the English Parliament, and its right ‘to regulate the trade of the colonies, so as to make it subservient to the interest of the mother country,’ and it expressed the readiness of New York to bear its ‘full proportion of aids to the Crown for the public service,’ though it made no allusion to the project of supporting an American army. The Government, however, induced the House of Commons to refuse to receive it, on the ground that it denied the complete legislative authority of Parliament in the colonies as it had been defined by the Declaratory Act.
Parliament at the same time took stringent measures to enforce obedience. It pronounced Massachusetts in a state of rebellion, and promised to lend the ministers every aid in subjugating it. It voted about 6,000 additional men for the land and sea service; it answered the non-importation and non-exportation agreements of the colonies by an Act restraining the New England States from all trade with Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies, and from all participation in the Newfoundland fisheries, and it soon after, on the arrival of fresh intelligence from America, extended the same disabilities to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. It was also resolved that the British force in Boston should be at once raised to 10,000 men, which it was vainly thought would be sufficient to enforce obedience.
At the same time North was careful to announce that these coercive measures would at once cease upon the submission of the colonies, and on February 20, 1775, he had, to the great surprise of Parliament, himself introduced a conciliatory resolution which was very unpalatable to many of his followers and very inconsistent with some of his own earlier speeches, but by which he hoped, if not to appease, at least to divide, the Americans. His proposition was, that if and as long as any colony thought fit of its own accord to make such a contribution to the common defence of the Empire, and such a fixed provision for the support of the civil government and administration of justice, as met the approbation of Parliament, it should be exempted from all imperial taxation for the purpose of revenue.
The reception of this conciliatory measure was very remarkable. Hitherto Lord North had guided the House with an almost absolute sway, and on American questions the Opposition seldom could count upon 90 votes, while the ministers had usually about 260. The disclosure, however, of the conciliatory resolution produced an immediate revolt in the ministerial ranks. Six times Lord North rose in vain efforts to appease the storm. The King's friends denounced him as betraying the cause. The Bedford faction was expected every moment to fly into open rebellion, and Chatham states that for about two hours it was the prevailing belief in the House of Commons that the minister would be left in a small minority. The storm, however, had a sudden and most significant ending. Sir Gilbert Elliot, who was known to be in the intimate confidence of the King, declared for the Bill, and the old majority speedily rallied around the minister.1
At an earlier stage of the dispute this resolution might have been accepted as a reasonable compromise, but in the midst of the coercive measures that had been adopted it pleased no one. Burke and the Whig party denounced it as not stating what sum the colonists were expected to pay, leaving them to bid against one another, and to bargain with the mother country, and in the meantime holding them in duress with fleets and armies, like prisoners who had not yet paid their ransom. Barré assailed it with great bitterness, as intended for no other object than to excite divisions in America. The colonists themselves repudiated it as interfering with their absolute right of disposing of their own property as they pleased, and most later historians have treated it as wholly delusive.1
With this view I am unable to concur. The proposition appears to me to have been a real and considerable step towards conciliation. It was accepted as such by Governor Pownall, who was one of the ablest and most moderate of the defenders of the colonies in Parliament,2 and it was recommended to the Americans by Lord Dartmouth in language of much force and of evident sincerity. He argued that the colonies owed much of their greatness to English protection, that it was but justice that they should in their turn contribute according to their respective abilities to the common defence, and that their own welfare and interests demanded that their civil establishments should be supported with a becoming dignity. Parliament, he says, leaves each colony ‘to judge of the ways and means of making due provision for these purposes, reserving to itself a discretionary power of approving or disapproving what shall be offered.’ It determines nothing about the specific sum to be raised. The King trusts that adequate provision will be made by the colonies, and that it will be ‘proposed in such a way as to increase or diminish according as the public burthens of this kingdom are from time to time augmented or reduced, in so far as those burthens consist of taxes and duties which are not a security for the National Debt. By such a mode of contribution.’ he adds, ‘the colonies will have full security that they can never be required to tax themselves without Parliament taxing the subjects of this kingdom in a far greater proportion.’ He assured them that any proposal of this nature from any colony would be received with every possible indulgence, provided it was unaccompanied by declarations inconsistent with parliamentary authority.1
The letter of Lord Dartmouth to the governors of the colonies was written in March. Little more than a month later the first blood was shed at Lexington. On the night of April 18, 1775, General Gage sent about 800 soldiers to capture a magazine of stores which had been collected for the use of the provincial army in the town of Concord, about eighteen miles from Boston. The road lay through the little village of Lexington, where, about five o'clock on the morning of the 19th, the advance guard of the British found a party of sixty or seventy armed volunteers drawn up to oppose them, on a green beside the road. They refused when summoned to disperse, and the English at once fired a volley, which killed or wounded sixteen of their number. The detachment then proceeded to Concord, where it succeeded in spiking two cannon, casting into the river five hundred pounds of ball and sixty barrels of powder, and destroying a large quantity of flour, and it then prepared to return. The alarm had, however, now been given; the whole country was roused. Great bodies of yeomen and militia flocked in to the assistance of the provincials. From farmhouses and hedges and from the shelter of stone walls bullets poured upon the tired retreating troops, and a complete disaster would probably have occurred had they not been reinforced at Lexington by 900 men and two cannon under Lord Percy. As it was the British lost 65 killed, 180 wounded, and 28 made prisoners, while the American loss was less than 90 men.
The whole province was now in arms. The Massachusetts Congress at once resolved that the New England army should be raised to 30,000 men, and thousands of brave and ardent yeomen were being rapidly drilled into good soldiers. The American camp at Cambridge contained many experienced soldiers who had learnt their profession in the great French war, and very many others who in the ranks of the militia had already acquired the rudiments of military knowledge, and even when they had no previous training, the recruits were widely different from the rude peasants who filled the armies of England. As an American military writer truly said, the middle and lower classes in England, owing to the operation of the game laws and to the circumstances of their lives, were in general almost as ignorant of the use of a musket as of the use of a catapult. The New England yeomen were accustomed to firearms from their childhood; they were invariably skilful in the use of spade, hatchet, and pickaxe, so important in military operations; and their great natural quickness and the high level of intelligence which their excellent schools had produced, made it certain that they would not be long in mastering their military duties. The whole country was practically at their disposal. All who were suspected of Toryism were ordered to surrender their weapons. General Gage was blockaded in Boston, and he remained strictly on the defensive, waiting for reinforcements from England, which only arrived at the end of May. Even then, he for some time took no active measures, but contented himself with offering pardon to all insurgents who laid down their arms, except Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and with proclaiming martial law in Massachusetts. He at length, however, determined to extend his lines, so as to include and fortify a very important post, which by a strange negligence had been left hitherto unoccupied.
On a narrow peninsula to the north of Boston, but separated from it by rather less than half a mile of water, lay the little town of Charleston, behind which rose two small connected hills, which commanded a great part both of the town and harbour of Boston. Breed's Hill, which was nearest to Charleston, was about seventy-five feet, Bunker's Hill was about one hundred and ten feet, in height. The peninsula, which was little more than a mile long, was connected with the mainland by a narrow causeway. Cambridge, the headquarters of the American forces, was by road about four miles from Bunker's Hill, but much of the intervening space was occupied by American outposts. The possession, under these circumstances, of Bunker's Hill, was a matter of great military importance, and Gage determined to fortify it. The Americans learnt his intention, and determined to defeat it.
On the night of June 16, an American force under the command of Colonel Prescott, and accompanied by some skilful engineers and by a few field-guns, silently occupied Breed's Hill and threw up a strong redoubt before daylight revealed their presence to the British. Next day, after much unnecessary delay, a detachment under General Howe was sent from Boston to dislodge them. The Americans had in the meantime received some reinforcements from their camp, but the whole force upon the hill is said not to have exceeded 1,500 men. Most of them were inexperienced volunteers. Many of them were weary with a long night's toil, and they had been exposed for hours to a harassing though ineffectual fire from the ships in the harbour; but they were now strongly entrenched behind a redoubt and a breastwork. The British engaged on this memorable day consisted in all of between 2,000 and 3,000 regular troops, fresh from the barracks, and supported by artillery. The town of Charleston, having been occupied by some American riflemen, who poured their fire upon the English from the shelter of the houses, was burnt by order of General Howe, and its flames cast a ghastly splendour upon the scene. The English were foolishly encumbered by heavy knapsacks with three days' provisions. Instead of endeavouring to cut off the Americans by occupying the neck of land to the rear of Breed's Hill, they climbed the steep and difficult ascent in front of the battery, struggling through the long tangled grass beneath a burning sun, and exposed at every step to the fire of a sheltered enemy. The Americans waited till their assailants were within a few rods of the entrenchment, when they greeted them with a fire so deadly and so sustained that the British line twice recoiled, broken, intimidated, and disordered. The third attack was more successful. The position was carried at the point of the bayonet. The Americans were put to flight, and five out of their six cannon were taken. But the victory was dearly purchased. On the British side 1,054 men, including 89 commissioned officers, fell. The Americans only admitted a loss of 449 men; and they contended that, if they had been properly reinforced, and if their ammunition had not begun to fail, they would have held the position.1
The battle of Breed's, or, as it is commonly called, of Bunker's Hill, though extremely bloody in proportion to the number of men engaged, can hardly be said to present any very remarkable military character, and in a great European war it would have been almost unnoticed. Few battles, however, have had more important consequences. It roused at once the fierce instinct of combat in America, weakened seriously the only British army in New England, and dispelled for ever the almost superstitious belief in the impossibility of encountering regular troops with hastily levied volunteers. The ignoble taunts which had been directed against the Americans were for ever silenced. No one questioned the conspicuous gallantry with which the provincial troops had supported a long fire from the ships and awaited the charge of the enemy, and British soldiers had been twice driven back in disorder before their fire. From this time the best judges predicted the ultimate success of America.
On May 10 the new Continental Congress had met at Philadelphia, and it at once occupied itself, with an energy and an industry that few legislative bodies have ever equalled, in organising the war.1 Like the former Congress, its debates were secret, and its decisions were ultimately unanimous. New York, which for a time had flinched, was now fully rallied to the cause, and before the close of the Congress, Georgia for the first time openly joined the twelve other colonies. The conciliatory offer of Lord North was emphatically rejected. The colonies, it was said, had the exclusive right, not only of granting their own money, but also of deliberating whether they will make any gift, for what purpose and to what amount; and ‘it is not just that they should be required to oblige themselves to other contributions, while Great Britain possesses a monopoly of their trade.’ Still professing to have no desire to separate from Great Britain, the Congress drew up another petition, expressing deep loyalty to the King, and addresses to the people of Great Britain, Ireland, and Canada, and to the Assembly of Jamaica, asserting that the British had been the aggressors at Lexington, and had destroyed every vestige of constitutional liberty in Massachusetts, and that America, in taking up arms, acted strictly in self-defence. It forbade the colonists to have any commercial intercourse with those ports of America which had not observed the non-importation agreement of the preceding year. It forbade them to furnish any provisions or other necessaries to British fishermen on their coast, or to anyone connected with the British army or navy. It at the same time ordered that ten companies of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, should be raised to reinforce the New England army at Cambridge; made rules for the regulation of the revolutionary army; determined upon an expedition to Canada; issued bills of credit to the amount of 3,000,000 Spanish dollars; established an American post-office with Franklin at its head; appointed a number of general officers, and, above all, selected George Washington as Commander-in-chief of the American army.
The unanimity with which these measures were decreed was due to the great forbearance of many members of the Congress, for the secret debates of that body were distracted by the bitterest divisions. As John Adams wrote, ‘Every important step was opposed and carried by bare majorities,’ and a large amount of jealousy and suspicion was displayed.1 Adams, at the head of the New England party, maintained that America should at once declare her independence, form herself into a confederation, seize all the Crown officers as hostages, and enter into negotiations with France and Spain; and letters which he had written expressing these views fell into the hands of the British Government. Dickinson, however, supported by Pennsylvania and by some of the other Middle States, insisted upon drawing up another petition to the King, and making a last effort towards reconciliation; and after a very angry resistance, Adams was obliged to yield. Zubly, a Swiss clergyman, who was prominent among the delegates of Georgia, appears to have gone still further. ‘There are persons in America,’ he complained, ‘who wish to break off with Great Britain; a proposal has been made to apply to France and Spain; before I agree to it I will inform my constituents. I apprehend the man who should propose it would be torn to pieces, like De Witt.’1 He objected strongly to the proposed invasion of Canada as an unjustifiable aggression, and to the non-importation and non-exportation agreements as certain to ruin America. He openly expressed his hope that the present winter would witness a reconciliation with the mother country; and he declared his opinion that ‘a republican government is little better than government of devils.’2 The trade agreements were debated vehemently through several days, and a large proportion of the members appear to have held that the non-exportation agreement would render it impossible for the colonies to obtain the money which was necessary for carrying on the war. Negotiations with France and Spain were spoken of, but as yet there was great doubt about the disposition of these Powers. It is curious, amid the storm of invective which at this time was directed against English tyranny, to read the opinion of Gadsden, one of the representatives of South Carolina, who was most active in promoting the Revolution: ‘France and Spain,’ he said, ‘would be glad to see Great Britain despotic in America. Our being in a better state than their colonies, occasions complaints among them, insurrections and rebellions. But these Powers would be glad we were an independent State.’1
Perhaps the most difficult question, however, was the appointment of a commander-in-chief; and on no other subject did the Congress exhibit more conspicuous wisdom. When only twenty-three, Washington had been appointed commander of the Virginian forces against the French; and in the late war, though he had met with one serious disaster, and had no opportunity of obtaining any very brilliant military reputation, he had always shown himself an eminently brave and skilful soldier. His great modesty and taciturnity kept him in the background, both in the Provincial Legislature and in the Continental Congress; but though his voice was scarcely ever heard in debate, his superiority was soon felt in the practical work of the committees. ‘If you speak of solid information or sound judgment,’ said Patrick Henry about this time, ‘Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man in the Congress.’ He appeared in the Assembly in uniform, and in military matters his voice had an almost decisive weight. Several circumstances distinguished him from other officers, who in military service might have been his rivals. He was of an old American family. He was a planter of wealth and social position, and being a Virginian, his appointment was a great step towards enlisting that important colony cordially in the cause. The capital question now pending in America was, how far the other colonies would support New England in the struggle. In the preceding March, Patrick Henry had carried a resolution for embodying and reorganising the Virginia militia, and had openly proclaimed that an appeal to arms was inevitable; but as yet New England had borne almost the whole burden. The army at Cambridge was a New England army, and General Ward, who commanded it, had been appointed by Massachusetts. Even if Ward were superseded, there were many New England competitors for the post of commander; the army naturally desired a chief of their own province, and there were divisions and hostilities among the New England deputies.1 The great personal merit of Washington and the great political importance of securing Virginia, determined the issue; and the New England deputies ultimately took a leading part in the appointment. The second place was given to General Ward, and the third to Charles Lee, an English soldier of fortune who had lately purchased land in Virginia and embraced the American cause with great passion. Lee had probably a wider military experience than any other officer in America, but he was a man of no settled principles, and his great talents were marred by a very irritable and capricious temper.
