previous next
[88] duty and enforce its collection; and he did it with
chap. V.} 1763. Mar.
such bold impetuosity that, ‘short as the term was, it seemed that he would carry it through before the rising of parliament.’1 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.2

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.3 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.4

1 Jasper Mauduit to Mr. Secretary Oliver. London, 23 March, 1763. ‘Some days ago the First Lord of Trade proposed lowering the duties on French molasses from 6d to 2d per gallon, in order the more effectually to secure the payment; and, short as the term is, he will probably carry it through before the rising of parliament.’ See Jasper Mauduit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

2 Grenville to Horace Walpole, 8 Sept. 1763, in Grenville Papers, II. 114.

3 Journals of the House of Commons, XXIX. 609.

4 That the ministry of Bute had in view specially an American stamp tax is in itself probable, as the revenue without it would have been notoriously insufficient for their avowed object; and a stamp tax had long been very generally spoken of as the most eligible by those who wished to draw a parliamentary revenue from America. Besides, as we shall see, Townshend expressed himself violently in favor of the stamp tax when it came up; and though he voted for its repeal, he insisted he had been, and was still for it. Bute, and all the other members of his cabinet who remained alive, opposed the repeal. Add to this the belief of the time, as contained in a letter from London, dated March 27, 1763, and printed in Weyman's New-York Gazette for Monday, 30 May, 1763. Number 233, 3, 1.

‘I cannot, however, omit mentioning a matter much the subject of conversation here, which, if carried into execution, will, in its consequences, greatly affect the colonies. It is the quartering sixteen regiments in America, to be supported at the expense of the Provinces. The inutility of these troops in time of peace, though evidently apparent, might not be complained of by the people of America, was the charge defrayed by England. But to lay that burden on the plantations, already exhausted in the prosecution of an expensive war, is what I believe you would not have thought of. The money, it is said, will be levied by act of parliament, and raised on a stamp duty, excise on rum distilled on the continent, and a duty on foreign sugar and molasses, &c.; by reducing the former duty on these last mentioned articles, which it is found impracticable to collect, to such a one as will be collected. This manner of raising money, except what may arise on the foreign sugars, &c., I apprehend will be thought greatly to diminish even the appearance of the subject's liberty, since nothing seems to be more repugnant to the general principles of freedom than the subjecting a people to taxation by laws in the enactment of which they are not represented.’

This view is corroborated by many circumstances. ‘The stamp act was not originally Mr. Grenville's.’ Such is the testimony of Richard Jackson, in a letter to Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson of 26 December, 1765, quoted in Gordon's History of the American Revolution, i. 157. Gordon had an opportunity of examining the correspondence of Hutchinson. The letter which he cited should now be among tile records of Massachusetts, but I searched for it there in vain. Yet I see no reason for doubting the accuracy of the quotation. Richard Jackson, from his upright character and his position as a friend of Grenville, and soon as a confidential officer of the Exchequer, was competent to give decisive evidence.

In a debate in the House of Commons in the thirteenth parliament, Sir William Meredith, speaking in the presence of Grenville, intimates that Grenville adopted the measure of the stamp act at the suggestion of another. See the Reports by Cavendish, i. 499.

Horace Walpole, a bitter enemy of Grenville's, yet says, in a note to his Memoirs of Geo. III. III. 32, that the stamp act was a measure of Bute's ministry, at the suggestion of his secretary, Jenkinson, who afterwards brought it into the treasury for Grenville's adoption. Bute personally, as we know from Knox, wished to bring the colonies ‘into order;’ but as every body about him wished the same, he probably thought not much about tile matter, but left it to others, and especially to Charles Townshend.

Finally, Jenkinson himself, in the debate in the House of Commons of 15th May, 1777, condemned the tea act as impolitic, &c., &c. ‘Then, turning to the stamp act, he said that measure was not Mr. Grenville's; if the act was a good one, the merit of it was not due to Mr. Grenville; if it was a bad one, the errors of it, or the ill-policy of it, did not belong to him. The measure was not his.’ See Almon's Parliamentary Register, VII. 214.

It admits of no question, that Bute's ministry resolved on raising an American revenue by parliamentary taxes on America. When the decisive minute of the Treasury Board on the subject was ordered, will appear below.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: