Consults her sister Colonies.—Hillsbo-rough's Administration of the Colonies.
November, 1767—February, 1768.
on the twenty-fourth of November, the Twelfth
Parliament came together for the last time, previous to its dissolution.
Its members were too busy in preparing for the coming elections to interfere with America
, about which the King
's speech was silent;1
and when Grenville
descanted on two or three papers in the Boston Gazette
, as infamous libels on Parliament, the House
showed only weariness of his complaints.2 Bedford
himself objected to Grenville
's Test for America
and ‘preferred making an example of some one seditious fellow.’
kept the Ministry from breaking, and proved himself the most efficient man among them.
‘He makes each of them,’ said Mansfield,4
‘believe that he is in love with him, and fools them all. They will stand their ground,’ he added, ‘unless
that mad man, Lord Chatham, should come and
throw a fire-ball in the midst of them.’
's long illness5
had for the time overthrown his powers.
When his health began to give out, it was his passion to appear possessed of the unbounded confidence of the King
A morbid restlessness now led him to great and extravagant expense, in which he vied with those who were no more than his equals in the peerage, but who were besides the inheritors of vast estates.
He would drive out with ten outriders, and with two carriages, each drawn by six horses.6
His vain magnificence deceived no one but himself; and was but the poor relief of humbled pride.
‘He is allowed to retain office, as a livelihood,’ observed Bedford
complained of him, as ‘a charlatan, who in difficult times affected ill-health to render himself the more sought after;’7
and saying that politics was a vile trade, more fit for a hack, than for a gentleman,8
he proceeded to construct a Ministry that would be disunited and docile.
On the fifth of December, Bedford
, now almost
blind and near his end, just before the removal of cataracts from his eyes, told Grenville
, that his age, his infirmities and his tastes disinclined him to war on the Court
, which was willing9
to enter into a treaty with him, and each member of the Opposition would do well to exercise a like freedom.10
‘He chooses to give bread to his kinsmen and friends;’
said those whom he deserted.11 Grenville
conceal his despair.12
To his junction with Bedford
, he had sacrificed the favor of the King
Left to battie alone by the ally for whom he had been a martyr, the famed financier saw ‘the nothingness of the calculations of party.’
His health began to fail; the little that remained to him of life became steeped in bitterness; he seemed ready to curse his former associates and to die. At the time when the public indignation was roused by the news of the general agreement which the town of Boston
was promoting, and fears were entertained, that Paxton
on his arrival would be taken to Liberty Tree
and compelled to resign his new commission,13
the Ministry was revolutionized, but without benefit to Grenville
The Colonies were taken from Shelburne and consigned to a separate department of State, with Lord Hillsborough as its Secretary
made room for Lord Weymouth, a vehement but not forcible speaker; in private life, cold and taciturn; impoverished by gambling, and of such habits that the world14
said he passed all the day in sleep and all the night in drinking.
, who had a better reputation, became President
of the Council; the Post Office was assigned to Sandwich
, the ablest of them all as well as the most malignant against America
; while Rigby
was made Vice-Treasurer
, till he could get the Pay-Office
were friends of the Duke
, and united re-
specting America in one opinion, which it was pretended Grafton
also had accepted.15
Nor be it left unnoticed, that Jenkinson
, who took so large a part in framing the Stamp Act, held a place with Lord North at the Treasury Board. ‘In him,’ boasted Mauduit
to his client, Hutchinson
, ‘we have gained a fresh accession in strength.16
He is my fast friend, and has never yet failed me in any thing which he undertook for me. He empowered me to tell you he will make your affair one of his first concerns.’
, whose noiseless industry exercised a prevailing influence over the neglect of Grafton
and the ease of Lord North, formed the active and confidential bond between the Treasury and the office holders in Boston
‘They of Massachusetts
,’ wrote Mauduit
, ‘may be brought to repent of their insolence.’
To assert and maintain the authority of Parliament over America
, was the principle on which the friends of Bedford
entered the Ministry.
was quickened by the resolutions of Boston
to set on foot manufactures and to cease importations.18
,’ it was said with acrimony, ‘are determined to have as little connection with Great Britain
and the moment they can, they will renounce dependence.’20
The partisans of the new Ministers professed to think it
desirable that ‘the Colonies should forget themselves
‘Five or six frigates,’ they clamored, ‘acting at sea and three regiments on land, will soon bring them to reason and submission.’21
‘The waves,’ replied Franklin
‘never rise but when the winds blow;’ and addressing the British
public, he showed that the new system of politics tended to dissolve the bonds of union between the two countries.