To the appointment of Washington, far more than to any other single circumstance, is due the ultimate success of the American Revolution, though in purely intellectual powers, Washington was certainly inferior to Franklin, and perhaps to two or three other of his colleagues. There is a theory which once received the countenance of some considerable physiologists, though it is now, I believe, completely discarded, that one of the great lines of division among men may be traced to the comparative development of the cerebrum and the cerebellum. To the first organ it was supposed belong those special gifts or powers which make men poets, orators, thinkers, artists, conquerors, or wits. To the second belong the superintending, restraining, discerning, and directing faculties which enable men to employ their several talents with sanity and wisdom, which maintain the balance and the proportion of intellect and character, and make sound judgments and well-regulated lives. The theory, however untrue in its physiological aspect, corresponds to a real distinction in human minds and characters, and it was especially in the second order of faculties that Washington excelled. His mind was not quick or remarkably original. His conversation had no brilliancy or wit. He was entirely without the gift of eloquence, and he had very few accomplishments. He knew no language but his own, and except for a rather strong turn for mathematics, he had no taste which can be called purely intellectual. There was nothing in him of the meteor or the cataract, nothing that either dazzled or overpowered. A courteous and hospitable country gentleman, a skilful farmer, a very keen sportsman, he probably differed little in tastes and habits from the better members of the class to which he belonged; and it was in a great degree in the administration of a large estate and in assiduous attention to county and provincial business that he acquired his rare skill in reading and managing men.
As a soldier the circumstances of his career brought him into the blaze, not only of domestic, but of foreign criticism, and it was only very gradually that his superiority was fully recognised. Lee, who of all American soldiers had seen most service in the English army, and Conway, who had risen to great repute in the French army, were both accustomed to speak of his military talents with extreme disparagement; but personal jealousy and animosity undoubtedly coloured their judgments. Kalb, who had been trained in the best military schools of the Continent, at first pronounced him to be very deficient in the strength, decision, and promptitude of a general; and, although he soon learnt to form the highest estimate of his military capacity, he continued to lament that an excessive modesty led him too frequently to act upon the opinion of inferior men, rather than upon his own most excellent judgment.1 In the army and the Congress more than one rival was opposed to him. He had his full share of disaster; the operations which he conducted, if compared with great European wars, were on a very small scale; and he had the immense advantage of encountering in most cases generals of singular incapacity. It may, however, be truly said of him that his military reputation steadily rose through many successive campaigns, and before the end of the struggle he had outlived all rivalry, and almost all envy. He had a thorough knowledge of the technical part of his profession, a good eye for military combinations, an extraordinary gift of military administration. Punctual, methodical, and exact in the highest degree, he excelled in managing those minute details which are so essential to the efficiency of an army, and he possessed to an eminent degree not only the common courage of a soldier, but also that much rarer form of courage which can endure long-continued suspense, bear the weight of great responsibility, and encounter the risks of misrepresentation and unpopularity. For several years, and usually in the neighbourhood of superior forces, he commanded a perpetually fluctuating army, almost wholly destitute of discipline and respect for authority, torn by the most violent personal and provincial jealousies, wretchedly armed, wretchedly clothed, and sometimes in imminent danger of starvation. Unsupported for the most part by the population among whom he was quartered, and incessantly thwarted by the jealousy of Congress, he kept his army together by a combination of skill, firmness, patience, and judgment which has rarely been surpassed, and he led it at last to a signal triumph.
In civil as in military life, he was pre-eminent among his contemporaries for the clearness and soundness of his judgment, for his perfect moderation and self-control, for the quiet dignity and the indomitable firmness with which he pursued every path which he had deliberately chosen. Of all the great men in history he was the most invariably judicious, and there is scarcely a rash word or action or judgment recorded of him. Those who knew him well, noticed that he had keen sensibilities and strong passions; but his power of self-command never failed him, and no act of his public life can be traced to personal caprice, ambition, or resentment. In the despondency of long-continued failure, in the elation of sudden success, at times when his soldiers were deserting by hundreds and when malignant plots were formed against his reputation, amid the constant quarrels, rivalries, and jealousies of his subordinates, in the dark hour of national ingratitude, and in the midst of the most universal and intoxicating flattery, he was always the same calm, wise, just, and single-minded man, pursuing the course which he believed to be right, without fear or favour or fanaticism; equally free from the passions that spring from interest, and from the passions that spring from imagination. He never acted on the impulse of an absorbing or uncalculating enthusiasm, and he valued very highly fortune, position, and reputation; but at the command of duty he was ready to risk and sacrifice them all. He was in the highest sense of the words a gentleman and a man of honour, and he carried into public life the severest standard of private morals. It was at first the constant dread of large sections of the American people, that if the old Government were overthrown, they would fall into the hands of military adventurers, and undergo the yoke of military despotism. It was mainly the transparent integrity of the character of Washington that dispelled the fear. It was always known by his friends, and it was soon acknowledged by the whole nation and by the English themselves, that in Washington America had found a leader who could be induced by no earthly motive to tell a falsehood, or to break an engagement, or to commit any dishonourable act. Men of this moral type are happily not rare, and we have all met them in our experience; but there is scarcely another instance in history of such a man having reached and maintained the highest position in the convulsions of civil war and of a great popular agitation.
It is one of the great advantages of the long practice of free institutions, that it diffuses through the community a knowledge of character and a soundness of judgment which save it from the enormous mistakes that are almost always made by enslaved nations when suddenly called upon to choose their rulers. No fact shows so eminently the high intelligence of the men who managed the American Revolution as their selection of a leader whose qualities were so much more solid than brilliant, and who was so entirely free from all the characteristics of a demagogue. It was only slowly and very deliberately that Washington identified himself with the revolutionary cause. No man had a deeper admiration for the British Constitution, or a more sincere wish to preserve the connection and to put an end to the disputes between the two countries. In Virginia the revolutionary movement was preceded and prepared by a democratic movement of the yeomanry of the province, led by Patrick Henry, against the planter aristocracy,1 and Washington was a conspicuous member of the latter. In tastes, manners, instincts, and sympathies he might have been taken as an admirable specimen of the better type of English country gentleman, and he had a great deal of the strong conservative feeling which is natural to the class. From the first promulgation of the Stamp Act, however, he adopted the conviction that a recognition of the sole right of the colonies to tax themselves was essential to their freedom, and as soon as it became evident that Parliament was resolved at all hazards to assert and exercise its authority of taxing America, he no longer hesitated. An interesting letter to his wife, however, shows clearly that he accepted the proffered command of the American forces with extreme diffidence and reluctance, and solely because he believed that it was impossible for him honourably to refuse it. He declined to accept from Congress any emoluments for his service beyond the simple payment of his expenses, of which he was accustomed to draw up most exact and methodical accounts.
The other military events of the year must be very briefly related. About three weeks after the skirmish at Lexington a party of colonists under Colonels Allen and Benedict Arnold had succeeded, without the loss of a man, in seizing the two very important forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which commanded Lakes George and Champlain, and were indeed the key of Canada, but which had been left by the English in the charge of only sixty or seventy soldiers. In September, in obedience to the direction of the Congress, a colonial army invaded Canada. Washington was at this time organising the army in Massachusetts, but the Canadian expedition was entrusted to the joint command of Schuyler—who, however, was soon obliged through ill-health to return to Ticonderoga—and of Montgomery, a brave and skilful Irish soldier from Donegal, who had been for many years settled in the colonies, and had served with great distinction in the late French war. For some time the invasion was successful. Several parties of Indians joined the Provincials.1 General Carleton, who commanded the English in Canada, with 800 soldiers was driven back when attempting to cross the St. Lawrence. The small fort of Chamblée and the much more important fort of St. John were taken. Montreal was occupied in November, and in the beginning of December Montgomery laid siege to Quebec. He had been joined just before by Benedict Arnold, who had been sent by Washington at the head of an expedition to assist him, but their joint efforts were unsuccessful. The Canadians remained loyal to England. Their laws and their religion had been guaranteed. They had enjoyed under English rule much prosperity and happiness. The Catholic priests were strongly on the side of the English Government.2 The contagion of New England republicanism had not penetrated to Canada, and the Canadians had no sympathy with the New England character or the New England creed. They were especially indignant, too, at the invasion, because on June 1, 1775, about four weeks before Congress secretly decided upon this step, that body had passed a resolution disclaiming any such intention, and had caused it to be widely disseminated through Canada.3 Unsupported by the inhabitants, in the midst of a Canadian winter, without large cannon or sufficient ammunition, Montgomery soon found his position a hopeless one. His troops deserted in such numbers that only 800 remained.4 They were turbulent, insubordinate, and half-trained; and they had enlisted for so short a period and were so unwilling to renew their contract that it was necessary to press on operations as quickly as possible.1 He fell on the last day of 1775 in a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to storm Quebec, and in the course of the following year the Americans evacuated Canada.
In most parts of the colonies the British government simply perished through the absence of British soldiers, but in Virginia Lord Dunmore, the Governor of the province, made desperate efforts to retain it. Having removed a store of gunpowder from Williamsburg, in order to secure it from the Provincials, he was obliged to fly from the palace to a British man-of-war. There were no English soldiers in the province, but with the assistance of some British frigates, of some hundreds of loyalists who followed his fortunes, and of a few runaway negroes, he equipped a marine force which spread terror along the Virginian coast, and kept up a harassing, though almost useless, predatory war. Two incidents in the struggle excited deep resentment throughout America. The first was a proclamation by which freedom was promised to all slaves who took arms against the rebels. The second was the burning of the important town of Norfolk, which had been occupied by the Provincials, had fired on the King's ships, and had refused to supply them with provisions. It was impossible, however, by such means to subdue the province. An attempt to raise a loyalist force in the back settlements of Virginia and the Carolinas was defeated by the arrest of its chief instigators in the summer of 1776, and soon after, Dunmore, being no longer able to obtain provisions for his ships, abandoned the colony. The unhappy negroes who had taken part with the loyalists are said to have almost universally perished.1
In the Southern provinces, and especially in the two Carolinas and in Georgia, there was a considerable loyalist party, but it was unsupported by any regular troops, and after a few spasmodic struggles it was easily crushed. Most of the governors took refuge in English men-of-war; a few were arrested and imprisoned. Provincial Congresses assumed the direction of affairs; except in the immediate neighbourhood of British soldiers the power of England had ceased, and there was no force in America competent to restore it. In the chief towns the stir of military preparation was incessant. When Franklin attended the Congress at Philadelphia in the September of 1775, he found companies of provincial soldiers drilled twice a day in the square of the Quaker capital, and the fortifications along the Delaware were rapidly advancing. Six powder mills were already designed, and two were just about to open. A manufactory of muskets had been established which was expected to complete twenty-five muskets a day. Suspected persons were constantly arrested, and the letter-bags systematically examined. Tories were either tarred and feathered or compelled to mount a cart and ask pardon of the crowd, and the ladies of the town were busily employed in scraping lint or making bandages for the wounded.1
Over the inland districts the revolutionary party was as yet supreme, but the whole coast was exposed, almost without defence, to the attacks of English ships of war, and all the chief towns in America were seaport. The Americans possessed a large population of seafaring men who were eminently fitted for maritime warfare, but they had as yet not a single ship of war. The Government made large offers to gunsmiths to induce them to abandon America for England.2 The manufacture of gunpowder was only slowly organised, and for many months the colonial forces were often in extreme danger in consequence of the scantiness of their supply. It was wisely determined to pay the provincial troops and to pay them well; but as all foreign commerce was arrested, and as most forms of industry were dislocated, there was very little money in the country, and paper was speedily depreciated. Some of the necessaries of life had hitherto been imported from England, and the great want of native woollen goods was especially felt in the rigour of the first winter of the war.
Though the negroes, who were so numerous in the Southern States, were a cause of great anxiety to the colonists,1 they remained at this time, with few exceptions, perfectly passive; but one of the first consequences of the appeal to arms was to bring Indian tribes into the field. In the great French war they had been constantly employed by the French and frequently by the English, and it was not likely that so formidable a weapon would be long unused. Neither side, it is true, desired a general Indian rising. Neither side can be justly accused of the great crime of inciting the Indians to indiscriminate massacre or plunder, but both sides were ready to employ them as auxiliaries. Before the battle of Lexington the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts formed a company out of Stockbridge Indians residing in the colony.2 In the beginning of April 1775 they issued an address to the Mohawk Indians exhorting them ‘to whet the hatchet’ for war against the English,3 and Indians were, as we have seen, employed by the Provincials in their invasion of Canada. In March 1775 Mr. Stuart, who managed Indian affairs for the English Government in the Southern colonies, reported that General Gage had informed him ‘that ill-affected people in those parts had been endeavouring to poison the minds of the Indians of the six nations and other tribes with jealousies, in order to alienate their affection from his Majesty,’1 and New England missionaries appear to have been in this respect especially active.2 Up to the middle of this year the English professed great reluctance to make use of savages. In July, Stuart wrote very emphatically to the Revolutionary Committee of Intelligence at Charleston, which had expressed suspicions on this subject: ‘I never have received any orders from my superiors which by the most tortured construction could be interpreted to spirit up or employ the Indians to fall upon the frontier inhabitants, or to take any part in the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies,’3 and both English and colonists exhorted the Indians as a body to remain neutral.4 It is, however, certain that in the beginning of June 1775 Colonel Guy Johnson, who had succeeded Sir William Johnson in the direction of one great department of Indian affairs, had, in obedience to secret instructions from General Gage, induced a large body of Indians to undertake ‘to assist his Majesty's troops in their operations in Canada,’1 and in July this policy was openly avowed by Lord Dartmouth. It was defended on the ground that the Americans had themselves adopted it.2
Few things were more terrible to the Americans than the scourge of Indian war. As it had generally been the function of the Government to protect the savages against the rapacity and violence of the colonists, England could count largely upon their gratitude, and the horrors which never failed to multiply in their track gave a darker hue of animosity to the struggle.
