The Treasury enter a Minute for an American Stamp tax—ministry of Grenville
The savage warfare was relentlessly raging when the
young statesman to whom the forms of office had referred the subject of the colonies, was devising plans for organizing governments in the newly acquired territories.
Of an Irish family, and an Irish as well as an English peer, Shelburne naturally inclined to limit the legislative authority of the parliament of Great Britain over the outlying dominions of the crown.
The world already gave him credit for great abilities; he had just been proposed to supersede Egremont
in the department of state, and, except the lawyers who had been raised to the peerage, he was the best speaker in the House of Lords.
For a moment the destinies of America
hung upon his judgment.
For the eastern boundary of New England
burne hesitated between the Penobscot
and the St. Croix
; on the north-east he adopted the crest of the water shed dividing the streams tributary to the St. Lawrence river
from those flowing into the Bay of Fundy
, or the Atlantic Ocean
, or the Gulf
of the St.
, south of Cape Rosieres, designating the line
with precision on a map, which is still preserved.1
At the south, the boundary of Georgia
was extended to its present line.
, General Murray
to make a military colony, and to include the west within its jurisdiction, in order to overawe — the older colonies, and keep them in fear and submission.
Against this project Shelburne desired to restrict3
the government of Canada
within narrower limits, and to bound it on the west by a line drawn from the intersection of the parallel of forty-five degrees north with the St. Lawrence
to the east end of Lake Nipising.
This advice was promptly rejected by the imperative Earl
who insisted on including in the new province all the great lakes and all the Ohio valley
to the Mississippi
; but Shelburne5
resolutely enforced his opinion, which, for the time, prevailed,6
and the plan of intimidating America by a military colony at its north and west was deferred.
With regard to ‘the mode of revenue least burthensome and most palatable to the colonies, whereby they were to contribute to the additional expense which must attend the civil and military establishments adopted on the present occasion,’ Shelburne
gave warning that it was a ‘point of the highest im-
and declined to implicate himself in the plans for taxing America.8
This refusal on the part of Shelburne
neither diminished the stubborn eagerness of Egremont
nor delayed the action of the treasury department; and. as it had been decided that America
was to be taxed by parliament to defray the additional expense of its military establishment, it belonged to Jenkinson
, the principal Secretary of the Treasury
, from the nature of his office, to prepare the business for consideration.9 Grenville
would have esteemed himself unpardonable if he could have even thought of such a measure as the stamp act, without previously making every possible inquiry into the condition of America
In addition to the numerous public reports and correspondence, information was sought from men who were esteemed in England
as worthy of trust in all situations, and the exaggerated accounts given by the officers who had been employed in America
, dispelled every
doubt of its ability to bear a part in the national
, one of the triumvirate, had had the experience of nine years in administering the affairs of the colonies, and for nearly as long had been fixed in his opinions, that parliament must intervene to raise a revenue.
, his colleague, selected, as his confidential friend, Ellis
, a favorite of Halifax
, and for several years Governor of Georgia
; a statesman and man of letters, esteemed as one of the ablest men that had been employed in America
, of whose interests he made pretensions to a thorough knowledge.
He had no small share in introducing the new system, and bore away sinecure offices for his reward.
, a crown officer in North Carolina
, and agent for an English company concerned in a purchase of more than a million acres of land in that province, a man who had influence enough to gain an office from the crown for his son, with seats in the council for his son and nephew, furnished Jenkinson
with a brief state of the taxes usually raised in the old settled colonies, and assured him that a stamp tax on the continental colonies would, at a moderate computation, produce sixty thousand pounds per annum, and twice that sum if extended to the West Indies
He also renewed the proposition which he had made
eight years before to Halifax
, for gaining an imperial revenue by issuing exchequer bills for the general use of America
But before the bill for the American
tax was ordered to be prepared, Egremont
was no longer Secretary of State
, nor Shelburne
at the head of the Board of Trade.