‘What does England
gain by conquests in America
,’ wrote the French Minister
, ‘but the danger of losing her own Colonies?23
—Things cannot remain as they are; the two nations will become more and more embittered, and their mutual griefs increase.—In four years,24
will have nothing to fear from England
, and will be prepared for resistance.’
He thought of Holland
as a precedent, yet ‘America,’ he observed, ‘has no recognised chieftain; and without the qualities united in the House of Orange
would never have thrown off the yoke of Spain
The extreme purpose of the Bedford
abrogate colonial charters and introduce a uniformity of government, appeared immediately on Hillsborough
's taking possession of his newly created office.
, the faithful agent of Connecticut
, a churchman, and one who from his heart wished to avoid a rupture between the Colonies and England
, waited upon him to congratulate him on his advancement.26
,’ declared Hillsborough
, ‘may always
depend upon my friendship and affection.’
,’ said Johnson
, ‘is a loyal Colony.’
‘You are a very free Colony,’ rejoined Hillsborough; ‘generally you have used your very extraordinary powers with moderation; but you are very deficient in your correspondence, so that we have too little connection with you.’—‘That,’ answered the agent, ‘is owing to the good order and tranquillity which have so generally prevailed in a quiet Colony, where the government is wisely administered and the people easy and happy.
Add to this: from the nature of our constitution fewer occasions arise of troubling the King
's Ministers with our affairs than in the Governments immediately under the Crown.’
‘A request for a copy of your Colony laws,’ said Hillsborough, ‘has been repeatedly made; but I cannot find that any obedience has been paid to the requisition.’—‘The Colony,’ replied Johnson
, ‘has several times sent over copies of the printed Law Book; there is one or more at the Plantation Office
.’ —‘It is the duty of the Government
,’ resumed Hillsborough
, ‘to transmit from time to time, not only the laws that pass, but all the minutes of the proceedings of the Council and Assembly, that we may know what you are about, and rectify whatever may be amiss.’—‘If your Lordship,’ rejoined the agent, ‘wants a copy of our laws for private perusal, for the information of your clerks, or for reference, the Colony will send you one of their Law Books; and you will find it as good a code of laws, almost, as could be devised for such an infant country; and in no respect inferior to any collection of the kind in any of the Colonies.
But if your Lordship means
to have the laws transmitted for the inspection of the
Ministry as such, and for the purpose of approbation or disapprobation by his Majesty in Council, it is what the Colony has never done, and, I am persuaded, will never submit to. By the charter which King Charles the Second granted, the Colony was invested with a power of legislation, not subject to revision.
In point of fact, your Lordship well knows, that those laws have never been re-examined here, that the Colony has for more than a century been in the full exercise of those powers, without the least check or interruption, except in a single instance, in such times and under such circumstances, as I believe you will not mention but with detestation, much less consider as a precedent.’
‘I have read your Charter,’ said Hillsborough; ‘it is very full and expressive; and I know what powers you have exercised under it. But there are such things as extravagant grants, which are, therefore, void.
You will admit, there are many things which the King
cannot grant, as the inseparable incidents of the Crown.
Some things which King Charles pretended to grant, may be of that nature, particularly the power of absolute legislation, which tends to the absurdity of creating an independent state.’
‘Nobody,’ replied Johnson
, ‘has ever reckoned the power of legislation among the inseparable incidents of the Crown.
All lawyers are agreed, that it is an undisputed prerogative of the Crown to create corporations; and the power of law-making is, in some degree at least, incident to every corporation; depending not merely on the words of the grant, but founded in the reason of things, and coextensive with
the purposes for which the body is created.
corporation in England
enjoys it as really, though not as extensively as the Colony of Connecticut
Since, therefore, no question can be made of the right of the Crown to create such bodies and grant such powers in degree, it would be very difficult to limit the bounty of the Prince
The law has not done it, and who can draw the line?
Surely not the Ministers
of the Prince
The Colony Charters are of a higher nature and founded on a better title than those of the corporations of England
These are mere acts of grace and favor; whereas those in America
were granted in consideration of very valuable services done, or to be performed.