But the greatest danger to the colonial cause was the half-heartedness of its supporters. It is difficult or impossible to form any safe conjecture of the number of real loyalists in America, but it is certain that it was very considerable. John Adams, who would naturally be inclined to overrate the preponderance in favour of independence, declared at the end of the war his belief that a third part of the whole population, more than a third part of the principal persons in America, were throughout opposed to the Revolution.1 Massachusetts was of all the provinces the most revolutionary, but when General Gage evacuated Boston in 1776 he was accompanied by more than 1,000 loyalists of that town and of the neighbouring country. Two-thirds of the property of New York was supposed to belong to Tories, and except in the city there appears to have been no serious disaffection.2 In some of the Southern colonies loyalists probably formed half the population, and there was no colony in which they were not largely represented.
There were also great multitudes who, though they would never take up arms for the King, though they perhaps agreed with the constitutional doctrines of the Revolutionists, dissented on grounds of principle, policy, or interest from the course which they were adopting. There were those who wished to wait till the natural increase of the colonies made coercion manifestly impossible; who feared to stake acknowledged liberties on the doubtful issue of an armed struggle; who shrank from measures that would destroy their private fortunes; who determined to stand aloof till the event showed which side was likely to win; who still dreamed of the possibility of resisting the Parliament without casting off allegiance to the Crown. If America succeeded in throwing off the yoke of England, it could hardly be without the assistance of France, and many feared that France would thus acquire a power on the Continent far more dangerous than that of England to the liberties of the colonies. Was it not likely, too, that an independent America would degenerate, as so many of the best judges had predicted, into a multitude of petty, heterogeneous, feeble, and perhaps hostile States? Was it not certain that the cost of the struggle and the burden of independence would drain its purse of far more money than England was ever likely to ask for the defence of her Empire? Was it not possible that the lawless and anarchical spirit which had of late years been steadily growing, and which the patriotic party had actively encouraged, would gain the upper hand, and that the whole fabric of society would be dissolved? John Adams in his Diary relates the ‘profound melancholy’ which fell upon him in one of the most critical moments of the struggle, when a man whom he knew to be a horse-jockey and a cheat, and whom, as an advocate, he had often defended in the law courts, came to him and expressed the unbounded gratitude which he felt for the great things which Adams and his colleagues had done. ‘We can never,’ he said, ‘be grateful enough to you. There are now no courts of justice in this province, and I hope there will never be another.’ ‘Is this the object,’ Adams continued, ‘for which I have been contending?’ said I to myself. … Are these the sentiments of such people, and how many of them are there in the country? Half the nation, for what I know; for half the nation are debtors, if not more, and these have been in all countries the sentiments of debtors. If the power of the country should get into such hands—and there is great danger that it will—to what purpose have we sacrificed our time, health, and everything else?’1
Misgivings of this kind must have passed through many minds, and the older colonists were not of the stuff of which ardent soldiers are made. Among the poor, vagrant, adventurous immigrants who had lately poured in by thousands from Ireland and Scotland, there was indeed a keen military spirit, and it was these men who ultimately bore the chief part in the war of independence; but the older and more settled colonists were men of a very different type. Shrewd, prosperous, and well-educated farmers, industrious, money-loving, and eminently domestic, they were men who, if they were compelled to fight, would do so with courage and intelligence, but who cared little or nothing for military glory, and grudged every hour that separated them from their families and their farms. Such men were dragged very reluctantly into the struggle. The American Revolution, like most others, was the work of an energetic minority, who succeeded in committing an undecided and fluctuating majority to courses for which they had little love, and leading them step by step to a position from which it was impossible to recede.2 To the last, however, we find vacillation, uncertainty, half-measures, and in large classes a great apparent apathy. In June 1775, the Provincial Congress of New York received two startling pieces of intelligence, that Washington was about to pass through their city on his way to Cambridge, and that Tryon, the royal governor, had just arrived in the harbour. The Congress, though it was an essentially Whig body, and had assumed an attitude which was virtually rebellion, still dreaded the necessity of declaring itself irrevocably on either side, and it ultimately ordered the colonel of militia to dispose of his troops so as to receive ‘either the General or Governor Tryon, whichever should first arrive, and wait on both as well as circumstances would admit.’1 The dominant Quaker party of Pennsylvania was at least as hostile to rebellion as to imperial taxation, and Chastellux justified the very democratic institutions which Franklin established in that province when the Revolution had begun, on the ground that ‘it was necessary to employ a sort of seduction in order to conduct a timid and avaricious people to independence, who were besides so divided in their opinions that the Republican party was scarcely stronger than the other.’2 In every Southern colony a similar division and a similar hesitation may be detected.
The result of all this was, that there was much less genuine military enthusiasm than might have been expected. When Washington arrived at Cambridge to command the army, he found that it nominally consisted of about 17,000 men, but that not more than 14,500 were actually available for service, and they had to guard a line extending for nearly twelve miles, in face of a force of at least 9,000 regular troops, besides seamen and loyalists. Urgent demands were made to the different colonies to send recruits, but they were very imperfectly responded to. Colonel Lee, in a remarkable letter on the military prospects of the Americans, estimated that in three or four months the colonists could easily have an efficient army of 100,000 infantry.3 As a matter of fact, a month's recruiting during this most critical period produced only 5,000 men. There was abundant courage and energy among the soldiers, but there was very little subordination, discipline, or self-sacrifice. Each body of troops had been raised by the laws of its own colony, and it was reluctant to obey any other authority. Washington complained bitterly of ‘the egregious want of public spirit’ in his army. The Congress had made rules for its regulation. The troops positively refused to accept them, as they had not enlisted on those terms, and Washington was obliged to yield, except in the case of new recruits. The Congress had appointed a number of officers, but the troops rebelled violently against their choice, and it soon became evident that they would only remain at their post as long as they served under such officers as they pleased.1 The absence of any social difference between officers and soldiers greatly aggravated the difficulty of enforcing discipline.2 The local feeling was so strong that General Schuyler gave it as his deliberate opinion that ‘troops from the colony of Connecticut will not bear with a general from another colony.’3 The short period for which the troops had consented to enlist made it impossible to give them steadiness or discipline, to count upon the future, or to engage in enterprises of magnitude or continuity. What little subordination had been attained in the beginning of the period was destroyed at the close, for the officers were obliged to connive at every kind of relaxation of discipline in order to persuade their soldiers to re-enlist.4 Personal recriminations and jealousies, quarrels about rank and pay and service, were incessant. Great numbers held aloof from enlisting, imagining that the distress of their cause would oblige the Congress to offer large bounties;5 no possible inducement could persuade a large proportion of the soldiers to re-enlist when their short time of service had expired, and there were instances of gross selfishness and misconduct among the disbanding soldiers.1 The term for which the Connecticut troops had enlisted expired in December, and the whole body, amounting to some 5,000 men, positively refused to re-enlist. It was vainly represented to them that their desertion threatened to bring absolute ruin on the American cause. The utmost that the most strenuous exertions could effect was, that they would delay their departure for ten days. There were bitter complaints that Congress granted no bounties, leaving this to the option of the several colonies, and also that the scale of pay, though very liberal, was lower than what they might have obtained in other employments. Great numbers pretended sickness, in order to escape from the service;2 great numbers would only continue in the army on the condition of obtaining long furloughs at a time when every man was needed for the security of the lines.3 There was a constant fear of concentrating too much power in military hands, and of building up a system of despotism, and there was a general belief among the soldiers that unquestioning obedience to their officers was derogatory to their dignity and inconsistent with their freedom.
The truth is, that although the circumstances of the New Englanders had developed to a high degree many of the qualities that are essential to a soldier, they had been very unfavourable to others. To obey, to act together, to sacrifice private judgment to any authority, to acknowledge any superior, was wholly alien to their temperament,1 and they had nothing of that passionate and all-absorbing enthusiasm which transforms the character, and raises men to an heroic height of patriotic self-devotion. Such a spirit is never evoked by mere money disputes. The question whether the Supreme Legislature of the Empire had or had not the right of obliging the colonies to contribute something to the support of the imperial army, was well fitted to produce constitutional agitation, eloquence, riots, and even organised armed resistance; but it was not one of those questions which touch the deeper springs of human feeling or action. Any nation might be proud of the shrewd, brave, prosperous, and highly intelligent yeomen who flocked to the American camp; but they were very different men from those who defended the walls of Leyden, or immortalised the field of Bannockburn. Few of the great pages of history are less marked by the stamp of heroism than the American Revolution; and perhaps the most formidable of the difficulties which Washington had to encounter were in his own camp.
Had there been a general of any enterprise or genius at the head of the British army, the Americans could scarcely have escaped a great disaster; but at this period, and indeed during all the earlier period of the Revolutionary War, the English exhibited an utter absence of all military capacity. That spirit of enterprise and daring which had characterised every branch of the service during the administration of Chatham, had absolutely disappeared. Every week was of vital importance at a time when undisciplined yeomen were being drilled into regular troops, and the different provincial contingents were being slowly and painfully organised into a compact army. But week after week, month after month, passed away, while the British lay inactively behind their trenches. After the first reinforcements had arrived at the end of May 1775, General Gage had upwards of 11,000 men at his disposal, including seamen and loyalists; yet even then weeks of inactivity followed. At Bunker's Hill more than 1,000 men were lost in capturing a position which during several months might have been occupied any day without resistance. Gage knew that the town which he held was bitterly hostile; that the Americans greatly outnumbered him; that they occupied strong and fortified positions; that he was himself secure through his command of the sea; that his army was the sole support of the British Empire in New England. A very large proportion of his soldiers were incapacitated by illness.1 He considered those who remained too few to be divided with safety; and he maintained that, in the absence of sufficient means of transport, it would be both rash and useless to attempt to penetrate into the country, and that success would only drive the Americans out of one stronghold into another.
He probably feared, also, by energetic measures, to commit the country irrevocably to a war which might still be possibly avoided, and to produce in an undecided and divided people an outburst of military enthusiasm. There was a widespread expectation that the resistance would fall to pieces through the divisions of the Americans, through the stress of the blockade, or in consequence of the conciliatory propositions of North. Gage would risk nothing. His information was miserably imperfect, and he was probably very indifferently informed of the extreme weakness of the Americans. The Provincials had as yet no cavalry. They had scarcely any bayonets. Their ammunition was so deplorably scanty that in the beginning of August it was discovered that there were only nine rounds of ammunition for each man, and a fortnight passed before they received additional supplies, and in this condition they succeeded in blockading, almost without resistance, a powerful English army. Nor was Gage more successful in conciliating than in fighting. He had made an agreement with the inhabitants of Boston that, on delivering up their arms, they might depart with their effects; but he soon after repented, and though the people had complied, he refused to fulfil his promise. Many, indeed, were allowed to depart, but they were obliged to leave their effects behind as a security for their loyalty.
At length, in October, he was recalled, and General Howe assumed the command; but the spirit of indecision and incapacity still presided over the British forces. In November and December, the time for which the American troops enlisted having ended, most of them insisted on disbanding, and a new army had to be formed in the presence of the enemy. On the last day of December 1775 when the old army had been disbanded, only 9,650 men had been enlisted to supply their place, and more than 1,000 of these were on furlough, which it had been necessary to grant in order to persuade them to enlist.1 Yet not a single attempt appears to have been made to break the American lines. ‘It is not in the page of history, perhaps,’ wrote Washington, ‘to furnish a case like ours: to maintain a post within musket-shot of the enemy for six months together without powder, and at the same time to disband our army and recruit another within that distance of twenty odd British regiments.’2 ‘My situation,’ he wrote in February 1776, ‘has been such that I have been obliged to use art to conceal it from my own officers,’ and he expressed his emphatic astonishment that Howe had not obliged him, under very disadvantageous circumstances, to defend the lines he had occupied.3
The negligence and delay of the British probably saved the American cause, and great efforts were made to recruit the provincial army. Before many weeks the army around Boston had considerably increased, and before the middle of the year it was pretended, though probably with great exaggeration, that the Americans had altogether 80,000 men in arms.1 In April the Congress voted about 1,300,000l. for the support of the army, and in June it offered a bounty of ten dollars for every man who would enlist for three years. Large numbers of cannon were cast in New York, and great exertions were made to fit out a fleet. A hardy seafaring population, scattered over a long seaboard, accustomed from childhood both to smuggling and to distant commercial enterprises, formed an admirable material for the new navy. The old privateersmen of the last war resumed their occupation, and the number of British merchant vessels that were captured brought a rich return to the American sailors. The want of ammunition was the most serious deficiency, but it was gradually supplied. Manufactories of arms and gunpowder were set up in different provinces. The Americans succeeded in purchasing powder in Africa, in the Bahama Islands, and in Ireland. A few daring men sailed from Charleston to East Florida, which had never joined in opposition to the Government, and surprised and captured near St. Augustine a ship containing 15,000 lbs. of powder. A cargo, which was but little less considerable, was seized by the people of Georgia immediately on its arrival from England; and several ships, carrying military stores to Boston, were intercepted before the British appear to have been aware that American privateers were upon the sea. The news from Canada was extremely discouraging, but it was counterbalanced by a great triumph in Massachusetts. The blockade of Boston became more severe; sickness disabled many of the British soldiers; swarms of privateers made it very difficult to obtain provisions; and at last, on the night of March 4, 1776, the Americans obtained possession of Dorchester heights, which commanded the harbour. The town was now no longer tenable. On March 17, Howe, with the remainder of his army, consisting of about 7,600 men, sailed for Halifax, and Washington marched in triumph into the capital of Massachusetts.
