pledges the ministry of Bute to tax America by the British parliament, and Resigns.
at the peace of 1763 the fame of England
alted throughout Europe
above that of all other nations.
She had triumphed over those whom she called her hereditary enemies, and retained half a continent as the monument of her victories.
Her American dominions stretched without dispute from the Atlantic
to the Mississippi
, from the Gulf of Mexico
to Hudson's Bay; and in her older possessions that dominion was rooted as firmly in the affections of the colonists as in their institutions and laws.
The ambition of British statesmen might well be inflamed with the desire of connecting the mother country and her transatlantic empire by indissoluble bonds of mutual interest and common liberties.
But the Board of Trade had long been angry with provincial assemblies for claiming the right of free deliberation.
For several years1
it had looked forward to peace as the moment when the colonies were to feel the superiority of the parent land.2
the appointed time had come, the Earl
of Bute, with
the full concurrence of the king, making the change which had long been expected,3
assigned to Charles Townshend
the office of first lord of trade, with the administration of the colonies.
Assuming larger powers than had ever been exercised by any of his predecessors except Halifax
called also to a seat in the cabinet, and enjoying direct access to the king on the affairs of his department, he, on the twenty-third of February, became secretary of state for the colonies in all but the name.5
In the council, in which Townshend
took a place, there was Bute, its chief, having the entire confidence of his sovereign; the proud restorer of peace, fully impressed with the necessity of bringing the colonies into order,6
and ready to give his support to the highest system of authority of Great Britain
Being at the head of the Treasury, he was, in a special manner, responsible for every measure connected with the finances; and though he was himself a feeble man of business, yet his defects were in a measure supplied by Jenkinson
, his able, indefatigable and confidential private secretary.—There was
the illustrious jurist, who had boasted pub-
licly of his early determination never to engage in public life, ‘but upon whig principles;’8
and, in conformity to them, had asserted that an act of parliament in Great Britain
could alone prescribe rules for the reduction of refractory colonial assemblies.9
— There was George Grenville
, then first Lord
of the Admiralty
, bred to the law; and ever anxious to demonstrate that all the measures which he advocated reposed on the British Constitution, and the precedents of 1688; eager to make every part of the British
empire tributary to the prosperity of Great Britain
, and making the plenary authority of the British Legislature
the first article of his political creed.—There was the place as Keeper of the Privy Seal
, the head of the house of Russell
, and the great representative of the landed aristocracy of Great Britain
, absent from England
at the moment, but, through his friends, ready to applaud the new colonial system, to which he had long ago become a convert.—There was the weak and not unamiable Halifax
, so long the chief of the American
administration, heretofore baffled by the colonies, and held in check by Pitt
; willing himself to be the instrument to carry his long cherished opinions of British omnipotence into effect.—There was the self-willed, hot-tempered Egremont
, using the patronage of his office to enrich his family and friends; the same who had menaced Maryland
and North Carolina
—obstinate and impatient of contradiction, ignorant
of business, passionate, and capable of cruelty in
defence of authority; at variance with Bute, and speaking of his colleague, the Duke
, as ‘a headstrong, silly wretch.’10
To these was now added the fearless, eloquent and impetuous Charles Townshend
, trained to public life, first in the Board of Trade, and then as secretary at war—a statesman who entered upon the gravest affairs with all the courage of eager levity, and with a daring purpose of carrying difficult measures with unscrupulous speed.
No man in the House of Commons was thought to know America
so well; no one was so resolved on making a thorough change in its constitutions and government.
‘What schemes he will form,’ said the proprietary of Pennsylvania
‘we shall soon see.’
But there was no disguise about his schemes.
He was always for making thorough work of it with the colonies.
James the Second, in attempting the introduction of what was called order into the New World, had employed the prerogative.
, in 1753, had tried to accomplish the same ends by the royal power, and had signally failed.
It was now settled that no tax could be imposed on the inhabitants of a British plantation but by their own assembly, or by an act of parliament;12
and though the ministers readily employed the name and authority of the king, yet, in the main, the new system was to be enforced by the transcendental power of the British parliament.
On his advancement, Townshend
became at once
the most important man in the House of Commons; for Fox
commanded no respect, and was preparing to retire to the House of Lords; and Grenville
, offended at having been postponed, kept himself sullenly in reserve.
Besides; America, which had been the occasion of the war, became the great subject of consideration at the peace; and the minister who was charged with its government took the lead in public business.
carried with him into the cabinet and the House of Commons the experience, the asperities and the prejudices of the Board of Trade; and his plan for the interference of the supreme legislature derived its character from the selfish influences under which it had been formed, and which aimed at obtaining an unlimited, lucrative and secure patronage.
