The twelfth parliament of Great Britain passes the American Stamp
tax.—Grenville's administration continued.
at the opening of the year 1765, the people of New England
were reading the history of the first sixty years of the Colony of Massachusetts
, by Hutchinson
This work is so ably executed that as yet it remains without a rival; and his knowledge was so extensive, that, with the exception of a few concealments, it exhausts the subject.
Nothing so much revived the ancestral spirit, which a weariness of the gloomy superstitions, mixed with Puritanism, had, for a long time, overshadowed.
But now all hearts ran together in the study of the character of New England
's fathers; and liberty became the dearer as men read at large through what sorrow, and self-denial, and cost of life it had been purchased.
seemed summoned to play a great part in the history of the world.
‘I always,’ said John Adams
, ‘consider the settlement of America
with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence
for the illumination of
the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part
of mankind all over the earth.’1
This vision was drawing near its fulfilment.
Afraid to meet parliament on the naked proposal of the expediency of taxing America, Grenville
, with consummate art, resolved to place it ‘upon the most general and acknowledged grounds of whig Policy.’2
The king, therefore, on opening the session on the tenth of January, most wisely for the immediate gain of great majorities by his ministry, most unwisely for his own peace and the welfare of his realm, presented the American
question as one of ‘obedience to the laws and respect for the legislative authority of the kingdom.’
The raising such a question was dangerous in the extreme; if passed by undecided, it must leave the administration of the colonies in confusion; if denied, it must heighten their daring; if asserted, it must wound their affections beyond remedy.
The words of the king were echoed by the Lords
and by the Commons, with the promise of that ‘temper and firmness which would best conciliate due submission and reverence.’3
The ministry were confident of a triumphant session and confirmed power.
The impending measure drew attention from all quarters.
In private, the arguments of America
were urged with persuasive earnestness.
found that America
was in their debt to the amount of four millions of pounds sterling.
sought to relieve their fears by the profuse offer of
bounties to the Americans
, as offsets to the intended
‘If one bounty,’ said he to them, ‘will not do, I will add two; if two will not do, I will add three.’5
He wished to act smoothly in the matter; but he was firmly resolved ‘to establish as undoubted the authority of the British
legislature in all cases whatsoever.’
The purpose found its warmest advocate in Charles Townshend
In the debates on the forces to be kept up in the navy and the army, he spoke for the largest numbers; ‘for the colonies,’ said he, ‘are not to be emancipated.’6
was more obstinate and more cool,
abounding in gentle words.
The agents of the colonies had several meetings among themselves; and on Saturday, the second of February, Franklin
, with Ingersoll
, as agents for Pennsylvania
, and South Carolina
, waited on the minister, to remonstrate in behalf of America
, against taxation of the colonies by parliament, and to propose, that if they were to be taxed, they might be invited to tax themselves.
‘I take no pleasure,’ replied he, ‘in bringing upon myself their resentments: it is the duty of my office to manage the revenue.
I have really been made to believe that, considering the whole circumstances of the mother country and the colonies, the latter can and ought to pay something to the common cause.
I know of no better way than that now pursuing to lay such tax. If you can tell of a better, I will adopt it.’
pleaded for the usual
method, by the king's requisition, through the Secre-
tary of State; and he put into his hands the pledge, of Pennsylvania
to respect the demand when so made.
‘Can you agree,’ rejoined Grenville
, ‘on the proportions each colony should raise’ To this they could only answer, no; on which he remarked, that the stamp act would adapt itself to the number and increase of the colonies.
pointed out the danger to the liberties of the colonies, when the crown should have a civil list and support for a standing army from their money, independent of their assemblies.
The assemblies, he thought, would soon cease to be called together.
‘No such thing is intended,’ replied Grenville
warmly, addressing himself to the Americans
‘I have pledged my word for offering the stamp bill to the House
, and I cannot forego it: they will hear all objections, and do as they please.