At the same time public opinion in the colonies began to run strongly in the direction of independence. Great stress has been placed on the effect of an anonymous pamphlet called ‘Common Sense,’ advocating complete separation from England, which appeared at Philadelphia in January 1776.1 It was the first considerable work of the notorious Thomas Paine, who had only a few months before come over from England, and had at once thrown himself, with the true instinct of a revolutionist, into hostility to his country. Like all his works, this pamphlet was written in clear, racy, vivid English, and with much power of popular reasoning; and, like most of his works, it was shallow, violent, and scurrilous. Much of it consists of attacks upon monarchy in general, and hereditary monarchy in particular; of very erude schemes for the establishment of democratic forms of government in America, and of violent denunciations of the English king and people. England is described by this newly arrived Englishman as ‘that barbarous and hellish power which hath stirred up the Indians and negroes to destroy us.’ The lingering attachment to her is ridiculed as mere local prejudice. Not one third part of the inhabitants even of Pennsylvania, it is said, are of English descent; and the Americans are recommended to put to death as traitors all their countrymen who were taken in arms for the King. At the same time the arguments showing that America was capable of subsisting as an independent Power, and that, as a part of the British Empire, she could only be a secondary object in the system of British politics, were stated with great force. The present moment, it was urged, was eminently opportune for complete separation. Reunion could only be purchased by concessions that would be fatal to American liberty. Cordial reconciliation was no longer possible, and America had now the inestimable advantage of the military experience of the last war, which had filled the country with veteran soldiers. If the struggle were adjourned for forty or fifty years, the Americans would no doubt be more numerous, but they would probably be less united, and it was quite possible that there would not be a general or skilful military officer among them.
It is said that not less than 100,000 copies of this pamphlet were sold; and Washington himself, not long after its appearance, described it as ‘working a powerful change in the minds of many men.’1 As is usually, however, the case with very popular political writings, its success was mainly due to extraneous circumstances. It fell in with the prevailing tendency of the time, and gave an expression to sentiments which were rising in countless minds. The position of men who were professing unbounded devotion to their Sovereign, and were at the same time imprisoning his governors, waging war against his armies, and invading a peaceful province which was subject to his rule, was manifestly untenable. When blood was once shed, amid the deepening excitement of the contest the figments of lawyers disappeared, and the struggle assumed a new character of earnestness and animosity. Several acts of war had already been committed, of which Americans might justly complain, and others were grossly exaggerated or misrepresented. The conduct of the British troops in the beginning of the war in firing upon the Provincials at Lexington, was absurdly described as a wanton massacre. The conduct of Gage to the inhabitants of Boston, and the burning of Charleston during the battle of Bunker's Hill to prevent it from being a shelter for American soldiers, were more justly objected to; while the proceedings of Lord Dunmore in Virginia raised the indignation of the colonists to the highest point. When the news of the burning of Norfolk arrived, Washington expressed his hope that it would ‘unite the whole country in one indissoluble band against a nation which seems to be lost to every sense of virtue, and those feelings which distinguish a civilised people from the most barbarous savages.’1
If such language could be employed by such a man, it is easy to conceive how fierce a spirit must have been abroad. In the dissolution of all government, mob intimidation had a great power over politicians, and mobs are always in favour of the strongest measures; and the adoption of the policy of armed resistance had naturally given an increased power to those who had been the first to advocate it. Every step which was taken in England added to the exasperation. Already the Americans had been proclaimed rebels; and all commercial intercourse with them had been forbidden. The petition of Congress to the King, which was the last serious effort of America for pacification, was duly taken over to England; but, after a short delay, Lord Dartmouth informed the delegates that ‘no answer would be given to it.’ An Act of Parliament was passed authorising the confiscation of all American ships and cargoes, and of all vessels of other nations trading with the American ports; and by a clause of especial atrocity, the commanders of the British ships of war were empowered to seize the crews of all American vessels, and compel them, under pain of being treated as mutineers, to serve against their countrymen.1
All these things contributed to sever the colonies from amicable connection with England, and to make the prospect of reconciliation appear strange and remote. Separation, it was plausibly said, was the act of the British Parliament itself, which had thrown the thirteen colonies out of the protection of the Crown. But another and more practical consideration concurred with the foregoing in producing the Declaration of Independence. One of the gravest of the questions which were agitating the revolutionary party was the expediency of asking for foreign, and especially for French, assistance. France had hitherto been regarded in America, even more than in England, as a natural enemy. She was a despotic Power, and could not therefore have much real sympathy with a struggle for constitutional liberty. Her expulsion from America had been for generations one of the first objects of American patriots; and if she again mixed in American affairs, it was natural that she should seek to regain the province she had so lately lost. If America was destined to be an independent Republic, nothing could be more dangerous than to have a military and aggressive colony belonging to the most powerful despotism in Europe planted on her frontiers. But, on the other hand, it appeared more than probable that the intervention or non-intervention of France would determine the result of the present struggle. If America were cordially united in her resistance to England, it would be impossible to subdue her; but it was quite evident to serious men that America was not united; that outside New England there was scarcely an approach to unanimity; that powerful minorities in almost every province were ardently attached to England; and that, of the remainder of the population, a very large proportion were vacillating, selfish, or indifferent, ready, if the occasion could be found, to be reconciled with England, and altogether unprepared to make any long or strenuous sacrifices in the cause. Under these circumstances the revolutionary leaders had much to fear.
There was a party in the Congress, among whom Patrick Henry was conspicuous, who desired to purchase French assistance by large territorial cessions in America;1 but this view found little favour. Apart from all considerations of territorial aggrandisement, it was the evident interest of France to promote the independence of America. She could thus obtain for herself a share in that vast field of commerce from which she had hitherto been excluded by the Navigation Act. The humiliation of the loss of Canada would be amply avenged if the thirteen old colonies were separated from England. A formidable if not fatal blow would be given to that maritime supremacy against which France had so long and so vainly struggled; and the French West India islands, which were now in time of war completely at the mercy of England, would become comparatively secure if the harbours of the neighbouring continent were held by a neutral or a friendly Power. Ever since the Peace of Paris, a feeling of deep humiliation and discontent had brooded over French society; and even in Europe the influence of France appeared to have diminished. The recent appearance of Russia as an active and formidable agent in the European system, and the recent growth of Prussia into the dimensions of a first-class Power, had profoundly altered the European equilibrium. Both of these Powers lay in a great degree beyond the influence of France; and although one school of French politicians maintained that the rise of Prussia was beneficial, as establishing a balance of power in Germany, and checking the preponderance of Austria, another school looked upon it as seriously affecting both French ascendency and French security. Great indignation was felt in Paris at the passive attitude of the Government at the time of the first partition of Poland in 1772, and during the war that ended in the treaty of Kainardji in 1774, when Russia succeeded in extending her territory southwards, in separating the Crimea from the Turkish Empire, and in acquiring a right of protectorate over Christians in Constantinople. As long as the old King lived, there seemed little chance of a more active policy; but in May 1774 Lewis XV. died, and a new and more adventurous spirit was ruling at the Tuileries.
Under such circumstances it appeared to John Adams, and to the more sagacious of his supporters, that it would be possible to obtain from France such a measure of assistance as would insure the independence of America without involving her future in European complications. But the first condition of this policy was a declaration by the colonies that they were finally and for ever detached from Great Britain. France had no possible interest in their constitutional liberties. She had a vital interest in their independence. It was idle to suppose that she would risk a war with England for rebels who might at any time be converted by constitutional concessions into loyal subjects, and enemies of the enemies of England.
The questions of a French alliance and of a declaration of independence were thus indissolubly connected. In the autumn of 1775 a motion was made in Congress, and strongly supported by John Adams, to send ambassadors to France. But Congress still shrank from so formidable a step, though it agreed, after long debates and hesitation, to form a secret committee ‘to correspond with friends in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world.’1 But the conduct of England herself soon dispelled the hesitation of America. England found herself at this time confronted with a military problem which she was utterly unable by her own unassisted efforts to solve. The same pressure of financial distress, the same reluctance to increase the army estimates, which had made the English ministers so anxious to throw upon America the burden of supporting her own army, had prevented the maintenance of any considerable army at home. Public opinion had never yet fully accepted the fact that the forces which were very adequate under Walpole were wholly insufficient after the Peace of Paris. The King, indeed, had for many years steadily maintained that military economy in England had been carried to a fatal point, and that the army was much below what the security of the Empire required; but his warnings had been disregarded.2 The feeling of the country, the feeling of the House of Commons, against large standing armies was so strong that it was impossible to resist it. As late as December 1774, the seamen had been reduced from 20,000 to 16,000, and the land forces had been fixed at 17,547 effective men.1 In the following year, when the war became inevitable, Parliament voted 28,000 seamen and 55,000 land forces, but even this was utterly inadequate for the conquest of America, and as yet it only existed upon paper. Most of the troops that could be safely spared had been already sent, and the result had been the formation of two armies, one of which was not more than sufficient for the protection of Canada, while the other had been for months confined within the town of Boston.
It was evident that much larger forces were required if America was to be subdued, and Howe strongly urged that he could make no aggressive movement with any prospect of success unless he had at least 20,000 men. To raise the required troops at short notice was very difficult. In January 1776, Lord Barrington warned the King that Scotland had never yet been so bare of troops, and that those in England were too few for the security of the country.2 The land tax for 1776 was raised to four shillings in the pound. New duties were imposed; new bounties were offered. Recruiting agents traversed the Highlands of Scotland, and the most remote districts of Ireland, and the poor Catholics of Munster and Connaught, who had been so long excluded from the English army, were gladly welcomed. Recruits, however, came in very slowly. There was no enthusiasm for a war with English settlers. The pressgangs met with an unusual resistance. No measure short of a conscription could raise at once the necessary army in England, and to propose a conscription would be fatal to any Government.
The difficulties of subduing America by land operations, even under the most favourable circumstances, were enormous. Except on the sea-coast there were no fixed points, no fortified places of such importance that their possession could give a permanent command of any large tract of territory; the vast distances and the difficulties of transport made it easy for insurgents to avoid decisive combats; and in a hostile and very thinly populated country, the army must derive its supplies almost exclusively from England.1 The magnitude, the ruinous expense of such an enterprise, and the almost absolute impossibility of carrying the war into distant inland quarters, ought to have been manifest to all, and no less a person than Lord Barrington, the Secretary for War, held from the beginning that it would be impossible for England to subdue America by an army, though he thought it might be subdued by a fleet which blockaded its seaport towns and destroyed its commerce. But Barrington was one of the most devoted of the King's friends, and he was a conspicuous instance of the demoralising influence of the system of politics which had lately prevailed in England. Already, at the close of 1774, he informed his colleagues in the clearest and most decisive manner of his disapproval of the policy they were pursuing, and he repeatedly begged the King to accept his resignation. ‘I am summoned to meetings’ of the ministers, he complained, ‘when I sometimes think it my duty to declare my opinions openly before perhaps twenty or thirty persons, and the next day I am forced either to vote contrary to them or to vote with an Opposition which I abhor.’ He wished to retire both from the ministry and from Parliament, but he had declared that he would remain in both as long as his Majesty thought fit, and he accordingly continued year after year one of the responsible ministers of the Crown though he believed that the policy of the Government was mistaken and disastrous. It was only in December 1778 that his resignation was accepted.1
The King was the real director of the Administration, and he was determined to relinquish no part of his dominions. He was accordingly reduced to the humiliating necessity of asking for foreign assistance to subdue his own subjects. It was sought from many quarters. He himself, as Elector of Hanover, agreed to lend 2,355 men of his Electoral army to garrison Minorca and Gibraltar, and thus to release some British soldiers for the American war. The Dutch had for a long time maintained a Scotch brigade in their service, and the Government wished to take it into English pay, but the States-General refused to consent. Russia had just concluded her war with the Turks, and it was hoped that she might sell some 20,000 of her spare troops to the English service, but Catherine sternly refused. The little sovereigns of Germany were less chary, and were quite ready to sell their subjects to England to fight in a quarrel with which they had no possible concern. The Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, the Hereditary Prince of Hesse Cassel, and the Prince of Waldeck were the chief persons engaged in this white slave trade, and they agreed for a liberal payment to supply 17,742 men to serve under English officers in America.1
The German princelets acted after their kind, and the contempt and indignation which they inspired were probably unmixed with any feeling of surprise. The conduct, however, of England in hiring German mercenaries to subdue the essentially English population beyond the Atlantic, made reconciliation hopeless and the Declaration of Independence inevitable. It was idle for the Americans to have any further scruples about calling in foreigners to assist them when England had herself set the example. It was necessary that they should do so if they were successfully to resist the powerful reinforcement which was thus brought against them.