The services having been abundantly executed at an immense expense by the grantees in the peopling and cultivation of a fine country, the vast extension of his Majesty's dominion, and the prodigious increase of the trade and revenues of the empire, the Charters must now be considered as grants upon valuable considerations, sacred and most inviolable.
And even if there might have been a question made upon the validity of such a grant as that to Connecticut
in the day of it, yet Parliament as well as the Crown having, for more than a century, acquiesced in the exercise of the power claimed by it, the Colony has now a Parliamentary sanction, as well as a title by prescription added to the royal grant, by all which it must be effectually secured in the full possession of its Charter rights.’
‘These are matters of nice and curious disquisition,’ said Hillsborough, evasively; ‘but at least your laws ought to be regularly transmitted for the inspection of the Privy Council and for disapprobation, if found repugnant to the laws of England
‘An extra-judicial opinion of the King
ter,’ answered Johnson
, ‘or even of the King
's Privy Council, cannot determine whether any particular Act is within that proviso or not; this must be decided by a court of law having jurisdiction of the matter, about which the law in question is conversant.
If the General Assembly of Connecticut
should make a law flatly contradictory to the statute of Great Britain
, it may be void; but a declaration of the King
in Council would still make it neither more nor less so, but be as void as the law itself, for other words in the Charter
clearly and expressly exclude them from deciding about it.’
‘I have not seen these things,’ said Hillsborough, ‘in the light in which you endeavor to place them.
You are in danger of being too much a separate, independent State, and of having too little subordination to this country.’
And then he spoke of the equal affection the King
bore his American subjects, and of the great regard of the Ministers
for them as Britons, whose rights were not to be injured.
‘Upon the repeal of the Stamp Act,’ said Johnson
, ‘we had hoped these were the principles adopted; but the new duties imposed last winter, and other essential regulations in America
, have damped those expectations and given alarm to the Colonies.’
‘Let neither side,’ said Hillsborough, ‘stick at small matters.
As to taxes, you are infinitely better off than any of your fellow-subjects in Europe
You are less burdened than even the Irish.’
‘I hope that England
will not add to our burdens,’ said Johnson
; ‘you would certainly find it redound to your own prejudice.’
Thus for two hours together, they reasoned on
the rights of Connecticut
; and Hillsborough
plainly his opinion, that its Charter must be declared void, not on the pretence that it had been violated or misused, but because the people by the enjoyment of it were too free.
so united caution with patriotism, that successive British Ministers were compelled to delay abrogating its Charter, for want of a plausible excuse.
Hillsborough on his side, under the exterior of warm professions of tenderness, cherished the fixed purpose of disregarding colonial privileges.
His apologists called him honest and well meaning; he was passionate and full of self-conceit;27
alert in conducting business; wrongheaded in forming his opinions, and pompously stiff in adhering to them.
He proposed as his rule of conduct, to join inflexibility of policy with conciliatory language; and in a man of his moderate faculties, this attempt to join firmness with suavity became a mixture of obstinacy and deceit.
His first action respecting Massachusetts
was marked by duplicity.
, through Mauduit
, his agent, and Jenkinson
, obtained an annual grant of two hundred pounds sterling.
gave to the grant the form of a secret warrant under the King
's sign manual on the Commissioners
of the Customs at Boston
That a Chief Justice
, holding office during pleasure and constantly employing his power for political purposes, should also receive money from the King
, was fatal to the independence of the bench;
the secrecy of the grant betrayed on the part of the
Minister a sense of shame.
It was this use of the new revenue which the reflecting people in Boston
‘We shall be obliged,’ said they, “to maintain in luxury sycophants, court parasites and hungry dependents, who will be sent over to watch and oppress those who support them.”
If large salaries are given, needy poor lawyers from England
, or some tools of power of our own, will be placed on the bench.
The Governors will be men rewarded for despicable services, hackneyed in deceit and avarice; or some noble scoundrel who has spent his fortune in every kind of debauchery.
‘Unreasonable impositions tend to alienate the hearts of the Colonists.
Our growth is so great, in a few years Britain will not be able to compel our submission.
Who thought that the four little Provinces of Holland
would have been able to throw off the yoke of that powerful kingdom of Spain
? —yet they accomplished it by their desperate perseverance.’
‘Liberty is too precious a jewel to be resigned.’30
Such were the sentiments of the more moderate among the patriots.
Still the attempt at concerting an agreement not to import had thus far failed; and unless the Assembly of Massachusetts should devise methods of resistance, the oppressive law would gradually go into effect.