I wish you may preserve moderation in America
Resentments indecently expressed on one side of the water will naturally produce resentments on the other.
You cannot hope to get any good by a controversy with the mother country.
With respect to this bill, her ears will always be open to every remonstrance expressed in a becoming manner.’
While the Americans
were unwearied in offering objections to the stamp tax, Soame Jenyns, the oldest member of the Board of Trade, published authoritatively the views of his patrons.
He mocked at the ‘absurdity’ of Otis
, and ‘the insolence’ of New-York
‘The arguments of America
,’ said he,
mixed up with patriotic words, such as liberty, property,
and Englishmen, are addressed to the more nu- merous part of mankind, who have ears but no understanding.
The great capital argument, the elephant at the head of this nabob's army, is this: that no Englishman is or can be taxed but by his own consent, or the persons whom he has chosen to represent him. But this is the very reverse of truth; for no man that I know of is taxed by his own consent, least of all an Englishman.
The unfortunate counties which produce cider were taxed without the consent of their repre sentatives; and while every Englishman is taxed, not one in twenty is represented.
Are not the people of Manchester and Birmingham Englishmen?
And are they not taxed?
If every Englishman is represented in parliament, why does not this imaginary representation extend to America?
If it can travel three hundred miles, why not three thousand?
If it can jump over rivers and mountains, why cannot it sail over the ocean?
If Manchester and Birmingham are there represented, why not Albany and Boston?
Are they not Englishmen?
But it is urged, if the privilege of being taxed by the legislative power within itself alone is once given up, that liberty, which every Englishman has a right to, is torn from them; they are all slaves, and all is lost.
But the liberty of an Englishman cannot mean an exemption from taxes imposed by the authority of the parliament of Great Britain.
No charters grant such a privilege to any colony in America; and had they granted it, the grant could have had no force: no charter derived from the crown can possibly supersede the right of the whole legislature.
of the colonies are no more than those of all corpora- tions.
They can no more plead an exemption from parliamentary authority than any other corporation in England.
If it be said, that though parliament may have power to impose taxes on the colonies, they have no right to use it, I shall only make this short reply: that if parliament can impose no taxes but what are equitable—and the persons taxed are to be the judges of that equity, they will in effect have no power to lay any tax at all.
And can any time be more proper to require some assistance from our colonies than when this country is almost undone by procuring their present safety?
Can any time be more proper to impose some tax on their trade, than when they are enabled to rival us in their manufactures by the protection we have given them?
Can any time be more proper to oblige them to settle handsome incomes on their governors, than when we find them unable to procure a subsistence on any other terms than those of breaking all their instructions?
Can there be a more proper time to compel them to fix certain salaries on their judges, than when we see them so dependent on the humors of their assemblies that they can obtain a livelihood no longer than during their bad behavior?
Can there be a more proper time to force them to maintain an army at their expense, than when that army is necessary for their own protection, and we are utterly unable to support it?
Lastly; can there be a more proper time for this mother country to leave off feeding out of her own vitals these children whom she has nursed up, than when they are arrived at such strength and maturity as to be well able to
provide for themselves, and ought rather with filial duty to give some assistance to her distress?
If parliament has a right to tax the colonies, why should this right be exercised with more delicacy in America than it has ever been even in Great Britain itself?
One method, indeed, has been hinted at, and but one, that might render the exercise of this power in a British parliament just and legal, which is the introduction of representatives from the several colonies into that body.
But I have lately seen so many specimens of the great powers of speech of which these American gentlemen are possessed, that I should be afraid the sudden importation of so much eloquence at once would endanger the safety of England.
It will be much cheaper for us to pay their army than their orators.
The right of the legislature of Great Britain to impose taxes on her colonies, and not only the expediency but the absolute necessity of exercising that right, have been so clearly, though concisely, proved, that it is to be hoped all parties and factions, all connections, every member of the British parliament, will most cordially unite to support this measure, which every man who has any property or common sense must approve, and which every English subject ought to require of an English administration.