The triumvirate ministry, ‘the three Horatii,’
‘the ministerial Cerberus
as they were called, al-
though too fond of office to perceive their own weakness, had neither popularity, nor weight in parliament, nor the favor of the court.
To strengthen his government, the king, conforming to the views sketched by Bute in the previous April,15
but against the positive and repeated advice16
of his three ministers, directed Egremont
to invite Lord Hardwicke to enter the cabinet, as President
of the Council.
‘It is impossible for me,’ said Hardwicke
, at an interview on the first day of August,17
‘to accept an employment, whilst all my friends are out of court.’18
‘The king,’ said Egremont
, ‘cannot bring himself to submit to take in a party in gross, or an opposition party.’
‘A king of England
,’ answered Hardwicke
, ‘at the head of a popular government, especially as of late the popular scale has grown heavier, will sometimes find it necessary to bend and ply a little; not as being forced, but as submitting to the stronger reason, for the sake of himself and his government.
King William, hero as he was, found himself obliged to this conduct; so had other princes before him, and so did his majesty's grandfather, King George the Second, who thanked me for advising him to it.’19
The wise answer of the illustrious jurist was reported
to the king, who, disregarding the most earnest
dissuasions of Grenville
, desired ten days for reflection, on which Grenville
went into the country to await the decision.
But on Wednesday, the third, Halifax
, with Egremont
at his side, harangued the king for half an hour, pressing him, on the instant, to resolve either to support his administration or to form another from their adversaries.
turned this in all the ways that eloquence could dictate or invent, yet without extorting any answer whatever; and when he said, that surely the king could not mean to take into his service the whole body of the opposition and yield to the invasion of those he had detested, the usual disclaiming of such a purpose was also suppressed.20
The angry Egremont
spoke to the same effect, and the king still preserved absolute silence.
‘Behavior so insulting and uncivil,’ said Egremont
, ‘I never knew nor conceive could be held to two gentlemen.’
Yet the king had only remained silent on a subject on which he had reserved to himself ten days before coming to a decision; and it was his ministers, whose questions were insulting, uncivil, and impertinent.
Instead of hastily resigning,21 Egremont
was ready to concert with Grenville
how to maintain themselves in office in spite of the king's wishes, by employing ‘absolute necessity and fear.’22
It is not strange that the discerning king wished to be rid of Egremont
To that end Shelburne
, who was opposed to Egremont
's schemes of colonial government, was commissioned to propose a coalition between
on the one side, and the Duke
on the other.
The anger of Bedford
towards Bute, for having Aug. communicated to the French
minister the instructions given him during his embassy, had ripened into a stiff, irrevocable hatred.
He was therefore willing to enter the ministry25
on condition of Bute's absence from the king's counsels and presence, and Pitt
's concurrence in a coalition of parties and the maintenance of the present relations with France
was willing to treat,27
had no objection to a coalition of parties, and could not but acquiesce in the peace, now that it was once made; but Bedford
had been his strongest opponent in the cabinet, had contributed to force him into retirement, and had negotiated the treaty which he had so earnestly arraigned.
to have accepted office with Bedford
would have been a marked adoption of the peace, alike glaringly inconsistent with his declared opinions and his engagements with the great Whig families28
So ended the attempt to supersede Egremont
, with Bedford
in the vacant chair of President
of the Council.
For a day or two the king hesitated, and had to endure the very long and tedious speeches of Grenville
on the inconvenience of sacrificing his ministry.29
have fully considered upon your long discourse on the Friday
’ said he to his minister on Sunday the twentyfirst; ‘by your advice I mean to conduct myself.
It is necessary to restrain the licentiousness of the times; if I suffer force to be put upon me by the opposition, the mob will try to govern me next;’30
and he decided to stand by the ministry.
But, just at that moment, news came that Egremont
was dying of a stroke of apoplexy.
The place of secretary now seemed to await Pitt
‘Your majesty has three options,’ said Grenville
; ‘to strengthen the hands of the present ministry, or to mingle them with a coalition, or to throw the government entirely into the hands of Pitt
and his friends.’
