The British aristocracy reduce their own taxes—defeat of Chatham
's Administration by the Mosaic Opposition
The day after Townshend
braved his colleagues
the Legislature of Massachusetts convened.
, having received his compensation as a sufferer by the riots, restrained his ambition no longer, and took a seat in the Council as though it of right belonged to the Lieutenant Governor
resented ‘the lust of power,’ manifested by his intrusion into an elective body of which he had not been chosen a member.2
The Council, by a unanimous vote, denied his pretensions.
The language of the Charter
was too explicit to admit of a doubt;3
, as the accomplice of Hutchinson
, urged the interposition of the central Government.
Men feared more and more the system which Paxton
had gone to mature.
With unshaken confidence in Hawley
, and Samuel Adams
scanned with increasing jealousy every measure that
could imply their consent to British taxation.
They inquired if more troops were expected; and when the Governor
professed, ‘in pursuance of the late Act of Parliament,’ to have made provision at the Colony
's expense for those which had recently touched at Boston Harbor
, they did not cease their complaints, till they wrung from him the declaration that his supply ‘did not include articles prescribed by that Act,’ but was ‘wholly conformable to the usage of the Province.’5
Upon this concession, the House
acquiesced in an expenditure which no longer compromised their rights; and they also declared their readiness to grant of their own free accord such aids as the King
's service from time to time should require.6
By the authority of the same Act of Parliament, Gage
demanded quarters for one hundred and fifty-eight recruits, of the Governor
; but that Magistrate refused compliance with the Requisition, and did nothing, till he was duly authorized by an Act of the Colonial Assembly.7
The Crown Officers in the Colonies busied themselves with schemes to check every aspiration after Independence.
, the able Governor of Canada
, advised against granting legislative immunities to its people.8
The more he considered the state of affairs, the more he was convinced, that it was indispensably necessary to keep Crown Point
in good repair; to have a citadel and place of
arms in New-York
, as well as a citadel in Quebec
; and to link the two provinces so strongly together, that on the commencement of an outbreak, ten or fifteen thousand men could be moved without delay from the one to the other, or to any part of the continent.
No pains, no address, no expense, he insisted,9
would be too great for the object, which would divide the Northern
and Southern Colonies, as well as secure the public magazines.
, who wished to keep the affections of the colonists, the future was shrouded in gloom.
He could not suspend the Act of Parliament; but through Shelburne, he enjoined the American Commander-in-Chief
to make its burden as light, both in appearance and in reality, as was consistent with the public service.
He saw that the imperfect compliance of New-York
would open a fair field to the arraigners of America
and between his opinions as a statesman and his obligations as Minister, he knew not what to propose.11
The Declaratory Act was the law of the land, and yet was as a barren fruit-tree, which, though fair to the eye, only cumbers the earth, and spreads a noxious shade.12
Shelburne was aware also, that if the Americans
‘should be tempted to resist in the last instance,’ France
would no longer defer breaking the peace of which they began to number the days.
was resolved not to pay the Manilla ransom,
was planning how to drive the English
from the Falkland Islands
, and called on France
to prepare to go to war in two years; ‘for Spain
’ said Grimaldi
, ‘cannot longer postpone inflicting chastisement on English insolence.’14
‘This is the rhodomontade of a Don Quixote
,’ said the French Minister
, and Choiseul
kept the guidance of affairs in his own hand, and for the time was resolved not to disturb the peace.
Executive moderation might still have saved England
from a conflict.
Undismayed by the disorder in the cabinet, the ill health of Chatham
, the factions in a corrupt Parliament, or the unpromising aspect of foreign relations, and impressed with the necessity of giving up trifles that created uneasiness,15
Shelburne proceeded diligently to make himself master of each American16
question, and to prepare its solution.
The subject of the greatest consequence was the forming an American fund.