Thus did the old subordinate of Halifax
with supercilious frankness publish the views which the majority of the cabinet and Charles Townshend
boldly advocated, and which Grenville
dared not openly resist and could never heartily approve.
While his colleagues in the ministry scoffed at the
idea of an American representation, he was resolved
on proposing it indirectly through his subordinate Jackson
; and he refused to take part in raising the army in America
above the civil power.7
But the two branches of the ministry pursued their course, independent of each other, and without discord.
A dispute had arisen in West Florida
between the fiery and half frantic governor, Johnstone8
, and the commanding officer
insisted on the subordination of the military.
The occasion was seized to proclaim its supremacy in America
The continent was divided into a northern and southern district, each with its brigadier, beside a commander-in chief for the whole; and on the morning of Wednesday, the sixth of February, Welbore Ellis
,9 Secretary of War
, who, at the request of Halifax, had taken the king's pleasure on the subject, made known his intention, ‘that the orders of his commander-in-chief, and under him of the brigadiers general commanding in the northern and southern departments, in all military matters, should be supreme, and be obeyed by the troops as such in all the civil governments of America
In the absence, and only in the absence, of the general and of the brigadiers, the civil governor
might give the word.
And these instructions, which concentrated undefined power in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief
, rested, as was pretended, on the words of the commission which Hardwicke
had prepared for governing the troops in time of war.
Such was the sad condition of America
: the king,
the ministry, the crown officers in the colony, all conspiring against her liberties, while she was overflowing with affection for the parent country.
There was no help unless from parliament.
For centuries that body had shone on the world as the star of freedom.
Was it weary of its honors and willing to abdicate its guardianship of human liberty?
At a few hours later, on the same day with the interview of Welbore Ellis
and the king, George Grenville
, in the British
House of Commons, proposed to the Committee of Ways and Means of the whole house, fifty-five resolutions, embracing the details of a stamp act for America
, and making all offences against it cognizable in the Courts
of Admiralty; so that the Americans
were not only to be taxed by the British parliament, but to have the taxes collected arbitrarily under the decrees of British judges, without any trial by jury.
To prove the fitness of the tax, Grenville
argued, that the colonies had a right to demand protection from parliament, and parliament, in return, a right to enforce a revenue from the colonies; that protection implied an army, an army must receive pay, and pay required taxes; that, on the peace, it was found necessary to maintain a body of ten thousand men, at a cost exceeding three hundred thousand pounds, most of which was a new expense; that the duties and taxes already imposed or designed would not yield more than one hundred thousand pounds; so that England
would still have to advance two-thirds of the new expense; that it was reasonable for the colonies to contribute this one-third part of the expense necessary for their own security; that the debt of England
was one hundred and forty millions sterling, of Ame-
rica but eight hundred thousand pounds; that the increase of annual taxes in England
, within ten years, was three millions, while all the establishments of America
, according to accounts which were produced, cost the Americans
but seventy-five thousand pounds.10
The charters of the colonies were referred to, and Grenville
interpreted their meaning.
The clause under which a special exemption was claimed for Maryland
was read, and he argued, that that province, upon a public emergency, is subject to taxation, in like manner with the rest of the colonies, or the sovereignty over it would cease; and, if it were otherwise, why is there a duty on its staple of tobacco?
and why is it bound at present, by several acts affecting all America
, and passed since the grant of its charter?
Besides, all charters, he insisted, were under the control of the legislature.11
‘The colonies claim, it is true,’ he continued, ‘the privilege which is common to all British subjects, of being taxed only with their own consent, given by their representatives, and may they ever enjoy the privilege in all its extent: may this sacred pledge of liberty be preserved inviolate to the utmost verge of our dominions, and to the latest pages of our history.’12
‘But the remonstrances of the Americans
,’ he insisted, ‘failed in the great point of the colonies not being represented in parliament.’13
It was the common
council of the whole empire, and as such was as
capable of imposing internal taxes as impost duties, or taxes on intercolonial trade, or laws of navigation.