It belongs rather to the historian of America than to the historian of England to recount in detail the various steps that led immediately to the Declaration of Independence. It will here be sufficient to indicate very briefly the main forces that were at work. Even after the enlistment of foreign mercenaries by Great Britain, the difficulty of carrying the Declaration was very great. As late as March 1776, John Adams, who was the chief advocate of the measure, described the terror and disgust with which it was regarded by a large section of the Congress, and he clearly shows the nature of the opposition. ‘All our misfortunes,’ he added, ‘arise from the reluctance of the Southern colonies to republican government,’ and he complains bitterly that ‘popular principles and axioms’ are ‘abhorrent to the inclinations of the barons of the South and the proprietary interests in the Middle States, as well as to that avarice of land which has made on this continent so many votaries to Mammon.’ It was necessary, in the first place, to mould the governments of the Southern and Middle States into a purely popular form, destroying altogether the proprietary system and those institutions which gave the more wealthy planters, if not a preponderance, at least a special weight in the management of affairs. The Congress recommended the colonists ‘where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs hath hitherto been established’ to adopt a new form of government, and it pronounced it necessary that the whole proprietary system should be dissolved.1 The Revolution was speedily accomplished, and the tide of democratic feeling ran strongly towards independence. Virginia, now wholly in the hands of the revolutionary party, concurred fully with Massachusetts, and the influence of these two leading colonies overpowered the rest. In Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, in Maryland, in Delaware, in New York, in South Carolina, there was powerful opposition, but the strongest pressure was applied to overcome it. New Jersey and Maryland first dropped off and accepted the Resolution of Independence, but South Carolina and Pennsylvania opposed it almost to the last, while Delaware was divided and New York abstained. John Adams was now the most powerful advocate, while John Dickinson was the chief opponent of independence. At last, however, it was resolved not to show any appearance of dissension to the world. The arrival of a new delegate from Delaware, and the abstention of two delegates of Pennsylvania, gave the party of independence the control of the votes of these provinces. South Carolina, for the sake of preserving unity, changed sides. New York still abstained, and on July 2, 1776, the twelve colonies resolved that ‘these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.’ Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, whose literary power had been shown in many able State papers, had already drawn up the Declaration of Independence, which having been revised by Franklin and by John Adams, was now submitted to the examination of Congress, and was voted after some slight changes on the evening of the 4th. It proclaimed that a new nation had arisen in the world, and that the political unity of the English race was for ever at an end.
Grahame's Hist. of the United States, iv. 94, 95. Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay from 1749 to 1774, p. 101.
Bancroft's Hist. of the United States, i. 525.
Letter to Two Great Men on the Prospect of Peace.
Remarks on the Letter Addressed to Two Great Men, pp. 30, 31.
Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts Bay from 1749 to 1774, p. 100. Hardwicke, however, is said to have been governed exclusively by commercial considerations.
‘Their jealousy of each other is so great, that however necessary a union of the colonies has long been for their common defence and security against their enemies, and how sensible soever each colony has been of that necessity, yet they have never been able to effect such a union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother country to establish it for them. Nothing but the immediate command of the Crown has been able to produce even the imperfect union but lately seen there of the forces of some colonies. If they could not agree to unite for their defence against the French and Indians … can it reasonably be supposed there is any danger of their uniting against their own nation, which protects and encourages them, with which they have so many connections and ties of blood, interest, and affection, and which, it is well known, they all love much more than they love one another?’—Canada Pamphlet, Franklin's Works, iv. 41, 42.
Hildreth's History of the United States, ii. 496.
Burnaby's Travels in North America. Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii. 725, 728, 749. Gerard Hamilton, in a letter written in 1767, said: ‘There are in the different provinces above a million of people of which we may suppose at least 200,000 men able to bear arms; and not only able to bear arms, but having arms in their possession unrestrained by any iniquitous game Act. In the Massachusetts Government particularly, there is an express law by which every man is obliged to have a musket, a pound of powder, and a pound of bullets always by him, so there is nothing wanting but knapsacks (or old stockings, which will do as well) to equip an army for marching.’—Chatham Correspondence, iii. 203.
Ramsay's Hist. of the American Revolution, i. 40. Hildreth, ii. 486. Grahame, iv. 94.
See a very remarkable pamphlet of Franklin, called Cool Thoughts on the present Situation (1764), advocating the abolition of the proprietary government in Pennsylvania. Franklin's Works, iv. 78–93.
In Carolina a law had been passed depriving the Dissenters of their political privileges, but it was repealed by the King in Council. Franklin's Works, iv. 84. Franklin adds: ‘Nor is there existing in any of the American colonies any test imposed by Great Britain to exclude Dissenters from office. In some colonies, indeed, where the Episcopalians, and in others the Dissenters, have been predominant, they have made partial laws in favour of their respective sects, and laid some difficulties on the others, but those laws have been generally, on complaint, repealed at home.’—P. 88.
See his evidence before Parliament in 1766. Franklin's Works, iv. 169.
Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, pp. 84, 85.
The Swedish traveller Kalm, who visited North America in 1749 and 1750, was much struck with this dislike to co-operation. He says: ‘Each English colony in North America is independent of the other. … From hence it happens that in time of war things go on very slowly and irregularly here; for not only the sense of one province is sometimes directly opposite to that of another, but frequently the views of the Governor and those of the Assembly of the same province are quite different. … It has commonly happened that while some provinces have been suffering from their enemies, the neighbouring ones were quiet and inactive and as if it did not in the least concern them. They have frequently taken up two or three years in considering whether they should give assistance to an oppressed sister colony, and sometimes they have expressly declared themselves against it. There are instances of provinces who were not only neuter in these circumstances, but who even carried on a great trade with the Power which at that very time was attacking and laying waste some other provinces.’—Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii. 460, 461.
Grahame, iii. 13.
Franklin's Work, i. 177.
Grahame, iv. 145–147.
The following is the judgment of that usually very acute observer, Burnaby, who travelled through the colonies in 1759 and 1760. ‘Fire and water are not more heterogeneous than the different colonies in North America. Nothing can exceed the jealousy and emulation which they possess in regard to each other. The inhabitants of Pennsylvania and New York have an inexhaustible source of animosity in their jealousy for the trade of the Jerseys. Massachusetts Bay and Rhode Island are not less interested in that of Connecticut. The West Indies are a common subject of emulation to them all. Even the limits and boundaries of each colony are a constant source of litigation. In short, such is the difference of character, of manners, of religion, of interest of the different colonies, that I think, if I am not wholly ignorant of the human mind, were they left to themselves, there would soon be a civil war from one end of the continent to the other; while the Indians and negroes would with better reason impatiently watch the opportunity of exterminating them altogether.’—Pinkerton, xiii. 752. Otis, one of the earliest and most considerable of the American patriots, wrote in 1765: ‘God forbid these colonies should over prove undutiful to their mother country. Whenever such a day shall come, it will be the beginning of a terrible scene. Were these colonies left to themselves to-morrow, America would be a mere shambles of blood and confusion before little petty states could be settled.’—Answer to the Halifax Libel, p. 16.
According to Grahame (iv. 125), in 1763 it contained upwards of 500,000 persons. The North American Gazetteer (2nd edit. 1778) estimates its population at upwards of 600,000.
Reports of the Board of Trade on the Establishments in America (1766). American Papers, MSS., Record Office. See, too, a letter of Hutchinson in the American Remembrancer 1776, part i, p. 159.
See the very unfavourable picture given by Burnaby; Pinkerton, xiii. 742, 743. Winterbotham's Present Situation of the United States (1795), ii. 236. Burke's European Settlements in America, ii. 300.
See a curious passage in the Life of Adams prefixed to his Familiar Letters to his Wife, pp. x, xiv. Tucker says of America: ‘In no country, perhaps, in the world are there so many lawsuits.’—Letter to Burke, p. 26. So, too, Burke: ‘In no country, perhaps, in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful, and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to Congress were lawyers. … I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations.’—Speech on Conciliation with America, See, too, Burke's European Settlements in America, ii. 304. The passion for the law steadily increased, and in 1787 Noah Webster wrote: ‘Never was such a rage for the study of law. From one end of the continent to the other the students of this science are multiplying without number. An infallible proof that the business is lucrative.’—Webster's Essays, p. 116.
24 Geo. II. c. 53. Another law to facilitate recovery of debts from America was made in 1732 (5 Geo. II. c. 7). See on this subject Tucker's Letter to Burke, pp. 29–31. Bolles' Financial History of the United States, pp. 29, 30.
Winterbotham's View of the United States, ii. 3, 4.
Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 90, 166.
Observations on the State of the Nation.
Burnaby in 1759 reckons the population of Boston at from 18,000 to 20,000. Pinkerton, xiii. 744. Adams in his Diary, Works, ii. 213, estimates it at 16,000. Winterbotham, some years after the Revolution, reckons it at 18,038. In the North American Gazetteer, it is placed as high as 30,000, but this is certainly an exaggeration.
Grahame's Hist. iv. 129,130. Burke's European Settlements, ii. 183.
Tyler's Hist. of American Literature, ii. 206.
Chastellux (Eng. trans.), Travels in North America in 1780–1782, ii, 180.
Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York procured in Holland, England, and France, vii. 500, 705, 760, 774, 796, 797, 906, 979. New York is described by most of the writers on America I have already quoted. J. Adams gives a very unfavourable picture of the manners of its inhabitants. He writes: ‘With all the opulence and splendour of this city [New York] there is very little good breeding to be found. We have been treated with an assiduous respect, but I have not seen one real gentleman, one well-bred man, since I came to town. At their entertainments there is no conversation that is agreeable; there is no modesty; no attention to one another. They talk very loud, very fast, and all together. If they ask you a question, before you can utter three words of your answer they will break out upon you again and talk away.’—Adams' Diary, 1774. Works, ii. 353. On the condition of education in New York, see Tyler's Hist. of American Literature, ii. 206, 207.
Winterbotham, ii. 439.
Kalm's Travels in North America. Pinkerton, xiii. 395, 396.
Franklin's Life, pp. 148–155. Kalm's Travels. Pinkerton, xiii. 391. As early as 1741, the Quaker, Thomas Chalkley, had lamented the falling away of Pennsylvanian Quakers in this respect. See his curious Life, Travels, and Christian Experiences (ed. 1850), pp. 362, 363.
Kalm's Travels. Pinkerton, xiii. 494.
Burnaby's Travels. See, too, Kalm's Travels, ten years earlier, and the North American Gazetteer, arts. ‘Pennsylvania’ and ‘Philadelphia.’ There is a very graphic description of Philadelphia, evidently by an eye-witness, in that curious book, the Life of Bampfylde Moore Carew, published in 1749, 1750.
The same custom, however, appears to have prevailed in England. Junius, in one of his private letters to Wilkes, alludes to it. ‘I appeal to Miss Wilkes, whose judgment I hear highly commended, would she think herself much indebted to her favourite admirer if he forced a most disagreeable partner upon her, for a long winter's night, because he would not dance with her himself?’ See on this custom the remarks of Twisleton, Twisleton and Chabot's Handwriting of Junius, p. 235.
Chastellux's Travels, i. 278.
Kalm. Pinkerton, xiii. 512.
Compare, on the population of Virginia, Burnaby; Pinkerton, xiii. p. 711; Grahame, iv. 122; Winterbotham.
Winterbotham, iii. 112.
Chastellux, ii. 189.
Noah Webster, who was one of the best of the early economists of America, wrote in 1790: ‘In Virginia and Maryland I should question whether a tenth of the land is yet cultivated. In New England more than half the whole is cultivated, and in Connecticut scarcely a tenth remains in a wild state.’—Webster's Essays, p. 365.
Chastellux, ii. 190.
Ibid. pp. 28, 29.
Ibid. pp. 192, 193.
Burnaby. Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii. 714, 715.
Chastellux, ii. 193–195. There is an excellent description of Virginian society in Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry. See, too, Grahame, iv. 122–124. Webster's Essays, pp. 361–364. Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 29–33.
Sparks' Life of Washington. Washington's Works, i. 133.
Hildreth, ii. 559.
Burnaby. Pinkerton, xiii. 712–714. Wirt's Life of Henry.
Adams mentions in 1774 a Catholic gentleman named Carroll (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) who lived at Annapolis, in Maryland, as a man of the first fortune in America. ‘His income is 10,000l. a year now, will be 14,000l. in two or three years they say; besides, his father has a vast estate which will be his.’—Adams' Works, ii. 380.
Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 165, 166. In 1777 Adams writes that in Maryland ‘they have but few merchants. They are chiefly planters and farmers; the planters are those who raise tobacco, and the farmers such as raise wheat, &c. The lands are cultivated and all sorts of trades are exercised by negroes or by transported convicts, which has occasioned the planters and farmers to assume the title of gentlemen, and they hold their negroes and convicts—that is, all labouring people and tradesmen—in such contempt, that they think themselves a distinct order of beings. Hence they never will suffer their sons to labour or learn any trade, but they bring them up in idleness or, what is worse, in horse-racing, cock-fighting, and card-playing. … The object of the men of property here, the planters, &c., is universally wealth. Every way in the world is sought to get and save money; land jobbers, speculators in land; little generosity to the public, little public spirit.’—Adams' Works, ii. 436.
Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii. 750.
Ibid. xiii. 500. It must be remembered, however, that the slaves in America were not only negroes and convicts. Many of the poor emigrants from Europe sold themselves to the planters for a term of years, and sometimes in this way paid their passage.
Webster's Essays, pp. 339, 366. This was published in 1790.
Pinkerton, xiii. 660.
Tyler's Hist. of American Literature, ii. 304. Miller, however, gives a much lower estimate (Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 90–92).
Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, New Jersey, King's, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island.
Tyler, ii. 305, 306.
Miller, iii. 191, 192, 194.
See Sabine's American Loyalists, p. 35.
Miller's Retrospect, iii. 230.
Webster's Essays, 338, 360.
‘The most important business in civil society is in many parts of America committed to the most worthless characters. … Education is sunk to a level with the most menial services. … Will it be denied that before the war it was a frequent practice for gentlemen to purchase convicts who had been transported for their crimes and employ them as private tutors in their families?’—Ibid. pp. 17–19. See, too, pp. 55, 338.
Ibid. p. 30.
In that curious book, the Life of Bampfylde Moore Carew, which was published in 1749, and which shows great personal knowledge of America, it is said: ‘There are five printing houses [in Boston], at one of which the Boston Gazette is printed, and comes out twice a week. The presses here are generally full of work, which is in a great measure owing to the colleges and schools for useful learning in New England, whereas at New York there is but one little bookseller's shop, and none at all in Virginia, Maryland, Carolina, Barbadoes, or any of the sugar islands,’ p. 199. As late as 1760 it is said that ‘there were no Greek types in the country, or if there were that no printer knew how to set them.’—Tudor's Life of Otis, p. 16.
Franklin's Life, p. 99.
Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 236, 237, 282. This book contains an admirable account of the early intellectual history of the colonies. See, too, Hildreth's Hist. of the United States, ii. 513.
Chastellux, i. 153, 154. Mémoires de Lafayette, i. 25. See, too, the very engaging picture of Pennsylvanian morals and manners in the Mémoires du Comte de Ségur.
Letters on Indian affairs form a very large proportion of the papers (Plantations, General) on America in the Record Office. The most valuable have been printed in the admirable collection of Documents relative to the Colonial History of New York, published by order of the Legislature of that State. See e.g. vol. vii. pp. 602, 637–641, 837, 838, 946–948, 953–977.
Ibid. vii. 969, 970. Sir W. Johnson mentions that he was himself present when one of the missionaries, preaching to the Indians, ‘delivered as his text, “For God is no respecter of persons,” and desired it to be explained to them; the interpreter (though the best in that country) told the Indians that “God had no love for such people as them,” on which I immediately stopped him and explained the text, as I did the rest of his discourse, to prevent farther mistakes; had I not been present the error must have passed, and many more might have been committed in the course of the sermon.’
7 and 8 William III. cap. 22. Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 139, 147–149.
Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 174.
Hildreth, ii. 517.
Story, i. 158.
The law about the last three articles varied. They were sometimes among the enumerated, sometimes among the unenumerated articles.
Grahame, iv. 79.
Letters of Governor Bernard on the Trade and Government of America, p.4. See, too, Franklin's Causes of American Discontents before 1768. Works, iv. 250, 251. Wealth of Nations, book iv. ch. iv., vii.
Wealth of Nations, book iv. ch. vii. See, too, Gentz On the State of Europe before and after the French Revolution (English trans.), pp. 295–308. ‘Ever since the discovery of America,’ says Dean Tucker, ‘it has been the system of every European Power which had colonies in that part of the world, to confine (as far as laws can confine) the trade of the colonies to the mother country. … Thus the trade of the Spanish colonies is confined by law to Old Spain, the trade of the Brazils to Portugal, the trade of Martinico and the other French colonies to Old France, and the trade of Curaçoa and Surinam to Holland. But in one instance the Hollanders make an exception (perhaps a wise one), viz. in the case of Eustatia, which is open to all the world.’—Tucker's Four Tracts, p. 133.
Kalm. Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii. 700.
Hildreth. ii. 498. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii 330 Arnold's Hist. of Rhode Island, ii. 227, 235, 236.
Otis tells a story of a man who possessed one of these writs, being summoned by a judge for Sabbath-breaking and swearing, and avenging himself by searching the house of the judge from top to bottom.—Tudor's Life of Otis, p. 67. A very full abstract of the great speech of Otis against the writs of assistance will be found in this work—a remarkable book from which I have derived much assistance. See, too, Adams' Works, i. 57, 58, ii. 524, 525.
Bancroft, i. 502, 503. Grahame, iv. 87, 88.
Hutchinson, pp. 97, 98. Tudor's Life of Otis, pp. 118–122.
Otis, Rights of the British Colonies asserted (3rd ed. 1766), p. 37.
See Knox's Extra-official Papers, ii. 29. Almon's Biographical Anecdotes, ii. 81–83. Bedford Correspondence, iii. 210. Walpole's George III. iii. 32. Mr. Bancroft has collected with great industry all the extant evidence of this plan.
Grenville Papers, ii. 114.
Bancroft, ii. 178. See, too, Massachusettensis, Letter iii. According to Sabine, ‘Nine-tenths probably of all the tea, wine and fruit, sugar and molasses, consumed in the colonies, were smuggled.’—Sabine's American Loyalists, i. 12.
Arnold's Hist. of Rhode Island, ii. 246.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 171–177, 192. Bancroft. Grahame. Letters of Governor Bernard.
4 Geo. III. 15, 26, 27, 29. Macpherson's Hist. of Commerce, iii. 395–401. Grahame, iv. 169–176. Tudor's Life of Otis, p. 165.
Trumbull's Hist. of the United States, pp. 455–467. Hildreth, Grahame, Hutchinson.
Otis, Rights of the Colonies p. 97.
See on this negotiation Franklin's letters to Shirley, with the prefatory note.—Franklin's Works, iii. 56–58. Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 56, 57. The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies Reviewed (1769), pp. 194–198. Bancroft, i. 195–198.
By the Charter the Sovereign engaged never to levy any tax in Pennsylvania, ‘unless the same be with the consent of the proprietors or chief governor or Assembly, or by Act of Parliament in England.’
As Dr. Johnson wittily though somewhat offensively wrote: ‘We do not put a calf into the plough: we wait till it is an ox.’
The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, pp. 196, 197.
See a very able statement of the dissension among the colonies in The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, pp. 93–97. Governor Franklin (the son of Benjamin Franklin), in a speech to the Assembly of New Jersey in 1775, said: ‘The necessity of some supreme judge [to determine the quota of each province to the general expense] is evident from the very nature of the case, as otherwise some of the colonies might not contribute their due proportion. During the last war I well remember it was ardently wished by some of the colonies that others, who were thought to be delinquent, might be compelled by Act of Parliament to bear an equal share of the public burdens. … When the Assembly in 1764 was called upon to make provision for raising some troops on account of the Indian war, they declined doing it for some time but on condition a majority of the eastern colonies so far as to include Massachusetts Bay should come into his Majesty's requisition on the occasion. But as none of the Assemblies of the New England Governments thought themselves nearly concerned, nothing was granted by them, and the whole burden of the expedition then carried on fell on Great Britain and three or four of the middle colonies.’—See Tucker's Letter to Burke, pp. 49, 50.
Franklin's Works, iv. 89, 90.
Almon's Biographical Anecdotes, ii. 88–92.
Almon's Biographical Anecdotes, ii. 82–92. In the reply of the Massachusetts Assembly to Mauduit, the following passage occurs: ‘The actual laying the stamp duty, you say, is deferred till next year, Mr. Grenville being willing to give the provinces their option to raise that or some equivalent tax, “desirous,” as he was pleased to express himself, “to consult the ease, and quiet, and the goodwill of the colonies.”’ ‘This suspension,’ the letter adds, ‘amounts to no more than this, that if the colonies will not tax themselves as they may be directed, the Parliament will tax them.’—Mauduit's View of the New England Colonies, pp. 95–100. In The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, which was perhaps the ablest statement of the case against the colonies, and which was written by Knox, the Under-Secretary of State, and one of Grenville's confidential writers, it is said: ‘Mr. Grenville, indeed, went so far as to desire the agents to acquaint the colonies that if they could not agree among themselves upon raising a revenue by their own Assemblies, yet if they all, or any of them, disliked stamp duties, and would propose any other sort of tax which would carry the appearance of equal efficacy, he would adopt it. But he warmly recommended to them the making grants by their own Assemblies as the most expedient method for themselves.’—P. 199. Burke, however, states that Grenville in the many debates on the Stamp Act never made this apology for himself, that he always expressed his dislike to the system of raising money by requisitions to the colonial Assemblies, and his preference for parliamentary taxation, and that it is therefore impossible he can have recommended the colonies to tax themselves, though he may have urged them to agree upon the tax which they would wish Parliament to propose (Speech on American Taxation). It appears, however, evident from the Massachusetts letter that although Grenville was inexorable about the right of Parliament to tax the colonies, the colonists understood him to have intentionally left it open to them to prevent the exercise of that right by raising the money themselves. All that politicians in England really wanted was an American contribution to the defence of the Empire. See, too, the statement of Garth, the Agent of South Carolina; Bancroft, ii. 211; and that of Franklin, Works, i. 291, 292; iv. 194.
Annual Register, 1765, p. 33.
See the Virginian Address, Grahame, iv. 180.
See Knox's Extra-official Papers, ii. 24, 25, 31–33. Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts, p. 112. In his Notes on the United States, Sir Augustus Foster, who was English Secretary of Legation at Washington, 1804–1806, mentions that both Jefferson and his successor in the Presidency, Madison, expressed their belief that ‘the timely concession of a few seats in the Upper as well as the Lower House would have set at rest the whole question.’ Lord Liverpool was accustomed to say that no serious resistance to the Stamp Act would have been made, if Grenville had carried it at once without leaving a year for discussion. See Quarterly Review, No. cxxxv. p. 37.
See Grahame, iv. 188.
5 Geo. III. c. 12.
Burke's speech on American taxation, April 1774. The following is Horace Walpole's sole notice of the measure: ‘There has been nothing of note in Parliament but one slight day on the American taxes, which Charles Townshend supporting, received a pretty heavy thump from Barré, who is the present Pitt and the dread of all the vociferous Norths and Rigbys, on whose lungs depended so much of Mr. Grenville's power.’ Walpole to Hertford, Feb. 12, 1765. Beckford, some years later, mentioned that he had opposed the Stamp Act.—Cavendish Debates, i. 41.
H. Cromwell to Thurloe, February 24, 1657. Thurloe State Papers, vi. 820.
Considerations on the Dependencies of Great Britain (by Sir Hercules Langrishe), Dublin, 1769, p. 75.
5 Geo. III. c. 45.
See Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 175, 176.
See Tudor's Life of Otis, pp. 424–433.
Holmes‘Annals of America, 1765. Grahame's Hist. iv. Annual Register, 1765. Adams’ Diary, Works, ii. 156.
Documents relating to the Colonial Hist. of New York, vii. 770–775.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 185–203.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 269.
Ibid. i. 256.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 133–137; Walpole's Memoirs, ii. 296; Burke's Correspondence, i. 100.
Chatham Correspondence, ii. 363–372. Rockingham next day wrote to the King: ‘The events of yesterday in the House of Commons have shown the amazing power and influence which Mr. Pitt has whenever he takes part in debate.’—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 270.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 178.
Grenville Papers, iii. 353, 362, 365. Albemarle's Life of Rockingham.
6 Geo. III. c. 11, 12.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 250, 292, 299–302, 314, 321. Annual Register, 1766. Grenville Papers, iii. 353–370.
Thus Shelburne reported to Pitt, December 21, 1765. ‘The prejudice against the Americans on the whole seemed very great, and no very decided opinion in favour of the ministry.’—Chatham Correspondence, ii. 355. Walpole says: ‘As the accounts from America grew every day worse, the ministers, who at first were inclined to repeal the Act, were borne down by the flagrancy of the provocation.’—Memoirs of George III. ii. 221.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 305. Charles Fox, in a speech which he made on December 10, 1777, fully corroborated this assertion, and declared that ‘it was not the inclination of Lord Rockingham, but the necessity of his situation, which was the cause of the Declaratory Act.’—Parl. Hist. xix. 563. The Duke of Richmond, who on all American questions was one of the most prominent members of the Rockingham party, said in 1778, ‘that with respect to the Declaratory Act, any reason that ever weighed with him in favour of that Act was to obtain the repeal of the Stamp Act. Many people of high principles would never, in his opinion, have been brought to repeal the Stamp Act without it; the number of those who opposed that repeal, even as it was, were very numerous.’—Chatham Correspondence, iv. 501, 502.
Franklin's Works, iv. 176.
Adams' Diary. Works, ii. 203. Adams' biographer says the colonists ‘received the repeal of the Stamp Act with transports of joy, and disregarded the mere empty declaration of a right which they flattered themselves was never to be exercised. The spirit of resistance immediately subsided, and a general tranquillity prevailed until the project of levying internal taxes upon the people of the colonies by Act of Parliament was resumed in England.’ Ibid. i. 81, 82. Burke in his great speech in 1774 on the American question, speaking of the repeal of the Stamp Act, said: ‘I am bold to say, so sudden a calm, recovered after so violent a storm, is without parallel in history.’ The testimony of Hutchinson is equally decisive. ‘The Act which accompanied it [the repeal of the Stamp Act] with the title of “Securing the Dependency of the Colonies,” caused no allay of the joy, and was considered as mere naked form.’ Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, p. 147.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 446, 447.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 263.
Annual Register, 1766, p. 114.
See Hutchinson, p. 254.
He proposed that thirty representatives should be sent from the continental colonies, and fifteen from the islands.—Letters of George Bernard, p. 34.
‘The whole body of courtiers drove him [Charles Townshend] onwards. They always talked as if the King stood in a sort of humiliated state until something of the kind should be done.’—Burke's Speech on American Taxation (1774).
Bancroft, iii. 28. Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, ii. 3–5.
See vol. iii. p. 301.
‘The forming of an American fund to support the exigencies of government in the same manner as is done in Ireland, is what is so highly reasonable that it must take place sooner or later. The most obvious manner of laying a foundation for such a fund seems to be by taking proper care of the quit lands, and by turning the grants of land to real benefit.’—Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, ii. 35.
There are two accounts of this speech: the first in a letter from Lord Charlemont to Flood (Jan. 29), Chatham Correspondence, iii. 178, 179; the other in a letter from Shelburne to Chatham (Feb. 1), Ibid. iii. 182–188. See, too, Grenville Papers, iv. 211, 222, and the extracts from the Duke of Grafton's Memoirs in Lord Stanhope's History, v. App. xvii. xviii.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 188, 189.
Ibid. p. 193.
7 Geo. III. c. 59.
Ibid. c. 41.
Walpole's Memoirs of George III. iii. 28.
7 Geo. III. c. 46, 56.
See the ‘Cause of American Discontents before 1768.’—Franklin's Works, iv. 250, 251.
See a powerful statement of the abuses in Ireland in the Farmer's Letters, No. 10.
In a private letter written by General Huske, a prominent American who was residing in England in 1758, there is an extraordinary, though probably somewhat overcharged, account of English appointments in America. ‘For many years past. … most of the places in the gift of the Crown have been filled with broken Members of Parliament, of bad if any principles, pimps, valets de chambre, electioneering scoundrels, and even livery servants. In one word, America has been for many years made the hospital of Great Britain for her decayed courtiers, and abandoned, worn-out dependents. I can point you out a chief justice of a province appointed from home for no other reason than publicly prostituting his honour and conscience at an election; a livery servant that is secretary of a province, appointed from hence; a pimp, collector of a whole province, who got this place of the man in power for prostituting his handsome wife to his embraces and procuring him other means of gratifying his lust. Innumerable are instances of this sort in places of great trust.’—Phillimore's Life of Lyttelton, ii. 604. In Parliament Captain Phipps, speaking of America, said, ‘Individuals have been taken from the gaols to preside in the seat of justice; offices have been given to men who had never seen America.’—Cavendish Debates, i. 91.
