The question between Britain and America
The chronicler of manners and events can alone
measure his own fairness, for no one else knows so well what he throws aside.
The greatest poet of action has brought upon the stage the panorama of mortal being, without once finding occasion to delineate a faultless hero.
No man that lives has not sinned.
The gentlest of historians, recounting in the spirit of love the mighty deeds which divide the new civilization from the old, tells how one of his fellow messengers, thrice in the same night, denied the master by whom he had been called.
Indiscriminate praise neither paints to the life, nor teaches by example, nor advances social science; history is no mosaic of funeral eulogies and family epitaphs, nor can the hand of truth sketch character without shadows as well as light.
The crimes and the follies which stand in the line of causes of revolution, or modify the development of a state, or color the morals of an age,
must be brought up for judgment; and yet the hu-
mane student of his race, in his searches into the past, contemplates more willingly those inspirations of the beautiful and the good, which lift the soul above the interests of the moment, demonstrate our affinity with something higher than ourselves, point the way to principles that are eternal, and constitute the vital element of progress.
From immeasurable distances in the material universe the observer of the stars brings back word, that the physical forces which rule our neighborhood maintain an all-pervading energy; and the records imbedded in the rocks, teaching how countless myriads of seasons have watched the sun go forth daily from his chamber, and the earth turn on its axis, and the sea ebb and flow, demonstrate that the same physical forces have exerted their power without change for unnumbered periods of bygone years.
The twin sciences of the stars and of the earth establish the cosmical unity of the material universe in all that we can know of time and space.
But the conception of the perfect order and unity of creation does not unfold itself in its beauty and grandeur, so long as the guiding presence of intelligence is not apprehended.
From the depths of man's consciousness, which envelopes sublimer truths than the firmament over his head can reveal to his senses, rises the idea of right; and history, testing that idea by observation, traces the vestiges of moral law through the practice of the nations in every age, proves experimentally the reality of justice, and confirms by induction the intuitions of reason.
The historian, not less than philosophers and nat-
uralists, must bring to his pursuit the freedom of an unbiassed mind; in his case the submission of reason to prejudice would have a deeper criminality; for he cannot neglect to be impartial without at once falsifying nature and denying providence.
The exercise of candor is possible; for the world of action has its organization and is obedient to law. The forces that constitute its antagonisms are very few, and are always and everywhere present, and are always and everywhere the same, though they make their appearance under many shapes.
Human nature is forever identical with itself; and the state ever contains in its own composition all the opposite tendencies which constitute parties.
The problems of politics cannot be solved without passing behind transient forms to efficient causes; the old theories, founded on the distinction of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, must give place to an analysis of the faculties in man, and the unvarying conditions, principles, and inherent wants out of which they have been evolved; and it will be found, that as every class of vertebrate animals has the forms of the same organs, so an exact generalization establishes the existence of every element of civil polity and of the rudiments of all its possible varieties and divisions in every stage of human being
Society is many and is one; and the organic unity of the state is to be reconciled with the separate existence of each of its members.
Law which restrains all, and freedom which adheres to each individual, and the mediation which adjusts and connects these two conflicting powers, are ever present as constituent ingredients; each of which, in its due proportion
is essential to the well being of a state, and is
ruinous when it passes its bounds.
It has been said that the world is governed too much; no statesman has ever said that there should be no government at all. Anarchy is at one extreme, and the pantheistic despotism, which is the absorption of the people into one man as the sovereign, at the other.
All governments contain the two opposite tendencies; and were either attraction or repulsion, central power or individuality, to disappear, civil order would be crushed or dissolved.
The state has always for its life-giving principle the idea of right; the condition of facts can never perfectly represent that idea; and unless this antagonism also is reconciled, no durable constitution can be formed, and government totters of itself to its fall, or is easily overthrown.
Here, then, is another cause of division; one party clings to the bequests of the past, and another demands reform; the fanatics for conservatism are met by enthusiasts for ideal freedom, while there is always an effort to bring the established order into a nearer harmony with the eternal law of justice.
These principles have manifested their power in every country in every stage of its existence, and must be respected, or society will perish in chaotic confusion or a stagnant calm.
The duty of impartiality in accounting for political conflicts, is then made easy, if behind every party there lies what an English poet has called ‘an eternal thought,’ and if the generating cause of every party, past, or present, or hereafter possible, is a force which is never absent, which in its proper proportion is essential to the wellbeing of society, and which turns
into a poison only in its excess.
It may take a di-
versity of names as it comes into flower respectively among savages or the civilized, in kingdoms, in empires, or in republics; and yet every party has an honest origin in human nature and the necessities of life in a community.
To fail in impartiality with regard to men, is not merely at variance with right; it is also sure to defeat itself.
The fame which shines only in an eclipse of that of others, is necessarily transitory; the eclipse soon passes away and the brighter light recovers its lustre.
The fond biographer who constructs the road to the monument of his idol over the graves of the reputation of great men, will find the best part of his race refusing to travel it. Besides, superior merit, to be discerned, must be surrounded by the meritorious; the glory of the noblest genius of his age would be sacrificed by detraction from the ability of his antagonists, his competitors, and his associates.
Real worth delights to be environed by the worthy; it is serene, and can be duly estimated only by the serene; the chord of human sympathy does not vibrate to eulogy that grates with malignity.
The idea of humanity, which, by its ever increasing clearness, furnishes the best evidence of the steady melioration of the race, teaches to judge with equity the reciprocal relations of states.
The free development of all inherent powers is the common aim, and the acknowledgment of the universal right to that free development is the bond of unity.
Between Britain and the new empire which she founded, the duty of impartiality belongs equally to the men of the two countries; but experience has shown that it is practised
with most difficulty by those of the parent land.
moral world knows only one rule of right; but men in their pride create differences among themselves.
The ray from the eternal fountain of justice suffers a deflection, as it falls from absolute princes on their subjects, from an established church on heretics, from masters of slaves on men in bondage, from hereditary nobles on citizens and peasants, from a privileged caste on an oppressed one.
Something of this perverseness of pride has prevailed in the metropolitan state towards its colonies; it is stamped indelibly on the statute book of Great Britain
, where all may observe and measure its intensity.
That same pride ruled without check in the palace, and was little restrained in the house of lords: it broke forth in the conduct of the administration and its subordinates; it tinged the British
colonial state papers of the last century so thoroughly, that historians who should follow them implicitly as guides, would be as erroneous in their facts as the ministers of that day were in their policy.
This haughty feeling has so survived the period of revolutionary strife, that even now it sometimes hangs as a heavy bias on the judgment even of Englishmen professing liberal opinions.
more easily recovered their equanimity.
They intended resistance to a trifling tax and a preamble, and they won peace with liberty; the vastness of the acquisition effaced the remembrance of a transient attempt at oppression, and left no rankling discontent behind.
The tone of our writers has often been deferentially forbearing; those of our countrymen who have written most fully of the war of our revolution, brought to their task no prejudices against England
and while they gladly recall the relations of kindred,
no one of them has written a line with gall.
Nor are citizens of a republic most tempted to evil speaking of kings and nobles; it takes men of the privileged class to scandalize their peers and princes without stint.
The shameless slanders which outrage nature in the exaggerations of the profligacy of courts have usually originated within palaces, and been repeated by men of rank;--American writers have no motive to take them up; the land of equality recognises sovereigns and aristocrats as men, and places them under the protection of the tribunal of humanity.
, entering most reluctantly on a war with Britain, preserved an instinctive feeling, that the relations of affinity were suspended rather than destroyed; they held themselves called to maintain ‘the rights of mankind,’ the liberties of the English
people, as well as their own; they never looked upon the transient ministers who were their oppressors as the type of the parent country.
The moment approaches when the king proclaimed his irrevocable decision; to understand that decision it is necessary to state with precision the question at issue.
The administration of numerous colonies, each of which had a representative government of its own, was conducted with inconvenience from a want of unity; in war, experience showed a difficulty in obtaining proportionate aid from them all; in peace, the crown officers were impatient of owing their support to the periodical votes of colonial legislatures.
To remedy this seeming evil by a concentration of
the Second usurped all authority over
the country north of the Potomac
, and designed to consolidate and govern it by his own despotic will.
The revolution of 1688 restored to the colonies their representative governments, and the collision between the crown officers and the colonial legislatures was renewed; threats of parliamentary intervention were sometimes heard; but for nearly three quarters of a century no minister had been willing to gratify the pertinacious entreaties of placemen by disturbing America in the enjoyment of her liberties.
Soon after the accession of George the Third, the king, averse to governing so many prosperous and free and loyal colonies by consent, resolved, through the paramount power of parliament, to introduce a new colonial system, which Halifax
, and especially Charles Townshend
, had matured, and which was to have sufficient vigor to control the unwilling.
First: the charter governments were to be reduced to one uniform direct dependence on the king, by the abolition of the jurisdiction of the proprietaries in Maryland
, and by the alteration or repeal of the charters of Massachusetts
, and Rhode Island
Secondly: for the pay of the crown officers, the British parliament was to establish in each colony a permanent civil list, independent of the assemblies, so that every branch of the judicial and executive government should be wholly of the king's appointment and at the king's will.
Thirdly: the British parliament was, by its own act of taxation, to levy on the colonies a revenue towards maintaining their military establishment.
, as the head
of the board of trade, was unfolding the plan in the
house of commons just before Bute
The execution of the design fell to George Grenville
conceived himself to be a whig of the straitest sect, for he believed implicitly in the absolute power of parliament, and this belief he regarded as the great principle of the revolution of 1688.
He was pleased with the thought of moulding the whole empire into closer unity by means of parliamentary taxation; but he also preserved some regard for vested rights, and this forbade him to consent to a wilful abrogation of charters.
complained to him that a civil list raised by the British parliament would reduce the colonial assemblies to a nullity; Grenville
saw the justice of the objection, disclaimed the purpose, dropped that part of the plan also, and proposed to confine the use of the parliamentary revenue to the expenses of the military establishment.
The colonists again interposed with the argument, that by the theory of the British constitution, taxation and representation are inseparable correlatives; to this Grenville
listened and answered, that the whole empire was represented collectively, though not distributively, in parliament as the common council; but that, as even in Britain some reform by an increase of the number of voters was desirable, so taxation of the colonies ought to be followed by a special colonial representation; and, with this theory of constitutional law, he passed the stamp act.
When a difference at court drove Grenville
from office, his theory lost its importance, for no party in England
undertook its support.
new ministers by whom his colonial policy was to be
changed, had the option between repealing the tax as an act of justice to the colonies, or repealing it as a measure of expediency to Britain.
The first was the choice of Pitt
, and its adoption would have ended the controversy; the second was that of Rockingham
He abolished the tax, and sent over assurances of his friendship; but his declaratory act established as the rule for the judiciary and the law of the empire, that the legislative power of parliament reached to the colonies in all cases whatsoever.
This declaration opened the whole question of the nature of representation, and foreshadowed a revolution or peaceful reform in America
and in England
In 1688 the assertion of the paramount power of parliament against a king, who would have sequestered all legislative liberty, was a principle of freedom; but in the eighteenth century, the assertion of the absolute power of a parliament acting in concert with the king was to frame an instrument of tyranny.
The colonies denied the unqualified authority of a legislature in which they were not represented; and when they were told that they were as much represented as nine tenths of the people of Britain, the discussions which followed awakened the British
people from that day to complain unceasingly of the inadequate composition of a parliament, in whose election nine tenths of them had no voice whatever.
The agitation of reform for England
was long deferred; the question was precipitated upon America
In the very next year, Charles Townshend
, resuming the system which he had advocated in the administration
, proposed a parliamentary tax to be
collected in America
on tea, glass, paper, and painters' colors, and introduced the tax by a preamble, asserting that ‘it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in his majesty's dominions in America
for defraying the charge of the administration of justice and support of civil government, and towards further defraying the expenses of defending the said dominions.’
had proposed taxes for the defence of the colonies; Townshend
's preamble promised an ever increasing American civil list, independent of American assemblies, to be disposed of by ministers at their discretion for salaries, gifts, or pensions.
Here lay the seeds of a grievance indefinite in its extent, taking from the colonies all control over public officers, and menacing an absolute government to be administered for the benefit of office holders, without regard to the rights, and liberties, and welfare of the people.
Just as Townshend
had intrenched the system in the statute book, he died, and left behind him no great English statesman for its steadfast upholder; while the colonies were unanimous in resisting the innovation, and at once avoided the taxes by agreements to stop imports from Britain.
The government gave way, and repealed all Townshend
's taxes except on tea. Of that duty Lord North
maintained that it was no innovation, but a reduction of the ancient duty of a shilling a pound to one of threepence only; and that the change of the place where the duty was to be collected, was no more than a regulation of trade to prevent smuggling tea from Holland
so far as the tax was concerned, was unanswer-
able; but the sting of the tax act lay in its preamble: Rockingham
's declaratory act affirmed the power of parliament in all cases whatsoever; Townshend
's preamble declared the expediency of using that power to raise a very large colonial revenue.
Still collision was practically averted, for the Americans
, in their desire for peace, gave up the importation of tea. No revenue, therefore, was collected; and by resolute self-denial, the colonies escaped the mark of the brand which was to show whose property they were.
At this the king, against the opinion of Lord North and of the East India Company, directed that company itself to export tea to America
, and there to pay the duty, hoping that a low price would tempt Americans
to buy. But the colonists would not suffer the tea to be exposed for sale; the crown officers yielded to their unanimous resistance, every where except at Boston
, and there the tea was thrown overboard.
To close the port of Boston
and require an indemnity for the East India Company's loss, was the advice of Hutchinson
, and neither New York, nor Pennsylvania
, nor Virginia
would have supported a refusal to such a requisition; but the king and the Bedford
party seized the occasion to carry into effect part of their cherished system, and changed by act of parliament the charter granted by William and Mary to Massachusetts
The object of the change was the compression of popular power in favor of the prerogative.
The measure could bring no advantage to Britain and really had nothing to recommend it;
to the people of Massachusetts
and to the people of
all the colonies, submission to the change seemed an acknowledgment of the absolute power of parliament over liberty and property in America
The people of Massachusetts
resisted: the king answered, ‘blows must decide.’
A congress of the colonies approved the conduct of Massachusetts
; parliament pledged itself to the king.
In 1773 a truce was possible; after the alteration of the charter of Massachusetts
, in 1774, America would have been pacified by a simple repeal of obnoxious acts; in 1775, after blood had been shed at Lexington
, some security for the future was needed.
British statesmen of all schools but Chatham
's, affirmed the power of parliament to tax America; America denied that it could be rightfully taxed by a body in which it was not represented, for taxation and representation were inseparable.
British politicians rejoined, that taxation was but an act of legislation; that, therefore, to deny to parliament the right of taxation, was to deny to parliament all right of legislation for the colonies, even for the regulation of trade.
To this America
made answer that, in reason and truth, representation and legislation are inseparable; that the colonies, being entitled to English freedom, were not bound by any act of a body to which they did not send members; that in theory the colonies were independent of the British parliament; but as they honestly desired to avoid a conflict, they proposed as a fundamental or an organic act their voluntary submission to every parliamentary diminution of their liberty which time had sanctioned,
including the navigation acts and taxes for regulating
trade, on condition of being relieved from every part of the new system of administration and being secured against future attempts for its introduction.
, the agent of congress, was in London
with its petition to the king, to entreat his concurrence in this endeavor to restore peace and union.