The house was full, and all present seemed to acquiesce in silence.
, a member for London
, a friend of Pitt
, and himself a large owner of West India
estates, without disputing the supreme authority of parliament, openly declared his opinion, that ‘taxing America for the sake of raising a revenue would never do.’14
, who had concerted with Grenville
to propose an American representation in parliament, spoke and voted against the resolutions.
‘The parliament,’ he argued, ‘may choose whether they will tax America or not; they have a right to tax Ireland
, yet do not exercise that right.
Still stronger objections may be urged against their taxing America.
Other ways of raising the moneys there requisite for the public service exist, and have not yet failed; but the colonies in general have with alacrity contributed to the common cause.
It is hard all should suffer for the fault of two or three.
Parliament is undoubtedly the universal, unlimited legislature of the British
dominions; but it should voluntarily set bounds to the exercise of its power; and if the majority of parliament think they ought not to set these bounds, then they should give a share of the election of the legislature to the American
colonies, otherwise the liberties of America
, I do not say will be lost, but will be in danger; and they cannot be injured without danger to the liberties of Great Britain
Thus calmly reasoned Jackson
the house not to suffer themselves to be moved by resentment.
One member, however, referred with asperity to the votes of New-York
, and the house generally seemed to hold that America
was as virtually represented in parliament as the great majority of the inhabitants of Great Britain
, the companion and friend of Wolfe
, sharer of the dangers and glories of Louisburg
, seemed to admit the power of parliament to tax America,16
yet derided the idea of virtual representation.
‘Who of you, reasoning upon this subject, feels warmly from the heart,’ he cried, putting his hand to his breast, ‘who of you feels for the Americans
as you would for yourselves, or as you would for the people of your own native country?’
and he taunted the house with its ignorance of American affairs, charging ‘those who should hold up their hands for the bill as acting very much in the dark;’ ‘but, perhaps,’ he added, ‘as well in the dark as any way.’
The charge of ignorance called upon his feet Charles Townshend
, the reputed great master of American affairs.
He confirmed the equity of the taxation, and insisted that the colonies had borne but a small proportion of the expenses of the last war, and had yet obtained by it immense advantages at a vast expense to the mother country.17
‘And now,’ said he, ‘will these American children, planted by our care, nourished up by our indulgence to a degree
of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms,
grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy burden under which we lie?’18
As he sat down, Barre
rose, and with eyes darting fire and outstretched arm, uttered an unpremeditated reply:
‘They planted by
! No; your oppress.
sions planted them in America
They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated, unhospitable country; where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable; and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe, the most subtle, and I will take upon me to say, the most formidable of any people upon the face of God's earth; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those who should have been their friends.
They nourished up by
! They grew by your neglect of them.
As soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule them in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members of this house, sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men whose behavior on many occasions has caused the blood of those Sons of liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest seats of justice, some who, to my knowledge, were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of a court of justice in their own. They protected by
! They have nobly taken up arms in your
defence; have exerted a valor amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument.
And believe me—remember I this day told you so—the same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still.
But prudence forbids me to explain myself further.
God knows I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat; what I deliver are the genuine sentiments of my heart.
However superior to me in general knowledge and experience the respectable body of this house may be, yet I claim to know more of America
than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that country.
The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated.
But the subject is too delicate; I will say no more.’
spoke, there sat in the gallery Ingersoll
, of Connecticut
, a semi-royalist, yet joint agent for Connecticut
Delighted with the speech, he made a report of it, which the next packet carried across the Atlantic
The lazy posts of that day brought it in nearly three months to New London, in Connecticut
, and it was printed in the newspapers of that village.
May had not shed its blossoms, before the words of Barre
were as household words in every New England
Midsummer saw it distributed through Canada
, in French
; and the continent rung from end to end with the cheering name of the Sons of liberty.
But at St. Stephen
's, the members only observed that Townshend
had received a heavy blow, and the rest
of the debate seemed languid.
The opponents of the
measure dared not risk a division on the merits of the question, but, about midnight, after a debate of seven hours, Beckford
moved an adjournment, which Sir William Meredith
seconded; and, with all the aid of those interested in West Indian estates, it was carried against America
, by two hundred and forty-five to forty-nine.
alone were said to have denied the power of Parliament; and it is doubtful how far it was questioned even by them.
Even while this debate was proceeding, faith in the continuance of English liberty was conquering friends for England
, and advancing her banners into new regions.
The people of Louisiana
, impatient of being transferred from France
, longed to come over to the English
side—save only a band of poor Acadians, two hundred in number, wanderers of ten years, doomed ever to disappointment.
Hearing of one open territory, where the flag they loved still waved, they came through St. Domingo
to New Orleans, pining away of want and wretchedness.
Touched with compassion at the sight, Aubry
at first assigned them homes on the right bank of the Mississippi
, near New Orleans; but there the lands were flooded at high water, so that levees would have been needed They were, therefore, encouraged to go to the Attacapas, about forty-five leagues west of the river, where they became herdsmen.
But for the charity of the French
governor, they must all have perished.19
No sentiment of attachment for England
, could rise in the breast of the Acadians; but, for many
years, the French
of New Orleans would gladly have
exchanged the dominion of Spain
for a dependency on England
, too, were every where intent on extending the boundaries of the English
A plan was formed to connect Mobile
Officers from West Florida
reached Fort Chartres.21
preparatory to taking possession of the country, which was still delayed by the discontent of the Indians.
With the same object, Croghan
and a party descended the Ohio
The governor of North Carolina
believed that, by pushing trade up the Missouri
, a way to the great Western ocean would be discovered, and an open trade to it be established.22
So wide was the territory—so vast the interests for which the British Parliament was legislating!
On the day after the debate on American affairs, Grenville
, Lord North, and Jenkinson
, with others, were ordered to bring in a Stamp-bill for America
, which on the thirteenth was introduced by Grenville
himself, and read the first time without a syllable of debate.23
Among the papers that were to be stamped, it contained an enumeration of the several instruments of ecclesiastical law used in the courts of episcopal jurisdiction; for Grenville
reasoned, that one day such courts might be established in America
On the fifteenth of February, merchants trading to Jamaica
presented a petition against it,
and prayed to be heard by counsel.
of this kingdom,’ said Fuller
, formerly chief justice of Jamaica
, ‘would come to the bar of this house, and question its authority to tax America.
Were he to do so, he would not remain there long.’
It was the rule of the house ‘to receive no petition against a money bill;’ and the petition was withdrawn.25
Next, Sir William Meredith
, rising in behalf of Virginia
, presented a paper, in which Montague
, its agent, interweaving expressions from the votes of the Assembly of the Old Dominion, prayed that its House of Burgesses might be continued in the possession of the rights and privileges they had so long and uninterruptedly enjoyed, and might be heard.
Against this, too, the same objection existed.
found an advocate in the amiable Conway
——a man always anxious to do right, of a cold temperament and little vigor of will, yet so warmed to opposition by indignation at his recent dismissal from the army, that as he rose in the House of Commons in opposition to Grenville
, his cheeks were flushed, and he was tremulous with anger.26
‘Shall we shut our ears,’ he argued, ‘against the representations which have come from the colonies, and for receiving which we, with an affectation of candor, allotted sufficient time?
For my own part, I must declare myself just as much in the dark as I was the last year.
My way of life does not engage me in intercourse with commercial gentlemen, or those who have any knowledge of the colonies.
I declare, upon my honor, I expected, as a member sitting in this
house, in consequence of the notice given, to receive
from the colonies information by which my judgment might be directed and my conduct regulated.
The question regards two millions of unrepresented people.
The light which I desire, the colonists themselves alone can give.