The hot spirits in that body
were ready to break out into a flame; there were
men among them who would not count the consequences.31
Of the country Members, Hawley
, than whom no one was abler, or more sincere, lived far in the interior; and his excitable nature, now vehement, now desponding, unfitted him to guide.
The irritability of Otis
had so increased, that he rather indulged himself in ‘rhapsodies’32
and volcanic ‘flashes’33
of eloquence, than framed deliberate plans of conduct.
Besides, his mind had early embraced the idea ‘of a general union
of the British Empire
, in which every part of its wide dominions should be represented under one equal and uniform direction, and system of laws;’ and though the Congress of New-York drew from him a tardy concession,34
that an American representation was impossible, yet his heart still turned to his original opinion, and in his prevailing mood, he shrunk from the thought of Independence.
The ruling passion of Samuel Adams
, on the contrary, was the preservation of the distinctive character and institutions of New-England
understood the tendency of the measures adopted by
Parliament; approved of making the appeal to Heaven, since freedom could not otherwise be preserved; and valued the liberties of his country more than its temporal prosperity, more than his own life, more than the lives of all. The confidence of his townsmen sustained his fortitude; his whole nature was absorbed by care for the public; and his strictly logical mind was led to choose for the defence of the separate liberties of America
, a position which offered no weak point for attack.
His theory, on which the Colonies were to repose till the dawn of better days, as a small but gallant army waits for aid within its lines, he embodied in the form of a letter from the Assembly of the Province to their Agent.35
On the sixth of
January, and for the evening and morning of many
succeeding days, the paper was under severe examination in the House
. Seven times it was revised; every word was weighed; every sentence considered; and each seemingly harsh expression tempered and refined.
At last on the twelfth of January, the letter was adopted, to be sent to the Agent
, communicated to the British Ministry
, and published to the world, as expressing the unchangeable opinions of Massachusetts
Disclaiming the most distant thought of indepen-
dence of the mother country, provided they could have the free enjoyment of their rights, the House
that ‘the British constitution hath its foundation in the law of God and nature; that in every free state, the supreme Legislature derives its power from the constitution;’ and ‘is bounded and circumscribed by its fundamental rules.’
That the right to property exists by a law of nature, they asserted, on the one side, against ‘the visionary and impracticable Utopian schemes of levelling and a community of goods;’ on the other, against all Acts of the British Parliament, taxing the Colonists.
‘In the time of James II.,’ they continued, ‘the Crown, and the Ministers
of the Crown, without the intervention of Parliament, demolished Charters and levied taxes in the Colonies at pleasure.
Our case is more deplorable and remediless.
Our ancestors found relief by the interposition of Parliament; but by the intervention of that very power we are taxed, and can appeal from their decision to no power on earth.’
They further set forth the original contract between the King
and the first planters, as the Royal
promise in behalf of the English
nation; their title by the common law and by statute law to all the liberties and privileges of natural born subjects of the realm; and the want of equity in taxing Colonies whose manufactures were prohibited and whose trade was restrained.
Still more they objected to the appropriation of
the revenues from the new duties to the support of American civil officers
and an American army, as introducing an absolute government.
The Judges in the Colonies held their commissions at the pleasure of the Crown; if their salaries were to be independent, a corrupt Governor might employ men who would ‘deprive a bench of justice of its glory, and the people of their security.’
Nor need the money be applied by Parliament to protect the Colonists; they were never backward in defending themselves, and when treated as free subjects, they always granted aids of their own accord, to the extent of their ability, and even beyond it. Nor could a standing army among them secure their dependence; they had towards the mother country an English affection, which would for ever keep them connected with her, unless it should be erased by repeated unkind usage.
They objected to the establishment of Commissioners
of the Customs, as a needless expense in itself, and dangerous to their liberties from the increase of Crown officers.
Still more, they expressed alarm at the Act, conditionally suspending the powers of the Assembly of New-York, and thus annihilating its legislative authority.
‘King James and his successors,’ thus they proceeded, ‘broke the copartnership of the supreme legislative with the supreme executive, and the latter could not exist without the former.
In these remote dominions, there should be a free legislative; otherwise strange effects are to be apprehended, for the laws of God and nature are invariable.’37
The House of Representatives, having sanctioned
this Remonstrance, next addressed Shelburne,38 Chatham
, Camden, the Treasury Board, at which sat Grafton
, Lord North, and Jenkinson
, letters which contained the same sentiments, and especially enforced the impracticability of an American representation in the British Parliament.40
But no memorial was sent to the Lords
; no petition to the House of Commons.
