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America knew that the Board of Trade had pro-

chap. XVIII.} 1761.
posed to annul colonial charters, to reduce all the colonies to royal governments, and to gain a revenue by lowering and collecting the duties prescribed by the Sugar Act of 1733. She knew, that, if the British legislature should tax her people, it would increase the fees and salaries of the crown officers in the plantations, and the pensions and sinecure places held by favorites in England. The legislature of Massachusetts still acknowledged that ‘their own resolve could not alter an act of parliament,’ and that every proceeding of theirs which was in conflict with a British statute was for that reason void. And yet the justice of the restrictions on trade was denied, and their authority questioned; and when the officers of the customs asked for ‘writs of assistance’ to enforce them, the colony regarded its liberties in peril. This is the opening scene of American resistance.1 It began in New England, and made its first battle-ground in a court-room. A lawyer of Boston, with a tongue of flame and the inspiration of a seer, stepped forward to demonstrate that all arbitrary authority was unconstitutional and against the law.

In February, 1761, Hutchinson, the new chief justice, and his four associates, sat in the crowded councilchamber of the old Town-House in Boston, to hear arguments on the question, whether the persons employed in enforcing the Acts of Trade should have power to invoke generally the assistance of all the executive officers of the colony.

A statute of Charles the Second, argued Jeremiah Gridley for the crown, allows writs of assistance to

1 John Adams to the Abbe Mably. Works v. 492.

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