The practice of receiving no petitions against money bills is but one of convenience, from which, in this instance, if in no other, we ought to vary.
For from whom, unless from themselves, are we to learn the circumstances of the colonies, and the fatal consequences that may follow the imposing of this tax?
None of them are represented in parliament.
Gentlemen cannot be serious when they insist even on their being virtually represented.
Will any man in this house get up and say, he is one of the representatives of the colonies?’
‘The Commons,’ said Gilbert Elliot
, ‘have maintained against the crown and against the Lords
their right of solely voting money without the control of either, any otherwise than by a negative; and will you suffer your colonies to impede the exercise of those rights, untouched as they now are by the other branches of the legislature?’27
‘This,’ retorted Conway
, ‘is the strangest argument I ever heard.
Can there be a more declared avowal of your power than a petition submitting this case to your wisdom, and praying to be heard before your tribunal against a tax that will affect them in their privileges, which you at least have suffered, and in their property, which they have acquired under your protection?
From a principle of lenity, of policy, and of justice, I am for receiving the petition
of a people from whom this country derives its great-
est commerce, wealth, and consideration.’28
In reply, Charles Yorke
entered into a very long and most elaborate defence of the bill, resting his argument on the supreme and sovereign authority of parliament.
The colonies, he insisted, with a vast display of legal erudition, were but corporations; their power of legislation was but the power of making by-laws, subject to parliamentary control.
Their charters could not convey the legislative power of Great Britain
, because the prerogative could not grant that power.
The charters of the proprietary governments were but the king's standing commissions: the proprietaries were but his hereditary governors.
The people of America
could not be taken out of the general and supreme jurisdiction of parliament.
The authority of Yorke
seemed conclusive: less than forty were willing to receive the petition of Virginia
A third from South Carolina
, a fourth from Connecticut
, though expressed in the most moderate language; a fifth from Massachusetts
, though silent even about the question of ‘right,’ all shared the same refusal.29
That from New-York
no one could be prevailed upon to offer.30
That from Rhode Island
, offered by Sherwood
, its faithful agent, claimed by their charter, under a royal promise, equal rights with their fellow-subjects in Great Britain
; and insisted that the colony had faithfully kept their part of the compact; but it was as little heeded as the rest.
Commons would neither receive petitions nor hear
All the efforts of the agents of the colonies were fruitless.
Within doors less resistance was made to the act than to a common turnpike bill.31
‘We might,’ said Franklin
, ‘as well have hindered the sun's setting.’
The tide against the Americans
‘We have power to tax them,’ said one of the ministry, ‘and we will tax them.’32
The nation was provoked by American claims of independence (of parliament), and all parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point.33
On the twenty-seventh of February, the Stamp Act passed the House of Commons.
had freely expressed his opinion at Sir George Saville
's as to the manner in which the colonies could best resist it.34
In public he was silent.
had much private conversation with Lord Lyttelton on the subject; and both approved the principle of the measure, and the right asserted in it. Had there existed any doubt concerning that right, they were of opinion it should then be debated, before the honor of the legislature was engaged to its support.
But on the eighth of March the bill was agreed to by the Lords
without having encountered an amendment, debate, protest, division, or single dissentient vote.
The royal assent was long waited for.
The king was too ill to ratify the act in person.
The character of his disease was concealed; it was
believed that the malady was ‘no trifling one;’36
that he was ‘very seriously ill, and in great danger.’37
At one time pains were taken ‘to secrete him from all intercourse with his court.’
His physician hinted the propriety of his retiring ‘to one of his palaces in the country.’38
To a few only was the nature of his illness known.
Be every sentiment of anger towards the king absorbed in pity.
At the moment of passing the Stamp Act, George the Third was crazed.39
So, on the twenty-second of March, it received the royal assent by a commission.
The sovereign of Great Britain
, whose soul was wholly bent on exalting the prerogative, taught the world that a bit of parchment bearing the sign of his hand, scrawled in the flickering light of clouded reason, could, under the British constitution, do the full legislative office of the king.