The colonial Legislature joined issue with the British Parliament, and adopting the draft of Samuel Adams
approached the King
as umpire with their Petition.
To him, in beautifully simple language, they recounted the story of the colonization of Massachusetts
; the forfeiture of their first Charter; and the confirmation to them, on the Revolution, of their most essential rights and liberties; the principal of which was that most sacred right of being taxed only by representatives of their own free election.
They complained that the Acts of Parliament, ‘imposing taxes in America
, with the express purpose of raising a revenue, left them only the name of free subjects.’
The mode of relief by an American representation in Parliament they declare to be ‘utterly impracticable;’
and they referred the consideration of their
present circumstances to the wisdom and clemency of the King
In the several papers which, after a fortnight's anxious deliberation, were adopted by an Assembly, composed for the most part of farmers and delegates from the rural population, the calmness of the language is suited to the earnestness of their purpose; nor is there one line which betrays haste, or hesitation.
It remained for the House
‘to inform the other Governments with its proceedings against the late Acts, that, if they thought fit, they might join42
But this, it was said in a house of eightytwo Members, would be considered in England
, as appointing a second Congress; and the negative prevailed by a vote of two to one.
The country members were slow in perceiving the imminence and extent of the public danger.
At this appearance of indecision, Bernard
conceived ‘great hopes.’
‘It will,’ said he, ‘make some atonement for their Remonstrance.’43
The towns in the central Provinces had not as yet seconded the proposal of Boston
to import nothing from England
‘The British Government will probably pursue the mildest policy,’ wrote De Kalb
‘The Colonies are but lightly taxed, and could not resist force.
Distance from the British Government
makes these people more free; but at heart they have little disposition to
throw off their dependence by the aid of foreign
Chap. XXXI.} 1768. Jan. Feb.
The tone of public feeling seemed unprepared for action and averse to a rupture.
But Samuel Adams
and the few who shared his courage contended indefatigably45
against the principle of taxation.
The hesitancy in the Assembly had proceeded not from timidity but caution.
The Members spoke with one another in private, till their views became clearer.
Then on the fourth day of February, a motion was made to reconsider the vote against writing to the other Colonies.
was counted; eighty-two were again found to be present; the question was put and carried by a large majority, and the former vote erased from the journals.46
On the same day, a question, whether the House
would appoint a committee to prepare a letter, to be sent to each House of Representatives or Burgesses on the Continent, to inform them of the measure which it had taken, passed in the affirmative after debate.
A masterly circular letter which Samuel Adams47
had drafted, was, on the eleventh of February, read in the House
, and accepted almost unanimously.
Expressing a firm confidence that the united supplications of the distressed Americans
would meet with the favorable acceptance of the King
, they set forth the importance that proper constitutional measures
respecting the Acts of Parliament, imposing
taxes on the Colonies, should be adopted; and that the representatives of the several assemblies upon so delicate a point, should harmonize with each other.
They made known their ‘disposition freely to communicate their mind to a sister Colony, upon a common concern.’
They then embody the substance of all their representations to the Ministry; that the legislative power of Parliament is circumscribed by the constitution, and is self-destroyed whenever it overleaps its bounds; that allegiance as well as sovereignty is limited; that the right to property is an essential, unalterable one, engrafted into the British
system, and to be asserted, exclusive of any consideration of Charters; that taxation of the Colonies by the British Parliament in which they are not represented, is an infringement of their natural and constitutional rights; that an equal representation of the American
people in Parliament is for ever impracticable; that their partial representation would be worse even than taxation without their consent.
They further enumerate as grievous the civil list independent of the people for officers holding commissions at the pleasure of the Crown; the Billeting Act
; and the large powers of the Commissioners
of the Customs appointed to reside at Boston
,’ they continued, ‘is fully satisfied that your Assembly is too generous and liberal in sentiment, to believe that this letter proceeds from an ambition of taking the lead, or dictating to the other Assemblies.
They freely submit their opinions to the judgment of others, and shall take it kind in
you to point out to them any thing further that may
be thought necessary.’48
A fair copy of this Circular was ordered to be transmitted to England
, to be produced in proof of its true spirit and design; they drew their system of conduct from reason itself, and despised concealment.