Hildreth, ii. 540.
Bancroft, iii. 116, 140.
In their petition to the King they say, With great sincerity permit us to assure your Majesty that your subjects of this province ever have, and still continue to acknowledge your Majesty's High Court of Parliament, the supreme legislative power of the whole Empire, the superintending authority of which is clearly admitted in all cases that can consist with the fundamental rights of nature and the Constitution.’ ‘Your Lordship,’ they wrote to Shelburne, ‘is too candid and just in your sentiments to suppose that the House have the most distant thought of independency of Great Britain.’ ‘So sensible are the members of this House,’ they wrote to Rockingham, ‘of their happiness and safety in their union with and dependence upon the mother-country, that they would by no means be inclined to accept of an independency if offered to them.’ The true Sentiments of America, as contained in a Collection of Letters sent from the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay to several Persons of High Rank in this Kingdom. London, 1768.
Flood, in a letter to Charlemont, describing a debate in which almost all the chief speakers in Parliament had exerted themselves, says that ‘Burke acquitted himself very honourably,’ but there was ‘no one person near Townshend. He is an orator. The rest are speakers.’—Original Letters to Flood, p. 27. Walpole, in his numerous allusions to his speeches, describes him as greatly superior to Burke in brilliancy and spontaneity of wit, to Chatham in solid sense, and to every other speaker in histrionic power.—Memoirs of George III. See especially, ii. 275; iii. 23–27. Sir George Colebrooke said that ‘Nobody excepting Mr. Pitt possessed a style of oratory so perfectly suited to the House’ (Walpole's George III. iii. 102). And Thurlow described him as ‘the most delightful speaker he ever knew.’—Nicholls' George III. p. 26.
Townshend is now chiefly remembered by the singularly beautiful character of him in Burke's speech on American taxation. Horace Walpole say of him, ‘He had almost every great talent and every little quality. … With such a capacity he must have been the greatest man of this age, and perhaps inferior to no man in any age, had his faults been only in a moderate proportion.’—Memoirs of George III. iii. 100. See, too, Sir G. Colebrooke's character of him. Ibid. pp. 100--102. In an able paper in the North Briton (No. 20) it is said of him, ‘He joins to an infinite fire of imagination and brilliancy of wit, a cool and solid judgment, a wonderful capacity for business of every kind, the most intense application to it, and a consummate knowledge of the great commercial interests of this country, which I never heard were before united in the same person.’
Holmes' American Annals, Massachusetts Bay, pp. 189, 190. 1768. Hutchinson's Hist. of
Ibid. p. 188.
Arnold's Hist. of Rhode Island, ii. 288.
Ibid. p. 297.
Ibid. p. 294.
The life of S. Adams has been written with great elaboration and unqualified eulogy by W. V. Wells, and Bancroft adopts a very similar view of his character. Several facts relating to him will be found in Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, pp. 294, 295.
Letters of Governor Bernard, pp. 55–60.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 477–487. Cavendish Debates, i. 192–194.
Hildreth, ii. 553.
The Massachusetts Agent, De Berdt, wrote to the Assembly in July 1768, describing an interview with Hillborough. ‘He assured me, before the warm measures taken on your side had come to their knowledge he had settled the repeal of those Acts [for the taxation or coercion of America] with Lord North the Chancellor, but the opposition you had made rendered it absolutely necessary to support the authority of Parliament.’—Massachusetts State Papers, p. 161.
Grahame, iv. 297.
See Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, pp. 350, 351, 422, 423.
Holmes. Bancroft. One of the later accusations against the English soldiers was, that they impaired the purity of the American pronunciation of English. Noah Webster, in his curious essay on the ‘Manners of the United States’ (1787), says: ‘I presume we may safely say that our language has suffered more injurious changes in America since the British army landed on our shores than it had suffered before, in the period of three centuries.’—Webster's Essays, p. 96.
In allusion to the British custom of flogging soldiers.
The commemoration was kept up till 1783, after which it was replaced by that of the 4th of July. Tudor's Life of Otis, p. 462.
See on this episode, Adams' Works, i. 97–114, ii. 229–233; Hutchinson's Hist, of Massachusetts Bay; Hutchinson's letters to Bernard, and the Histories of Hildreth and Bancroft. Mr. Bancroft in his account of this transaction appears to me to exhibit even more strongly than usual that violent partisanship which so greatly impairs the value of his very learned History. Outside Boston the verdict seems to have given much satisfaction. Hutchinson wrote (Dec. 1770): The reception which has been given to the late verdicts everywhere except in Boston has been favourable beyond my hopes. I expected that the court and jury would be censured, but they are generally applauded.’—American Remembrancer, 1776, part i. p. 159.
Tudor's Life of otis, p. 118. According to Dr. Price (On Civil Liberty, p. 101), not more than one exeoution had taken place in Massachusetts Bay in eighteen years. The annual average of executions in London alone for twenty-three years before 1772 was from twenty-nine to thirty—Howard On Prisons, p. 9.
10 Geo. III. 17.
See Cavendish Debates, i. 198, 222.
Stedman, i. 74. Hutchinson says: ‘By taking off 12d., which used to be paid in England, and substituting 3d. only, payable in the colonies, tea was cheaper than it had ever been sold by the illicit traders, and the poor people in America drank the same tea in quality at 3s. the lb. which the people in England drank at 6s.’—Hist, of Massachusetts Bay, p. 351.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 852–874; Cavendish Debates, i. 484–500.
‘If these duties [those in Townshend's Act] had been paid upon exportation from England and applied to the purpose proposed, there would not have been any opposition made to the Act. It would have been a favour to the colonies. The saving upon tea would have been more than the whole paid on the other articles. The consumer in America would have paid the duty just as much as if it had been paid upon importation.’—Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, p. 179. I have already quoted the opinion of Franklin to much the same effect.
See Lord North's strong statement of the reluctance with which he maintained any part of the duties. Pari. Hist. xvi. 854; Cavendish Debates, i. 485, 486. The speech of George Grenville in this debate, as reported by Cavendish, is particularly worthy of attention.
Parl. Hist. xvi. 855.
A full account of this transaction will be found in Mr. Arnold's very interesting History of Rhode Island, ii. 309–320. Mr. Arnold has given a curious letter describing it, by Ephraim Bowen, one of the party who captured the ‘Gaspee.’
Bancroft, iii. 461.
12 Geo. III. c. 24.
Burke's ‘Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs.’ Works, vi. 122. See, too, Franklin's Works, i. 413, 414.
Franklin's Works, vii. 399–404.
‘All the land in England is in fact represented. … As to those who have no landed property in a county, the allowing them to vote for legislators is an Impropriety.’—Political Observations,’ Franklin's Work, iv, 221.
Franklin's Works, vii. 357.
Ibid. viii. 30, 31. After the Stamp Act, Franklin expressed his opinion in a pithy sentence to Ingersoll, who was then returning to America. ‘Go home and tell your countrymen to get children as fast as they can.’
Ibid. pp. 78, 79.
See the letters of Oct. 26, 1769, and May 7, 1767.
Sparks' Continuatum of Franklin's Life.
See vol. iii. p. 249. Burke's Works, ix. 148.
Grenville Papers, iii. 99, 311, 312.
See Franklin's own vindication of his proceedings, with the accompanying notes. Works, iv. 404—455.
On the extraordinary popularity of Franklin at this time, see the letter of Dr. Rush, quoted in Sparks' Continuation of the Life of Franklin.
Life of Franklin. Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, viii. 14–19. Chatham Correspondence, iv. 322, 323.
By the previous law (12 Geo. III. c. 60) a drawback of three-fifths of the duty had been allowed.
13 George III. c. 44.
Hutchinson notices that Hancock's uncle had made his large fortune chiefly by smuggling tea from St. Eustatia. Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, p. 297. See, too, Sabine's American Loyalists, i. 9.
Tucker's Political Tracts.
Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii. 274.
Ibid. ii. 279.
Franklin's Works, iv. 432.
The East India Company had clearly seen the absurdity of the transaction, and offered that the Government should retain a duty of sixpence in the pound on exportation, provided it consented to repeal the duty of threepence in the pound paid in America. Parl. Hist. xviii. 178.
Annual Register, 1774, p. 62. The King himself wrote (Nov. 1774): ‘We must either master them [the colonies] or totally leave them to themselves, and treat them as aliens.’—Correspondence of George III. i. 216. As early as Jan. 1769 Hussey, the Attorney-General to the Queen, said in Parliament, ‘I have my doubts whether there should ever be a strict union between the colonies and the mother country; I have doubts whether they are a real service or a burthen to us; but I never had a doubt as to our right to lay an internal tax upon them.’—Cavendish Debates, i. 197.
Annual Register, 1774, p. 53.
14 George III. c. 19.
Ibid. c. 45.
14 George III. c. 39.
14 George III. c. 64.
Ibid. c. 83.
According to General Carleton, the Governor, Canada contained 150,000 Catholics, and less than 400 Protestants; and the French Catholics greatly preferred having their trials determined by judges to having them determined by juries, and had not the least desire for any popular assemblies.—Parl. Hist. xvii. 1367, 1368.
See a curious account of this celebration in Tudor's Life of Otis, pp. 26–29. It degenerated into a violent contention between different parts of Boston. When the Americans invaded Canada in 1775, Washington forbade the commemoration, lest it should irritate the Canadian Catholics. Sparks' Washington, iii. 144.
Tudor's Life of Otis, pp, 446, 447.
See the report of Bishop Sherlock to the King in Council, on the Church in the Colonies.—Docoments relating to the Colonial History of New York, vii. 360–369. Much information about the condition of the Episcopalians in America will be found in the correspondence between Archbishop Seeker and some American clergymen in the same volume. According to Sherlock, the Episcopalian ministers in America were chiefly Scotch and Irish. A great number of them appear to have been educated in Dublin University. The Massachusetts Assembly, writing in 1768 to their Agent in England, against the taxation of America by England, say: ‘The revenue raised in America, for aught we can tell, may be as constitutionally applied towards the support of prelacy, as of soldiers and pensioners;’ and they add: ‘We hope in God such an estal lishment will never take place in America.’—Wells' Life of S. Adams, i. 200.
Petition to Lord Hillsborough from the Anglican clergy of New York and New Jersey, Oct. 12 1771. MSS. Record Office.
This was one of the charges brought against Dr. Byles, a well-known Tory clergyman in Boston. He answered his accusers: ‘I do not understand politics, and you all do. … You have polítícs all the week: pray let one day in seven be devoted to religion. … Give me any subject to preach on of more consequence than the truths I bring to you, and I will preach on it next Sabbath.’ Lafayette mentions how, ‘ayant taxé un ministre anglican de ne parler que du ciel,’ he was much gratified on the following Sunday by hearing from the pulpit a denunciation of the ‘execrable house of Hanover.’—Mém. de Lafayette, i. 38. See, too, on the use made of days of ‘fasting and prayer’ for the purpose of exciting the revolutionary feeling, Tucker's Life of Jefferson, i. 54, 55.
Moore's Diary of the American Revolution, i. 37–52, 138. This very interesting book is a collection of extracts from the contemporary newspapers on both sides of the question, and gives a vivid picture of the social condition of the colonies. See, too, Force's American Archives (4th series), i. 747, 748, 767–769, 795, 1260–1263.
Massachusettensis, or Letters on the present Troubles of Massachusetis Bay, Letters I., IV.
Ibid. Letter III. These very remarkable letters were written by Leonard, one of his Majesty's Council. The author was himself driven from his house in Taunton, and bullets were fired into it.—Moore's Diary, i. 38. Among the numerous persons who were at this time driven into exile was Dr. Cooper, President of King's College in New York, and the most distinguished Episcopalian in America. He had written something on the loyalist side, and accordingly received a letter threatening his life, and was soon after compelled to fly half-dressed over the college fence, to take refuge in an English ship of war, and ultimately in England—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 297.
Even Otis, who had been the first to denounce the commercial restrictions as unconstitutional, and who repudiated writs of assistance as the creation of the English Parliament, maintained—not very consistently—that Parliament had a real legislative authority in America, and he deprecated in the strongest language any measure tending to separation. ‘The supreme Legislative,’ he wrote in 1765, ‘represents the whole society or community, as well the dominions as the realm; and this is the true reason why the dominions are justly bound by such Acts of Parliament as name them. This is implied in the idea of a supreme sovereign power; and if the Parliament had not such authority the colonies would be independent, which none but rebels, fools, or madmen will contend for.’—Answer to the Halifax Libel, p. 16. The same doctrine is laid down with equal emphasis in the Farmer's Letters: ‘The Parliament unquestionably possesses a legal authority to regulate the trade of Great Britain and all its colonies. Such an authority is essential to the relation between a mother country and its colonies. … We are but parts of a whole, and therefore there must exist a power somewhere to preside and preserve the connection in due order. This power is lodged in the Parliament.’—Letter II.
Story's Constitution of the United States, i. 178, 179. Jefferson says that about the middle of 1774 he maintained that the relations of England to the colonies were similar to those of England with Scotland before the Union, or of England with Hanover at present, but he only found one person to agree with him.—Autobiography.
Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress held at Philadelphia, Sept. 1774. See, too, the account of the debates in Adams' Diary.
He said to Chatham that, ‘having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company—eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I have never heard In any conversation, from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America.’—Negotiations in London. Franklin's Works, v. 7.
See on this subject Washington's Works, ii. 401, 496–502.
Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress held at Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1774.
See other instances in Grahame, iv. 392, 395.
Ramsay, i. 220
March 3 and 15, 1776. See Washington's Works, iii. 347, 348.
Examination of Joseph Galloway, p. 4.
Adams' Works, ii. 512.
Ibid. p. 513. In a confidential letter from New York, dated Aug. 7, 1775, Governor Tryon said: ‘I should do great injustice to America were I to hold up an idea that the bulk of its inhabitants wishes an independency. I am satisfied (not to answer for our Eastern neighbours) a very large majority, particularly in this province, are utter enemies to such a principle.’—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 603.
See Washington's Works, ii. 501.
Speech of Chase. Adams' Works, ii. 383.
Adams' Works, ii. 362.
Tudor's Life of Otis, pp. 256, 257.
Ibid. p. 428.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, i. 194, 195.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, i. 164.
See their opinions in Tudor's Life of Otis, p. 428.
Parl. Hist. xviii. 446, 447. See, too, the very similar speech of Rigby. Walpole's Last Journals, i. 481.
Ramsay, i. 143. See, on the remarkable loyalty shown by the New York Assembly at this time, a striking letter of Lieutenant-Governor Colden to Lord Dartmouth (Feb. 1, 1775) in the Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 531, 532.
Adolphus, ii. 211.
Adams, ii. 385.
Adams' Works, ii. 384.
Bee a graphic account of the differences in Congress in Adams' Works, ii. 850, 410.
Adams' Works, ii. 387–389. Galloway's Examination, pp. 47–49.
Adams' Works, ii. 410, 419.
Ramsay, i. 180.
Chatham Correspondence, iv. 352.
Chatham Correspondence, iv. 403, 404. See, too, Gibbon to Holroyd, Feb. 25, Annual Register, 1775, pp. 95–98. Walpole's Last Journals, i. 463, 464.
See e.g. Lord Russell's Lifs of Fox, i. 85, 86.
See his very able speech, Parl. Hist, xviii. 322–329.
This letter is printed in the Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 545–547. Force's American Archives (4th series), ii. 27, 28.
See General Gage's despatch. American Remembrancer, 1776, part ii., pp. 132, 133. Ramsay, Stedman, and Bancroft.
John Adams, describing his life at Philadelphia to his wife, in December 1775, says: ‘The whole Congress is taken up almost, in different committees, from seven to ten in the morning. From ten to four, or sometimes five, we are in Congress, and from six to ten in committees again. I don't mention this to make you think me a man of importance, because not I alone, but the whole Congress, is thus employed.’—Adams' Familiar Letters, p. 127.
Autobiography. Adams' Works, ii. 503. ‘It is almost impossible,’ wrote Adams, ‘to move anything but you instantly see private friendships and enmities, and provincial views and prejudices, intermingle in the consultation.’—Ibid. ii. 448.
Adams' Works, ii. 459.
Ibid. ii. 466, 469, 472.
Adams' Works, ii. 474.
See Adams' Diary. Works, ii. 415.
See Greene's German Element in the American War, pp. 142–144.
See Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry.
Stedman, i. 133.
See Adolphus, ii. 239. Ramsay, i. 238.
Compare Lord Stanhope's Hist. vi. 76, and Bancroft, Hist. of the United States, viii. 176, 177.
‘The New Englanders,’ wrote Montgomery, ‘are the worst stuff imaginable for soldiers. They are homesick. Their regiments are melted away, and yet not a man dead of any distemper. There is such an equality among them that the officers have no authority, and there are very few among them in whose spirit I have confidence. The privates are all generals, but not soldiers, and so jealous that it is impossible, though a man risk his person, to escape the imputation of treachery.’—Bancroft, Hist. of the United States, viii. 185. The day after the capitulation of Montreal, Montgomery wrote to General Schuyler: ‘I am exceedingly sorry that Congress has not favoured me with a committee; it would have had great effect with the troops, who are exceedingly turbulent, and even mutinous. … I wish some method could be fallen upon of engaging gentlemen to serve. A point of honour and more knowledge of the world to be found in that class of men would greatly reform discipline, and render the troops much more tractable.’—Washington's Works, iii. 180, 181. Washington writes (Jan. 31, 1776): ‘The account given of the behaviour of the men under General Montgomery is exactly consonant to the opinion I have formed of these people, and such as they will exhibit abundant proofs of in similar cases whenever called upon. Place them behind a parapet, a breastwork, stone wall, or anything that will afford them shelter, and from their knowledge of a firelock they will give a good account of the enemy; but I am as well convinced as if I had seen it, that they will not march boldly up to a work, nor stand exposed in a plain.’—Ibid. p. 277. See, too, p. 285. The failure and death of Montgomery, Washington ascribed to the system of short enlistments, ‘for had he not been apprehensive of the troops leaving him at so important a crisis, but continued the blockade of Quebec, a capitulation, from the best accounts I have been able to collect, must inevitably have followed.’—Ibid. p. 278.
Stedman. Bancroft. Ramsay, i. 252.
Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 100.
See a letter of Governor Tryon, Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 647.
Thus J. Adams in 1775 gives an account of an interview with some gentlemen from Georgia. ‘These gentlemen give a melancholy account of the State of Georgia and South Carolina. They say that if 1,000 regular troops should land in Georgia, and their commander be provided with arms and clothes enough, and proclaim freedom to all the negroes who would join his camp, 20,000 negroes would join it from the two provinces in a fortnight. … Their only security is that all the King's friends and tools of Government have large plantations and property in negroes, so that the slaves of the Tories would be lost as well as those of the Whigs.’—Adams' Works, ii. 428.
Washington's Works, iii. 175.
Force's American Archives (4th series), i. 1349, 1350.
March 28, 1775. MSS. Record Office (Plantations, General).
Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 656, 657. See, too, a letter of the Provincial Congress, dated April 4, 1775, to a New England missionary, urging him to use his influence to make the Indians take up arms against the English. Washington's Works, iii. 495.
July 18, 1775. MSS. Record Office.
In a speech to the Indians, August 30, 1775, Stuart said: ‘There is a difference between the white people of England and the white people of America; this is a matter which does not concern you, they will decide it among themselves.’—MSS. Record Office (Plantations, General). In August 1775 the commissioners sent by the twelve colonies had a long interview with the chiefs of the six nations, and gave them an elaborate account of the motives which had united them against England. They added, however: ‘This is a family quarrel between us and Old England. You Indians are not concerned in it. We do not wish you to take up the hatchetagainst the King's troops. We desire you to remain at home and not join either side, but keep the hatchet buried deep.’—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 619. See, too, the Secret Journals of Congress, July 17, 1775.
Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 636. See Secret Journals of Congress, June 27, 1775.
July 24, 1775, Lord Dartmouth wrote to Colonel Johnson: ‘The unnatural rebellion now raging in America calls for every effort to suppress it, and the intelligence his Majesty has received of the rebels having excited the Indians to take a part, and of their having actually engaged a body of them in arms to support their rebellion, justifies the resolution his Majesty has taken of requiring the assistance of his faithful adherents the six nations. It is, therefore, his Majesty's pleasure that you lose no time in taking such steps as may induce them to take up the hatchet against his Majesty's rebellious subjects.’—Documents on the Colonial History of New York, viii. 596. General Gage wrote to Stuart (September 12, 1775) telling him to hold a correspondence with the Indians, ‘to make them take arms against his Majesty's enemies, and to distress them all in their power, for no terms are now to be kept with them.’ ‘The rebels,’ he continues, ‘have themselves opened the door. They have brought down all the savages they could against us here, who with their riflemen are continually firing on our advanced sentries.’—MSS. Record Office. On October 24, 1775, Stuart sent ammunition to the savages according to instructions, adding: ‘You will understand that an indiscriminate attack upon the province is not meant, but to act in the execution of any concerted plan, and to assist his Majesty's troops or friends in distressing the rebels.’—Ibid. On November 20, 1775, Lord North said in Parliament: ‘As to the means of conducting the war, he declared there was never any idea of employing the negroes or the Indians until the Americans themselves had first applied to them; that General Carleton did then apply to them, and that even then it was only for the defence of his own province.’—Parl. Hist. xviii. 994.
Adams' Works, x. 87. Many particulars about the strength of the loyalist party will be found in Mr. Sabine's very interesting book, The Loyalists of America.
Parl. Hist. xviii. 123–129. Sparks' Life of Washington. Force's American Archives (4th series), i. 773, 957.
Adams' Works, ii. 420.
One of the most remarkable documents relating to the state of opinion in America is the examination of Galloway (late Speaker of the House of Assembly in Pennsylvania) by a Committee of the House of Commons, June 16, 1779. As a loyalist, his mind was no doubt biassed, but he was a very able and honest man, and he had much more than common means of forming a correct judgment. He says: ‘I do not believe, from the best knowledge I have of that time [the beginning of the rebellion], that one-fifth of the people had independence in view. … Many of those who have appeared in support of the present rebellion have by a variety of means been compelled. … I think I may venture to say that many more than four-fifths of the people would prefer an union with Great Britain upon constitutional principles to that of independence.’ Galloway was asked the following question: ‘That part of the rebel army that enlisted in the service of the Congress—were they chiefly composed of natives of America, or were the greatest part of them English, Scotch, and Irish?’ Galloway answered: ‘The names and places of their nativity being taken down, I can answer the question with precision. There were scarcely one-fourth natives of America—about one-half Irish—the other fourth were English and Scotch.’ This last answer, however, must be qualified by a subsequent answer, that he judged of the country of the troops by the deserters who came over, to the number of between 2,000 and 3,000, at the time when Galloway was with Sir W. Howe at Philadelphia. I have no doubt that in the beginning of the war the proportion of pure Americans in the army was much larger, as it was chiefly recruited in New England, where the population was most unmixed. It is stated that more than a fourth part of the continental soldiers employed during the war were from Massachusetts. See Greene's Historical View of the American Revolution, p. 235. Galloway's very remarkable evidence was reprinted at Philadelphia in 1855. In his Letters to a Nobleman on the Conduct of the War, Galloway reiterates his assertion that ‘three-fourths of the rebel army have been generally composed of English, Scotch, and Irish, while scarcely the small proportion of one-fourth are American, notwithstanding the severe and arbitrary laws to force them into the service.’—P. 25.
See a curious note in Washington's Works, iii. 8.
Chastellux, Travels in North America, Eng. trans. i. 332.
American Remembrancer, 1776, part i. p. 25.
Washington's Works, iii. 176.
Ibid. p. 279.
Ibid. p. 243; see, too, p. 151.
Ibid. p. 280.
Ibid. pp. 200, 201, 281.
Washington's Works, iii. 240, 280.
Ibid. p. 191.
Washington's letters are full of complaints on the subject. I will quote a few lines from a letter of Nov. 28, 1775. ‘Such a dearth of public spirit, and such want of virtue, such stockjobbing and fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one kind or another in this great change of military arrangement, I never saw before, and pray God's mercy that I may never be witness to again. … I have been obliged to allow furloughs as far as fifty men to a regiment, and the officers, I am persuaded, indulge as many more. … Such a mercenary spirit pervades the whole that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster that may happen. … Could I have foreseen what I have experienced, and am likely to experience, no consideration upon earth should have induced me to accept this command.’ (Washington's Works, iii. 178, 179.) ‘No troops,’ he writes in another letter,’ were ever better provided or higher paid, yet their backwardness to enlist for another year is amazing. It grieves me to see so little of that patriotic spirit which I was taught to believe was characteristic of this people.’ (Ibid. p. 181.) ‘The present soldiery are in expectation of drawing from the landed interest and farmers a bounty equal to that given at the commencement of this army, and therefore they keep aloof.’ Ibid. p. 188.
General Trumbull wrote to Washington, Dec. 1775: ‘The late extraordinary and reprehensible conduct of some of the troops of this colony impresses me and the minds of many of our people with grief, surprise, and indignation. … There is great difficulty to supportliberty, to exercise government, to maintain subordination, and at the same time to prevent the operation of licentious and levelling principles, which many very easily imbibe. The pulse of a New England man beats high for liberty; his engagement in the service he thinks purely voluntary, therefore when the time of enlistment is out he thinks himself not holden without further engagement. This was the case in the last war. I greatly fear its operation amongst the soldiers of the other colonies, as I am sensible that it is the genius and spirit of our people.’ Ibid. p. 183.
According to Bancroft, Gage had never more than 6,500 effective troops, though his nominal force, including sailors and loyalists, was estimated at 11,500 men. Washington at this time had nominally 17,000 men, but never more than 14,500 fit for duty. (Bancroft, Hist, of the United States, viii. 42–44.) Still the British troops were regular soldiers, well provided with all munitions of war, while the Americans were almost undisciplined and singularly destitute of all that was required.
Washington's Works, i. 164.
Ibid. iii. 221, 222.
Ibid. iii. 285.
American Remembrancer, 1776, part ii. p. 281. It is evident from Washington's letters that the estimates in the American Remembrancer greatly exceeded the truth.
See the American Remembrancer, 1776, part i. pp. 238–241.
Washington's Works, iii. 276, 347.
Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, i. 148.
16 Geo. III. c. 5.
Adams' Life, Works, i. 201.
Adams' Life, Works, i. 200–203.
As early as Aug. 11, 1765, the King had written to Conway: ‘The only method that at present occurs to me by which the French can be prevented settling on the coast of Newfoundland would be the having a greater military force in that island, but the economical, and I may say injudicious, ideas of this country in time of peace, make it not very practicable, for a corps ought on purpose to be raised for that service, we having more places to garrison than we have troops to supply.’ He adds that we are ‘very unable to draw the sword.’—British Museum. Eg. MSS. 982.
Adolphus, ii. 159.
The Political Life of Lord Barrington, pp. 162–164.
General Lloyd, who was one of the best English writers on the art of war, maintained that England, in consequence of her possession of Canada, might have completely crushed the four provinces of New England by operating vigorously on the line of country (about 150 miles) extending from Boston to Albany, or to some other point on the Hudson River; and he thought that, in the existing condition of opinion in America, if New England were subdued, the rest of the colonies would all submit. The impossibility, however, of subduing them by land measures, if they did not, he clearly showed. See a remarkable chapter on the American war in his ‘Reflections on the Principles of War,’ appended to his History of the Seven Years' War.
Political Life of Lord Barrington, pp. 146–186.
See on the terms of this bargain, Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, i. 258–260, 266, 267, 294, 295. Frederick the Great is said to have marked his opinion of the transaction by claiming to levy on the hired troops which passed through his dominions the same duty as on so many head of cattle.
Adams' Works, i. 207, 208, 217, 218; Story's Constitution of the United States, bk. ii. ch. i.; Jay's Life, by his son, i. 43.