The primary object was, therefore, a revenue, to be disposed of by the British
ministry, under the sign manual of the king.
The ministry would tolerate no further ‘the disobedience of long time to royal instructions,’ nor bear with the claim of ‘the lower houses of assemblies’ in the colonies to the right of deliberating on their votes of supply, like the parliament of Great Britain.
It was announced ‘by authority’13
that there were to be ‘no more requisitions from the king,’ but instead of such requisitions an immediate taxation of the colonies by the British
The first charge upon that revenue was to be the civil list, that all the royal officers in America
, the judges in every court not less than the executive, might be wholly superior to the assemblies, and dependent
on the king's pleasure alone for their appointment to office, their continuance in it, and the
amount and payment of their emoluments; so that the corps of persons in the public employ might be a civil garrison, set to keep the colonies in dependence, and to, sustain the authority of Great Britain
The charters were obstacles, and, in the opinion of Charles Townshend
, the charters should fall, and one uniform system of government14
be substituted in their stead.
The little republics of Connecticut
and Rhode Island
, which Clarendon
had cherished, and every ministry of Charles II.
had spared, were no longer safe.
A new territorial arrangement of provinces was in contemplation; Massachusetts
itself was to be restrained in its boundaries, as well as made more dependent on the king.
This arbitrary policy required an American standing army, and that army was to be maintained by
those whom it was to oppress.
To complete the sys-
tem, the navigation acts were to be strictly enforced.
It would seem that the execution of so momentous a design must have engaged the attention of the whole people of England
, and of the civilized world.
But so entirely was the British
government of that day in the hands of the few, and so much was their curiosity engrossed by what would give influence at court, or secure votes in the House of Commons, that the most eventful measures ever adopted in that country were entered upon without any observation on the part of the historians and writers of memoirs at the time.
The ministry itself was not aware of what it was doing.
And had some seer risen up to foretell that the charter of Rhode Island
derived from its popular character a vitality that would outlast the unreformed House of Commons, the faithful prophet would have been scoffed at as a visionary madman.
The first memorable opposition came from the General Assembly of New-York
In the spirit of loyalty and the language of reverence they pleaded with the king15
concerning the colonial court of judicature, which exercised the ample authorities of the two great courts of King
's Bench and Common Pleas, and also of the Barons of the Exchequer.
They represented that this plenitude of uncontrolled power in persons who could not be impeached in the colony, and who, holding their offices during pleasure, were
consequently subject to the influence of governors
was to them an object of terror; and, from tenderness to the security of their lives, rights, and liberties, as well as fortunes, they prayed anxiously for leave to establish by law the independence and support of so important a tribunal.
They produced, as an irrefragable argument, the example given in England
after the accession of King William the Third, and they quoted the declaration of the present king himself, that he ‘looked upon the independency and uprightness of the judges as essential to the impartial administration of justice, one of the best securities to the rights and liberties of the subject, and as most conducive to the honor of the crown.’16
And, citing these words, which were the king's own to parliament on his coming to the throne, they express confidence in his undiscriminating liberality to all his good subjects, whether at home or abroad.
But the voice of the Assembly, ‘supplicating with the most respectful humility,’ was unheeded; and the treasury board, at which Lord North had a seat, decided not only that the commission of the chief justice
should be at the king's pleasure, but the amount and payment of his salary also.17
And this momentous precedent, so well suited to alarm the calmest statesmen of America
, was decided as quietly as any ordinary piece of business.
The judiciary of a continent was,
by ministerial acts, placed in dependence on the crown
avowedly for political purposes.
The king, in the royal provinces, was to institute courts, name the judges, make them irresponsible but to himself, remove them at pleasure, regulate the amount of their salaries, and pay them by warrants under the sign manual, out of funds which were beyond the control of the several colonies, and not even supervised by the British parliament.
The system introduced into New-York
was to be universally extended.
While the allowance of a salary to the chief justice
was passing through the forms of office, Welbore Ellis
, the successor of Charles Townshend
as secretary at war, brought forward the army estimates18
for the year, including the proposition of twenty regiments as a standing army for America
The country members would have grudged the expense; but Charles Townshend
, with a promptness which in a good cause would have been wise and courageous, explained the plan of the ministry,19
that these regiments were, for the first year only, to be supported by England
and ever after by the colonies
With Edmund Burke21
in the gallery for
one of his hearers, he dazzled country gentlemen by playing before their eyes the image of a revenue to be raised in America
The House of Commons listened with complacency to a plan which, at the expense of the colonies, would give twenty new places of colonels, that might be filled by members of their own body.
On the Report to the House
wished only that more troops had been retained in service; and as if to provoke France
to distrust, he called ‘the peace hollow and insecure, a mere armed truce for ten years.’22
The support of Pitt
prevented any opposition to the plan.
Two days after, on the ninth day of March, 1763, Charles Townshend
came forward with a part of the scheme for taxing America by act of parliament.
The existing duty on the trade of the continental colonies with the French
islands was, from its excessive amount, wholly prohibitory, and had been regularly evaded by a treaty of connivance between the merchants on the one side, and the custom-house officers and their English patrons on the other; for the custom-house officers were ‘quartered upon’ by those through whom they gained their places.
The minister proposed to reduce the
duty and enforce its collection; and he did it with
such bold impetuosity that, ‘short as the term was, it seemed that he would carry it through before the rising of parliament.’23
The house was impatient for it; heavy complaints were made, that the system of making all the revenue offices in America
sinecure places, had led to such abuses, that an American annual revenue of less than two thousand pounds cost the establishment of the customs in Great Britain
between seven and eight thousand pounds a year.24
Lord North and Charles Yorke
were members of the committee who introduced into the House of Commons this first bill, having for its object an American revenue by act of Parliament.25
A stamp act and other taxes were to follow, till a sufficient revenue should be obtained from America
to defray the expenses of its army.26
At the same time, as if to exhibit in the most
glaring manner the absence of all just ground for parliamentary taxation, the usual ‘compensation for the expenses of the several provinces,’ according to their ‘active vigor and strenuous efforts,’ was voted without curtailment; and amounted to more than seven
hundred thousand dollars. The appropriation was
the most formal recognition that even in the last year of the war, when it was carried on beyond their abounds, the colonies had contributed to the common cause, more than their just proportion.
The peace, too, the favorite measure of the ministry and the king,27
had been gratefully welcomed in the New World. ‘We in America
,’ said Otis28
to the people of Boston
, on being chosen moderator at their first town meeting in 1763, ‘have abundant reason to rejoice.
The heathen are driven out and the Canadians conquered.
The British dominion now extends from sea to sea, and from the great rivers to the ends of the earth.
Liberty and knowledge, civil and religious, will be co-extended, improved and preserved to the latest posterity.
No constitution of government has appeared in the world so admirably adapted to these great purposes as that of Great Britain
Every British subject in America
is, of common right, by act of Parliament, and by the laws of God and nature, entitled to all the essential privileges of Britons.
By particular charters, particular privivileges are justly granted, in consideration of undertaking to begin so glorious an empire as British America.
Some weak and wicked minds have endeavored to infuse jealousies with regard to the colonies; the true interests of Great Britain
and her plantations are mutual; and what God in his providence has united, let no man dare attempt to pull asunder.’
Such was the unanimous voice of the colonies.
Fervent attachment to England
was joined with love for the English
constitution, as it had been imitated
, at the very time when the ministry of
Bute was planning the thorough overthrow of colonial liberty.
But George Grenville
would not be outdone by Charles Townshend
in zeal for British interests.
He sought to win the confidence of Englishmen by considering England
as the head and heart of the whole empire, and by making all other parts of the king's dominion serve but as channels to convey wealth and vigor to that head.
Ignorant of colonial affairs, his care of them had reference only to the increase of the trade and revenue of Great Britain
He meant well for the British
public, and was certainly indefatigable.30
He looked to the restrictions in the statute book for the source of the maritime greatness of England
; and did not know that if British commerce flourished beyond that of Spain
, which had an equal population, still greater restrictions, and still more extensive colonies, it was only because England
excelled in freedom.
His mind bowed to the superstition of the age. He did not so much embrace as worship the navigation act with idolatry as the palladium of his country's greatness; and regarded connivance at the breaches of it by the overflowing commerce of the colonies with an exquisite jealousy.31
Placed at the head of the admiralty, he was eager and importunate to unite his official influence, his knowledge of the law, and his place as a leader in the House of Commons, to restrain American intercourse
by new powers to vice-admiralty courts, and by
a curiously devised system,32
which should bribe the whole navy of England
to make war on colonial trade.
Accordingly, at a time when the merchants were already complaining of the interruption of their illicit dealings with the Spanish
main, he recommended to Bute the more rigid enforcement of the laws of navigation; and on the very day on which the bill for a regular plantation revenue was reported to the house, he was put on a committee to carry his counsel into effect.
March had not ended when a bill was brought in,33
giving authority to employ the ships, seamen and officers of the navy as custom-house officers and informers.