Had he been a private man, his commission could have given validity to no instrument whatever.
It was Grenville
's purpose to exercise the assumed right of taxing the colonies with great tenderness; supposing it ‘prudent to begin with small duties and taxes, and to advance in proportion as it should be found the colonies would bear.’
For the present he attempted nothing more than to increase the revenue from the colonial post-office by reducing the rate of postage in America
There he paused.
His colleagues desired to extend the Mutiny Act
with power to billet troops on private houses.
Clauses for that purpose, drafted by Robertson
, the Deputy Quartermaster General
were sent home by Gage
, and recommended strongly to be enacted.42
They had neither the entire conviction nor the cordial support of Grenville
so that they were referred by Halifax44
to Welbore Ellis
, the Secretary at War
, by whom they were introduced and carried through.
In their progress, provincial barracks, inns, alehouses, barns, and empty houses were substituted by the merchants and agents for private houses; but there remained the clause to compel the colonies to furnish the troops, at the expense of the colony, with fire, candles, vinegar, salt, bedding, utensils for cooking, beer, or cider, or rum; and the sums needed for the purpose were ‘required to be raised in such manner as the public charges for the province are raised.’45
Thus the bill contained, what had never before been heard of, a parliamentary requisition on the colonies; it enjoined things ‘different from the general principles of the constitution,’ and passed without attentive
on the part of the govern-
To soothe America
were at the same time granted on the importation of deals, planks, boards, and timber from the plantations.
Coffee of their growth was exempted from an additional duty; their iron might be borne to Ireland
; their lumber to Ireland
, the Azores
, and Europe
, south of Cape Finisterre
; the prohibition on exporting their bar iron
was removed; the rice of North Carolina
was as much liberated as that of South Carolina
; and rice might be warehoused in England
for re-exportation without advancing the duties.. In executing the Stamp Act, it was further provided, that the revenue to be derived from it should not be remitted to England
, but constitute a part of the sum to be expended in America
also resolved to select the stamp officers for America
from among the Americans
themselves; and the friends and agents of the colonies were invited to make the nominations; and they did so, Franklin49
among the rest.
‘You tell me,’ said the minister, ‘you are poor, and unable to bear the tax; others tell me you are able.
Now, take the business into your own hands; you will see how and where it pinches, and will certainly let us know it; in which case it shall be eased.’50
Every agent in England
believed the stamp tax
would be peacefully levied.51
Not one ‘imagined the colonies would think of disputing the matter with parliament at the point of the sword.’
‘It is our duty to submit,’ had been the words of Otis
‘We yield obedience to the act granting duties,’53
had been uttered solemnly by the legislature of Massachusetts. ‘If parliament, in their superior wisdom, shall pass the act, we must submit,’ wrote Fitch
, the governor54
, elected by the people, to Jackson
‘It can be of no purpose to claim a right of exemption,’ thought Hutchinson
‘It will fall particularly hard on us lawyers and printers,’ wrote Franklin55
to a friend in Philadelphia
, never doubting it would go into effect, and looking for relief to the rapid increase of the people of America
The agent for Massachusetts
had recommended the tax. Knox
the agent for Georgia
, wrote publicly in its favor.
The honest but eccentric Thomas Pownall
, who had been so much in the colonies, and really had an affection for them, congratulated Grenville
in advance, ‘on the good effects he would see derived to Great Britain
and to the colonies from his firmness and candor in conducting the American
Still less did the statesmen of England
doubt the result.
No tax was ever laid with more general approbation.58
The act seemed sure to enforce itself.
Unless stamps were used, marriages would be null,
notes of hand valueless, ships at sea prizes to the first captors, suits at law impossible, transfers of real estate
invalid, inheritances irreclaimable.
Of all who acted with Grenville
in the government, he never heard one prophesy that the tax would be resisted.59
‘He did not foresee the opposition to the measure, and would have staked his life for obedience.’60