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Thus in those days spoke the partisans of the Stamp Act. But their weakness soon became manifest. In the face of an awakened community, where discussion has free scope, no men, though surrounded by office and wealth, can long sustain injustice. Earth, water, nature, they may subdue; but Truth they cannot subdue. Subtle and mighty, against all efforts and devices, it fills every region of light with its majestic presence. The Stamp Act was discussed and understood. Its violation of constitutional rights was exposed. By resolutions of Legislatures and of town meetings, by speeches and writings, by public assemblies and processions, the country was rallied in peaceful phalanx against the execution of the Act. To this great object, within the bounds of law and the constitution, were bent all the patriot energies of the land.

And here Boston took the lead. Her records at this time are full of proud memorials. In formal instructions to her representatives, adopted [151] unanimously, ‘having been read several times,’ in Town Meeting at Faneuil Hall, the following rule of conduct was prescribed:

‘We, therefore, think it our indispensable duty, in Justice to ourselves and Posterity, as it is our undoubted Privilege, in the most open and unreserved, but decent and respectful Terms, to declare our greatest Dissatisfaction with this Law. And we think it incumbent upon you by no Means to join in any public Measures for countenancing and assisting in the execution of the same. But to use your best endeavors in the general Assembly to have the inherent inalienable Rights of the People of this Province asserted, and vindicated, and left upon the public record, that Posterity may never have reason to charge the present Times with the Guilt of tamely giving them away.’

Virginia responded to Boston. Many of her justices of the peace surrendered their commissions ‘rather than aid in the enforcement of the law, or be instrumental in the overthrow of their country's liberties.’

As the opposition deepened, its natural tendency was to outbreak and violence. But this was carefully restrained. On one occasion in Boston it showed itself in the lawlessness of a mob. But the town, at a public meeting in Faneuil Hall, called without delay on the motion of the opponents of the Stamp Act, with James Otis as chairman, condemned the outrage. Eager in hostility to the execution of the Act, Boston cherished municipal order, and constantly discountenanced all tumult, violence, and illegal proceedings. Her equal devotion to these two objects drew the praises and congratulations of other towns. In reply, March 27th, 1766, to an Address from the inhabitants of Plymouth, her own consciousness of duty done is thus expressed:

‘If the inhabitants of Boston have taken the legal and warrantable measures to prevent that misfortune, of all others the most to be dreaded, the execution of the Stamp Act, and as a necessary means of preventing it, have made any spirited applications for opening the custom-houses and courts of justice; if at the same time they have borne their testimony against outrageous tumults and illegal proceedings, and given any example of the Love of Peace and good order, next to the consciousness of having done their duty is the satisfaction of meeting with the approbation of any of their fellow-countrymen.’

Learn now from the Diary of John Adams the results of this system:

‘The year 1765 has been the most remarkable year of my life. That enormous engine, fabricated by the British Parliament, for battering down all the rights and liberties of America—I mean the Stamp Act— has raised and spread through the whole continent a spirit that will be recorded to our honor with all future generations. In every Colony, from Georgia to New Hampshire inclusively, the stamp distributors and [152] inspectors have been compelled by the unconquerable rage of the people to renounce their offices. Such and so universal has been the resentment of the people, that every man who has dared to speak in favor of the stamps, or to soften the detestation in which they are held, how great soever his abilities and virtues had been esteemed before, or whatever his fortune, connections and influence had been, has been seen to sink into universal contempt and ignominy.’

The Stamp Act became a dead letter. At the meeting of Parliament numerous petitions were presented, calling for its instant repeal. Franklin, at that time in England, while giving his famous testimony before the House of Commons, was asked whether he thought the people of America would submit to this Act if modified. His brief emphatic response was: ‘No, never, unless compelled by force of arms.’ Chatham, yet weak with disease, but mighty in eloquence, exclaimed in ever-memorable words: ‘We are told America is obstinate—America is almost in open rebellion. Sir, I rejoice 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 all the rest. The Americans have been wronged; they have been driven to madness. I will beg leave to tell the house in a few words what is really my opinion. It is that the Stamp Act be repealed, absolutely, totally and immediately.’ It was repealed. Within less than a year from its original passage, denounced and discredited, it was driven from the Statute Book. In the charnel-house of history, with the unclean things of the Past, it now rots. Thither the Slave Act is destined to follow.

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