To this end, without exercising rigor in respect to quit-rents long due, he proposed to break up the system of forestalling lands by speculators, to require that the engrossing proprietors should fulfil the conditions of their grants, and to make all future grants on a system of quitrents, which should be applied to defray the American
expenses then borne by the Exchequer of Great Britain
Relief to the mother country being thus derived
from an income which had chiefly been squandered among favorites, he proposed to leave the Indian
trade to be regulated under general rules
by the respective Provinces at their own cost.18
Resisting those who advised to concentrate the American
army in the principal towns, he wished rather that the military should be disposed on the frontiers among the younger Colonies, where their presence might be desired.19
The people of America
, even a majority of those who adhered to the Church of England, feared as yet to see an American Episcopate, lest ecclesiastical courts should follow; Shelburne expressed his opinion openly, that there was no manner of occasion for American Bishops.20
He reprobated the political dependence of the judges in the Colonies; and advised that their commissions should conform to the precedent in England
The grants of lands in Vermont
under the seal of New Hampshire
, he ordered to be confirmed, and this decision was not less wise than just.22
had a controversy about limits, which had led to disputed land-titles and bloodshed on the border; instead of keeping the question open as a means of setting one Colony against another, he directed that it should be definitively settled; and Massachusetts
did not scruple to
at the head of its boundary Com-
The Billeting Act for America
, which the Rockingham Ministry
had continued for two years, so that it would not of itself expire till the twenty-fourth of March, 1768, constituted the immediate difficulty.
It was contrary to the whole tenor of British legislation for Ireland
, and to all former legislation for America
disapproved its principle, and, corresponding with the Secretary at War
, sought to reconcile the wants of the army with the rights of America
; being resolved ‘not to establish a precedent, which might hereafter be turned to purposes of oppression.’24
The American Continent was interested in the settlement of Canadian
listened to the hope of establishing perfect tranquillity, by calling an Assembly that should assimilate to the English
laws such of the French
laws as it was necessary to retain, and by rendering the Canadian Catholics
eligible to the Assembly25
But the more Shelburne
showed his good disposition towards America
, the more the Court
spoke of him as ‘an enemy.’26
had long been persuaded27
that the Colonies shared in the licentious-
ness of opinion, which he thought was infusing itself into all orders of men; and that a due obedience and submission to law must in all cases go before the removal of grievances.
‘Otherwise,’ said he, ‘we shall soon be no better than the savages.’28
He was now accustomed ‘to talk a great deal about America
and he told Shelburne
plainly that the Billeting Act
‘should be enforced;’ though he declined ‘to suggest the mode.’
Besides; the dependence of the Colonies was believed by the public to be at stake;30
‘underwent the imputation of rebellion.’31
The difficulties that beset Shelburne
were infinitely increased by the condition of parties in Great Britain
The old Whig aristocracy was passing out of power with so ill a grace, that they preferred the immediate gratification of their passions to every consideration of wisdom and expediency.
America was the theme in all companies, yet was discussed according to its bearings on personal ambition; justice and prudence were lost sight of in unreflecting zeal for a momentary victory.
Men struggled for a present advantage more than for any system of government; and the liberties of two millions of their countrymen, the interests of a continent, the unity of the British
empire, were left to be swayed by the accidents of a Parliamentary skirmish.32
Merchants of New-York
, at the instigation of a
person much connected33
with Charles Townshend
, had sent a very temperate Petition,34
setting forth some of the useless grievances of the Acts of Trade, and praying for the free exportation of their lumber and an easier exchange of products with the West Indies
The reasonable request provoked universal dislike; Grenville
and his friends appealed to it as fresh evidence, that nothing would give satisfaction to the Colonists, but a repeal of all restrictions on trade, and freedom from all subordination and dependence.
, whom Chatham
denounced to Grafton
as ‘incurable,’ was more and more inclining to the same views, and in giving them effect, exercised over Grafton
the superiority, which intellectual vigor and indefatigable activity are sure to win over selfindulgent indolence and sluggish, well-intentioned dulness.
At this critical conjuncture, when nothing but Chatham
's presence could restore activity to the Administration, and draw Parliament from its Lethargy,37
the gout had returned upon him at Marlborough
on his way to London
But business would not wait.
On the eighteenth of February, there appeared in the account of the Extraordinaries, a large and unusual expenditure on the continent of America
advised to lessen the expense, and charge
upon the Colonies the whole of what should remain.
There was a general agreement, that America
ought to alleviate the burdens of England
Every speaker of the Opposition directly inveighed against Chatham
, whom no one rose to defend.