‘To the last,’ said the king, ‘I never will consent.’31
, who hated and despised32 George Grenville
, came to town.
‘Your government,’ said he to the king, ‘cannot stand; you must send to Mr. Pitt
and his friends.’
heard this, he was overwhelmed with consternation and rage.
His anger towards the Duke
became unappeasable; and he never forgave him the advice.
It was the interest of Bute to see Pitt
at the head of affairs, for Pitt
alone had opposed him as a minister without animosity towards him as a man. They who had sided with him when in power, now so dreaded
to share his unpopularity, that they made a parade of
proscribing him, and wished not only to deprive him of influence, but to exile him from the court and from Westminster
He, therefore desired, and long ugcontinued to desire, to see Pitt
in office, of whose personal magnanimity he was sure.
The wish was inconsistent with the politics of the times; but the moment was one when parties in England
, though soon to be consolidated, were as yet in a nebulous state, and very many of the time-serving public men, even Charles Townshend
himself, were entirely at fault.
The real option lay between a government by the more liberal aristocracy under popular influence as its guide, and an administration on new principles independent of both.
The king appeared on that occasion as the moderator between factions; and informed Grenville
of his intention to call Pitt
to the management of his affairs, yet with as few changes as possible.34
On Saturday the twenty-seventh, Grenville
went to the king and found Pitt
's servants waiting in the court.
He passed two long hours of agony and bitterness in the antechamber, incensed and humiliated, on finding himself at the mercy of the brother-in-law whom he had betrayed.
The king, in his interview with Pitt
, proceeded upon the plan of defeating faction by a coalition of parties; and offered the Great Commoner his old place of Secretary of State
. ‘I cannot abandon the friends who have stood by me,’ said Pitt
, and he declined to accept office without them.
‘Do you think it possible for me,’ answered the king, ‘to give up
those who have served me faithfully and devoted
themselves to me’ ‘The reproach,’ answered Pitt
, ‘will light on your ministers, and not on yourself.
It is fit to break the present government, which is not founded on true revolution principles;’ and he showed the .principles which he wished should rule, by insists ing on excluding Lord Mansfield from the cabinet, and proposing Pratt
for a peerage.
Nor did he fail to comment on the infirmities of the peace as ‘dishonorable, dangerous and criminal;’ and to declare that ‘the Duke
should have no efficient office whatever.’
He would restore to the king's council the men of the great Whig families, who, like himself, had been driven from power, yet not as a party to triumph over the prerogative.
The king preserved his self-possession, combated several of these demands, said now and then that his honor must be consulted,35
and reserved his decision till a second interview.36
, after his long and anxious
suspense, was called in, he could think only of his griefs, pleading his adhesion to the king, on Pitt
's leaving the cabinet in 1761; the barbarous usage he had in consequence received from his family; the assurances given at that time by Bute, that his honor should be the king's honor, his disgrace the king's disgrace.
The king bowing to him, stopped his complaints by observing, ‘It is late;’ and as the afflicted minister was leaving him, said only ‘Good morrow, Mr. Greenville
, good morrow, Mr. Greenville
,’ for he never called him by his right name.
, who had himself attained a kind of royalty, and was ever mindful to support his own majesty,37
pleased himself with seeing the great Whig families at his heels; or, which is more probable, aware that the actual ministry could not go on, was himself deceived by his own presumptuously hopeful nature into a belief that those who made the overture must carry it through, he summoned Newcastle
, and Hardwicke38
to come to London
as his council.
From his own point of view, there was no unreasonableness39
in his demands.
But to the court it seemed otherwise.
On Sunday evening Grenville
found the king in the greatest agitation.
‘Rather than submit to the hard terms proposed by Pitt
,’ said he, ‘I would die in the room I now stand in.’40
Early in the morning of the twenty-ninth, Bute, through Beckford
, urged Pitt
to be content with filling up the places of the two Secretaries of State
, and putting
a neutral person at the head of the Treasury, in-
stead of Lord Temple.41
The message was an announcement to Pitt
that his system was rejected; and the great commoner stood forewarned in the presence of his sovereign.
The audience lasted nearly two hours. The king proposed Halifax
for the Treasury: Pitt
was willing he should have the Paymaster
‘But I had designed that,’ said the king, ‘for poor George Grenville
; he is your own relation, and you once loved him.’
To this the only answer was a low bow. The king as a lure named Temple
to be at the head of the Treasury.
‘That,’ said Pitt
, ‘is essential;’ but he still insisted on a thorough change of administration.
‘Well, Mr. Pitt
,’ said the king, ‘I see this won't do. My honor is concerned, and I must support it.’42
A government formed out of the minority who had opposed the peace, seemed to the king an offence to his conscience and a wound to his honor.43
‘The House of Commons,’ said Pitt
, on taking leave, ‘will not force me upon your majesty, and I will never come into your service against your consent.’44
Events now shaped themselves.
First of all, Bute, having disobliged all sides, went to the country with the avowed purpose of absolute retirement.
His retreat was his own act;45
and not a condition to be made the basis of a new ministry.
As his only protection against the Duke
, he desired
might be armed with every degree of
Next Lord Shelburne withdrew from office, and remained ever the firmest friend of Pitt
, giving an example of the utmost fidelity of attachment.
At the same time Bedford
doubly irritated at being proscribed47
by the very statesman whom he had proposed to the king as minister, promised for himself and, as a consequence, for his numerous and powerful connection, to support the present system in all its parts.48
The king entreated him to take a place in the administration.
, too, smothering alike his hatred and his fears, urged him to preside in the council.
, though personally indifferent to office, now that Bute had gone into retreat, under the influence of his friends, especially of Sandwich
who became Secretary of State
, accepted the post which was pressed upon him.
The union of the Bedford
party and of Grenville
, was, said Pitt
, ‘a treaty of connivance;’ Lord Melcombe said, ‘It is all for quarter day;’ but it was more.
From seemingly accidental causes, there arose within ten days out of a state of great uncertainty, a compact and well cemented ministry.
The king, in forming it, stood on the solid ground of the constitution.
The last great question in parliament was on the peace; and was carried in its favor by an overwhelming majority.
The present ministers had made or supported that peace, and so were in harmony with
There was a coincidence of opinion be-
tween them and the king; but there was not one of them all whom the king could claim as his own personal friend.
If the ministry was too little favorable to liberty, the fault lay in the system on which parliament was organized; it was undoubtedly a fair and adequate representation of the British constitution, and needed nothing but cordial personal union among themselves and with the king to last for a generation.
Of the Secretaries of State
, as the elder, had his choice of departments, and took for himself the Southern
, ‘on account of the Colonies;’49
and the Earl
, like Shelburne
an Irish as well as an English Peer, was placed at the head of the Board of Trade.
One and the same spirit was at work on each side of the Atlantic
From Boston Bernard
urged anew the establishment of a sufficient and independent civil list—out of which enlarged salaries were to be paid to the crown officers.
And while he acknowledged that ‘the compact between the king and the people was in no colony better observed than in that of the Massachusetts Bay
,’ that ‘its people in general were well satisfied with their subordination to Great Britain
,’ that ‘their former prejudices which made them otherwise disposed, were wholly or almost wholly worn off,’ he nevertheless railed at ‘the unfortunate error in framing the government, to leave the council to be elected annually.’
He advised either a council ‘resembling as near as possible the House of Lords;’ its members to be appointed for life, with some title,
as Baronet or Baron
, composed of people of conse-
quence, willing to look up to the king for honor and authority.
A permanent civil list, independent of colonial appropriations, an aristocratic middle legislative power, and a Court of Chancery—these were the subjects of the very earnest recommendation of Bernard
to the British
On the extension of the British
frontier by the cession of Canada
, and the consequent security of the interior, New-England
towns, under grants from Wentworth
, the Governor
, rose up on both sides of the Connecticut
, and extended to the borders of Lake Champlain
coveted the lands, and under its old charter to the Duke
, had long disputed with NewHamp-shire the jurisdiction of the country west of Connecticut River
The British government had hitherto regarded the contest with indifference; but Colden
now urged the Board of Trade to annex to New-York
all of Massachusetts
and of New-Hampshire
west of the Connecticut River
. ‘The New-England
Governments,’ he reasoned, ‘are all formed on republican principles, and those principles are zealously inculcated in the minds of their youth.
The government of New-York
, on the contrary, is established as nearly as may be after the model of the English Constitution
Can it, then, be good policy to diminish the extent of jurisdiction in his majesty's province of New-York
, to extend the power and influence of the
Little was the issue of this fatal advice
was in danger of an essential violation of its charter with regard to one branch of its legislature, the Assembly of South Carolina was engaged in a long contest for ‘that most essential privilege, solely to judge and finally determine the validity of the election of their own members;’ for Boone
, the governor, claimed exclusive authority to administer the required oaths, and on occasion of administering them, assumed the power to reject members whom the House
declared duly elected and returned, ‘thereby taking upon himself to be the sole judge of elections.’52
The ‘arbitrary and imperious’ governor was too clearly in the wrong to be sustained;53
but the controversy which had already continued for a twelvemonth, and was now at its height, lasted long enough to train the statesmen of South Carolina
to systematical opinions on the rights of their legislature, and of the king's power in matters of their privilege.
The details of the colonial administration belonged to Halifax
No sooner was the ministry definitively established, than Grenville
, as the head of the treasury, proceeded to redeem the promise made to the House of Commons of an American revenue.
The revenue from the customs in America
could by no means produce a sufficient fund to meet the expenses of its military establishment.
On the morning of the twenty-second day of Sep
tember, three lords of the treasury, George Grenville
, Lord North, and one Hunter
who completed the number requisite for the transaction of business, held a board in the room set apart for their use in Downingstreet, and, without any hesitancy or discussion, they adopted a minute directing Jenkinson
, the First Secretary of the Treasury
, to ‘write to the Commissioners
of the Stamp Duties
to prepare the draft of a bill to be presented to parliament for extending the stamp duties to the colonies.’54
The very next day, Jenkinson
accordingly wrote to the commissioners, desiring them ‘to transmit to him the draft of an act for imposing proper stamp duties upon his majesty's subjects in America
and the West Indies
Who was the author of the American
At a later day, Jenkinson
assured the House of Commons that, ‘if the stamp act was a good measure, the merit of it was not due to Grenville
; if it was a bad one, the ill policy did not belong to him;’ but he never confessed to the house where the blame or the merit could rest more justly.
In his late old age he delighted to converse freely, with the son he loved best, on every topic connected with his long career, save only on the one subject, of the contest
On that, and on that alone, he main
tained an inflexible and total silence.
He never was heard even to allude to it. But, though Jenkinson
proposed the American
tax, while private secretary to Bute, and brought it with him into the treasury for adoption by Bute's successor, he was but a subordinate without power of direction or a seat in council, and cannot bear the responsibility of the measure.
Nor does the final responsibility attach to Bute;56
for the ministry had forced him into absolute retirement, and would not have listened to his advice in the smallest matter; nor to the king, for though the king approved the stamp tax and wished it to be adopted, he exerted no influence to control his ministry on the occasion; and besides, the ministry boasted of being free from sycophancy to the court.
, one of the lords of the treasury, who ordered the minute, was but a cipher; and Lord North, who supported the stamp act, himself told the House of Commons that he took the propriety of passing it very much upon the authority of Grenville
From the days of King William there was a steady line of precedents of opinion that America
should, like Ireland
, provide in whole, or at least in part, for the support of its military establishment.
It was one of the first subjects of consideration on the organization of the Board of Trade.58
It again employed the attention of the servants of Queen Anne.
It was still more seriously considered in the days of George the First; and when, in the reign of
George the Second, the Duke
the head of American military affairs, it was laid down as a principle, that a revenue sufficient for the purpose must be provided.
The ministry of Bute resolved to provide such a revenue; for which Charles Townshend
pledged the government.
Parliament wished it.59
The king wished it.60
Almost all sorts and conditions of men repeatedly wished it.61
was to be compelled to contribute this revenue remained a question.
For half a century or more, the king had sent executive orders or requisitions.
But if requisitions were made, each colonial legislature claimed a right of freely deliberating upon them; and as the colonies were divided into nearly twenty different governments, it was held that they never would come to a common result.
The need of some principle of union, of some central power was asserted.
To give the military chief a dictatorial authority to require subsistence for the army, was suggested by the Board of Trade in 1696, in the days of King William and of Locke
; was more deliberately planned in 1721; was apparently favored by Cumberland
, and was one of the arbitrary proposals put aside by Pitt
To claim the revenue through a congress of the colonies, was at one time the plan of Halifax; but if the congress was of governors, their decision would be only consultatory, and have no more weight than royal instructions; and if the congress was a representative
body, it would claim and exercise the right of free
To demand a revenue by instructions Sept. from the king, and to enforce them by stringent coercive measures, was beyond the power of the prerogatisve, under the system established at the revolution.
had failed to make appropriations for the civil service, a bill was prepared to be laid before parliament, giving the usual revenue; and this bill having received the approbation of the great whig lawyers, Northey
, was the precedent which overcame Grenville
's scruples about taxing the colonies without first allowing them representatives.62
It was settled then that there must be a military establishment in America
of twenty regiments; that after the first year its expenses must be defrayed by America
; that the American
colonies themselves, with their various charters, never would agree to vote such a revenue, and that parliament must do it.
It remained to consider what tax parliament should impose.
And here all agreed that the first object of taxation was foreign and intercolonial commerce.
But that, under the navigation acts, would not produce enough.
A poll tax was common in America
; but, applied by parliament, would fall unequally upon the colonies holding slaves.
The difficulty in collecting quit-rents, proved that a land tax would meet with formidable obstacles.
An excise was thought of, but kept in reserve.
An issue of exchequer bills to be kept in circulation as the currency of the continent, was urged on the ministry, but conflicted with the policy of acts of parliament against the use of paper money in the colonies.
who reasoned on the subject, decided for
a stamp tax, as certain of collection; and in America
, where lawsuits were frequent, as likely to be very productive.
A stamp act had been proposed to Sir St. Robert Walpole
; it had been thought of by Pelham
; it had been almost resolved upon in 1755; it had been pressed upon Pitt
; it seems beyond a doubt to have been a part of the system adopted in the ministry of Bute, and was sure of the support of Charles Townshend
, the agent of Georgia
, stood ready to defend the stamp act, as least liable to objection.
The agent of Massachusetts
, through his brother, Israel Mauduit
, who had Jenkinson
for his fast friend and often saw Grenville
, favored raising the wanted money in that way, because it would occasion less expense of officers, and would include the West India Islands
and speaking for his constituents, he made a merit of cheerful ‘submission’ to the ministerial policy.
One man in Grenville
's office, and one man only, did indeed give him sound advice; Richard Jackson
of the Exchequer, advised him to lay the project aside, and refused to take any part in preparing or supporting it. But Jenkinson
, his Secretary of the Treasury
, was ready to render
every assistance, and weighed more than the honest
and independent Jackson
the measure which was ‘devolved upon him,’ and his memory must consent, as he himself consented, that it should be ‘christened by his name.’67
It was certainly Grenville
, ‘who first brought this scheme into form.’68
He doubted the propriety of taxing colonies, without allowing them representatives;69
but he loved power, and placed his chief hopes on the favor of parliament; and the parliament of that day contemplated the increased debt of England
with terror, knew not that the resources of the country were increasing in a still greater proportion, and insisted on throwing a part of the public burdens upon America