The measure was Grenville
's own, and it was rapidly carried through; so that in three short weeks it became lawful, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence
to Cape Florida
, for each commander of an armed vessel to stop and examine, and, in case of suspicion, to seize every merchant ship approaching the colonies; while avarice was stimulated by hope of large emoluments, to make as many seizures, and gain in the vice-admiralty courts the condemnation of as many vessels as possible.
It was Grenville
who introduced a more than Spanish sea guard of British America; it was he who first took energetic measures to enforce the navigation acts.
The supplies voted for the first year of peace
amounted to seventy millions of dollars; and the publie charges pressed heavily on the lands and the industry of England
New sources of revenue were required; and, happily for America
, an excise on cider and perry, by its nature affecting only the few counties where the apple was much cultivated, divided the country members, inflamed opposition, and burdened the estates of some in the House of Lords.
opposed the tax as ‘intolerable.’
The defence of it fell upon Grenville
, who treated the ideas of his brother-in-law on national expenses with severity.
He admitted that the impost was odious.
‘But where,’ he demanded, ‘can you lay another tax?
Tell me where; tell me where;’ and Pitt
made no answer, but by humming audibly—
Gentle shepherd, tell me where.
‘The house burst out into a fit of laughter which continued some minutes.’34 Grenville
, very warm, stood up to reply; when Pitt
, ‘with the most contemptuous look and manner,’ rose from his seat, made the chairman a low bow, and walked slowly out of the house.35
Yet the ministry persevered, though the cider counties were in a flame; the city of London
, proceeding beyond all precedent, petitioned Commons, Lords, and King
against the measure; and the cities of Exeter
instructed their members to oppose it. The House of Lords divided upon it; and two protests against it appeared on their journals.36
Thus, an English tax, which came afterwards to be regarded as
proper, met with turbulent resistance.
No one utter-
ed a word for America.
The bill for raising a revenue there was quietly read twice and committed.37
But yet ‘this matter,’ observed Calvert
, ‘may be obstructed under a Scotch premier minister, the Earl
of Bute, against whom a strong party is forming.’
The ministry itself was crumbling.
The king was Bute's friend; but his majority in ‘the king's parliament’ was broken and unmanageable.
The city of London
, the old aristocracy, the House of Lords, the mass of the House of Commons, the people of Eng land, the people of the colonies, the cabinet, all disliked him; the politicians, whose friendship he thought to have secured by favor, gave him no hearty support; nearly every member of the cabinet which he himself had formed was secretly or openly against him. ‘The ground I tread upon,’ said he, ‘is hollow;’38
he might well be ‘afraid of falling;’ and if he persisted, of injuring the king by his fall.
made haste to retire from the cabinet; and his bill for raising a revenue in the plantations was, on the twenty-ninth of March,39
Had Bute continued longer at the head of affairs, the government must soon have been at the mercy of a successful opposition:40
had he made way unreservedly for a sole minister in his stead, the aristocratic party might have recovered and long retained the entire control of the administration.41
By his instances to retire, made a half a year before, the king had been so troubled, that he frequently sat for hours together
leaning his head upon his arm without speaking;42
and at last when he consented to a change, it was on condition that in the new administration there should be no chief minister.
For a moment Grenville
, to whom the treasury was offered, affected to be coy. ‘My dear George,’ said Bute as if he had been the dictator, ‘I still continue to wish for you preferable to other arrangements; but if you cannot forget old grievances, and cordially take the assistance of all the king's friends, I must in a few hours put other things in agitation;’43
, ‘with a warm sense’ of obligation, accepted the ‘high and important situation’ destined for him by the king's goodness and his lordship's friendship,44
promising not ‘to put any negative’45
upon those whom the king might approve as his colleagues in the ministry.
Bute next turned to Bedford
, announcing the king's ‘abiding determination never, upon any account, to suffer those ministers of the late reign, who had attempted to fetter and enslave him, to come into his service while he lived to hold the sceptre.’46
‘Shall titles and estates,’ he continued, ‘and names like a Pitt, that impose on an ignorant populace, give this prince the law?’47
And he solicited Bedford
to accept the post of president of the council, promising, in that case, the privy seal to Bedford
's brother-in-law, Lord Gower.
While the answer was waited for, it was announced
to the foreign ministers that the king had confided the executive powers of government to a triumvirate, consisting of Grenville
, as the head of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer, and of Egremont
, the two secretaries of state
After making this arrangement, Bute resigned, having established, by act of parliament, a standing army in America
, and bequeathing to his successor his pledge to the House of Commons, to provide for the support of that army after the current year, by taxes on America