, stinging the self-love of the Ministers
, reproached them with being but the servile instruments of their absent chief; incapable of acting but on orders from his lips.
To prove his independence, Townshend
explained his own system for America
, and openly combated Chatham
's of the year before.39
‘I would govern the Americans
,’ said he, ‘as subjects of Great Britain
I would restrain their trade and their manufactures as subordinate to the mother country.
These, our children, must not make themselves our allies in time of war, and our rivals in peace.’
And he concluded by adopting substantially the suggestions of Grenville
in favor of retrenchment and an American duty.40
None heeded the milder counsels of Conway
The mosaic Opposition watched every opportunity to push the Ministry upon extreme measures.41
A week later, Camden, who had pledged himself ‘to maintain to his last hour, that Taxation and Representation are inseparable,’ that Taxation without Representation is a ‘robbery,’ seized the occasion to proclaim as loudly, ‘that his doubt respecting the right of Parliament to tax America, was removed by the declaration
of Parliament itself; and that its authority must be
By this time the friends of Grenville
, of Bedford
and of Rockingham
, men the most imbittered against each other by former contests, and the most opposite in character and tendencies, were ready to combine to aim a deadly blow at the existing Ministry, whatever might be the consequence of its destruction.43
During the war, and ever since, the land-tax had been at the nominal rate of four shillings in the pound, in reality at but about nine pence in the pound.
On Friday, the twenty-seventh of February,44
Dowdeswell, the leader of the Rockingham
party, regardless of his own policy when in the treasury and his knowledge of the public wants, proposed a reduction in the land tax, nominally of a shilling, but really of only about nine farthings in the pound.
, with more consistency, supported45
the proposal, which, it was generally thought, must bring in its train a tax on the Colonies.46
The question was treated in the debate, as one between the Americans
and the landed interest of England
; and the Chancellor
of the Exchequer was reminded of his pledge to derive this very year some revenue from America
On the division Edmund Burke
, ‘too fond of the right’ to vote against his conscience, and not enough fond of it to vote against his party, staid away; the united factions of the aristocracy mustered two hundred
and six against one hundred and eighty-eight for
But not one of those who planned this impolitic act, derived from it any advantage.
The good sense of the country condemned it; the city dreaded the wound given to public credit; Grenville
, who joyfully accepted the congratulations of the country gentlemen, deceived himself in expecting a junction with Rockingham
, and had in the King
an inflexible enemy.47
The ancient whig Connection, which had ruled England
so long and still claimed to represent the party of Liberty, by creating an apparent excuse for Townshend
's system of American taxes, only doomed itself more surely to a fruitless opposition.
For so small a benefit, as a reduction on but one year's rental of nine farthings in the pound, and for a barren parliamentary triumph, it compromised its principles, and risked a continent.
This was the first overthrow on an important
question, which the Government
had sustained for a quarter of a century.
On hearing the news, Chatham
rose from his bed, and ill as he was, hastened to London
‘was warm in the sunshine of majesty;’48
but as Chatham
attributed the disaster to his lukewarmness and wished to dismiss him, the King
readily assented; and Lord North was invited to become Chancellor of the Exchequer.
knew well what was passing;49
and in the debates on the East India
question, with easy confidence gave a defiance,50
by asserting his own opinions.
‘I expect to be dismissed for it,’ said he openly; but Lord North
would not venture to supersede him. Whom will
Chap. Xxviii} 1767.
asked the King
, through Grafton
; and no other could be named.
This was a new humiliation.
saw his adversary exposed defenceless to his will; and the shaft which his aged and enfeebled hand tremulously hurled at him, fell harmless at his own feet.
He could endure no more.
‘We cannot remain in office together;’ said he of Townshend
, and he asked the Duke
himself to call the next Council at his own house.51
The accumulation of grief destroyed what little of health remained to him; he withdrew from business and became invisible even to Camden and to Grafton
Here, in fact, Chatham
's Administration was at an end.52
Transmitting to his substitute every question of domestic, foreign and colonial policy unsettled, the British Agamemnon
retired to his tent, leaving the subordinate chiefs to quarrel for the direction.