網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

America were invested with all the powers conferred by act of parliament on those in England. The intercolonial trade had been burdened with taxation, and the payment of the tax was interpreted as giving to the goods the right of being exported anywhere : this liberty was denied. The immense American domain as reserved exclusively for English subjects, or for those who obtained from the privy council a permission to purchase. The proprietary charters were modified-it is the first act of parliament of that nature—by conferring on the crown a negative on the choice of the governors in the charter colonies ; and the paramount legislative authority of parliament was asserted by declaring illegal, null, and void, every colonial act or usage, present or future, which might be in anywise repugnant "to this present act, or to any other law hereafter to be made in the kingdom, so far as such law shall relate to the plantations.” Such was the spirit of English legislation for its colonies, at the great moment when England asserted its aristocratic liberties.

As yet the owners of land were not sufficiently pledged to the colonial system. Wool was the great staple of England, and its growers and manufacturers envied the colonies the possession of a flock of sheep, a spindle, or a loom. The preamble to an act of parliament avows the motive for a restraining law, in the conviction that colonial industry would “ inevitably sink the value of lands” in England. The public mind of the mother country could esteem the present interest of its landholders paramount to natural justice. The clause, which I am about to cite, is a memorial of a delusion which once pervaded all Western Europe, and which has already so passed away, that men grow incredulous of its former existence : -"After the first day of December, 1699, no wool, or manufacture made or mixed with wool, being the produce or manufacture of any of the English plantations in America, shall be loaden in any ship or vessel, upon any pretence whatsoever,--nor loaden upon any horse, cart, or other carriage,-to be carried out of the English plantations to any other of the said plantations, or to any other place whatsoever.” Thus, the fabrics of Connecticut might not seek a market in Massachusetts, or be carried to Albany to traffic with the Indians. An English mariner might not purchase in Boston woollens of a greater

value than forty shillings. The mercantile system of Eng. land, in its relations with foreign states, sought a convenient tariff ; in the colonies, it prohibited industry !

And the intolerable injustice was not perceived. The interests of the landed proprietors with the monopolies of commerce and manufactures, jointly fostered by artificial legislation, corrupted the public judgment, so that there was no secret compunction. Even the bounty on naval stores was not intended as a compensation, but grew out of the efforts of Sweden to infringe the mercantile system of England, and was accompanied by a proviso which extended the jurisdiction of parliament to every grove north of the Delaware. Every pitch-pine tree, not in an enclosure, was henceforward sacred to the purposes of the English navy; and, in the undivided domain, no tree fit for a mast might be cut without the queen's license. Thus the bounty of the English parliament was blended with monopoly, while the colonists were constantly invited to cease the manufacture of wool, and produce naval stores.

In Virginia, the poverty of the people compelled them to attempt coarse manufactures, or to go unclad ! yet Nicholson, the royal governor, calmly advised that par. liament should forbid the Virginians to make their own clothing. Spotswood repeats the complaint:- “ The people, more of necessity than of inclination, attempt to clothe themselves with their own manufactures ;" adding, that “it is certainly necessary to divert their application to some commodity less prejudicial to the trade of Great

o Britain." The charter colonies are reproached by 1701. the lords of trade, “ with promoting and propagating woollen and other manufactures proper to England." The English need not fear to conquer Canada ;-such was the reasoning of an American agent ;-for, in Canada, "where the cold is extreme, and snow lies so long on the ground, sheep will never thrive so as to make the woollen manufactures possible, which is the only thing that can make a plantation unprofitable to the crown." "The policy was continued by every administration. “ Should our sovereign authority of legislative and commercial control be denied,” said the elder Pitt, seventy years afterwards, “I would not suffer even a nail for a horse-shoe to be manufactured in America ;' and, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the lords of trade and plantations, to effect their purposes of monopoly, proposed that every charter should,

by the legislative power of the kingdom, be reassumed to the crown.

The charters were royal grants, and a parliament which had disfranchised a dynasty disdained to consider their violation a just ground for resistance. It placed its own power alike above the authority by which they had been conceded, and above the colonies which possessed them. From legislating on commerce and industry, it proceeded to legislate on government; and, if it omitted to startle the colonies by the avowal, it plainly held the maxim as indisputable, that it might legislate for them in all cases whatsoever.

These relations, placing the property, the personal freedom, the industry, the chartered liberties of the colonies, in the goodwill, and under “the absolute power," of the English legislature, could not but lead to independence, and the English were the first to perceive the tendency.

The insurrection in New England, in 1689, excited alarm, as an indication of a daring spirit. In 1701, the lords of trade, in a public document, declared “ the independency the colonies thirst after is now notorious.”— 5. Commonwealth notions improve daily," wrote Quarry, in 1703 ; “and, if it be not checked in time, the rights and privileges of English subjects will be thought too narrow.” In 1705, it was said in print, “ The colonists will, in process of time, cast off their allegiance to Eng. land, and set up a government of their own;" and by degrees it came to be said, “ by people of all conditions and qualities, that their increasing numbers and wealth, joined to their great distance from Britain, would give them an opportunity, in the course of some years, to throw off their dependence on the nation, and declare themselves a free state, if not curbed in time, by being made entirely subject to the crown." “Some great men professed their belief of the feasibleness of it, and the probability of its some time or other actually coming to pass."

CHAPTER XX. FRANCE AND THE VALLEY OF THE MISSISSIPPI. IF our country, in the inherent opposition between its principles and the English system, was as ripe for governing itself in 1689 as in 1776, the colonists disclaimed, and, truly, a present passion for independence. A deep instinct gave assurance that the time was not yet come. They were not merely colonists of England, but they were riveted into an immense colonial system, which every commercial country in Europe had assisted to frame, and which bound in its strong bonds every other quarter of the globe. The question of independence would be not a private strife with England, but à revolution in the commerce and in the policy of the world, -in the present fortunes, and, still more, in the prospects of humanity itself. As yet, there was no union among the settlements that fringed the Atlantic ; and but one nation in Europe would, at that day, have tolerated-not one would have fostered-an insurrection. Spain, Spanish Belgium, Hol. land, and Austria, were then the allies of England against France, which, by centralizing its power, and by wellconsidered plans of territorial aggrandizement, excited the dread of a universal monarchy. When Austria, with Bel. gium, shall abandon its hereditary warfare against France, when Spain and Holland, favoured by the armed neutrality of Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, and Russia, shall be ready to join with France in repressing the commercial ambition of England ;-then, and not till then, American independence becomes possible. Those changes, extraordinary and improbable as they might have seemed, were to spring from the false principles of the mercantile system, which made France and England enemies. Our borders were become the scenes of jealous collision; our soil was the destined battle-ground on which the grand conflict of the rivals for commercial privilege was to begin. The struggles for maritime and colonial dominion, which transformed the unsuccessful competitors for supremacy into the defenders of the freedom of the seas, having, in their progress, taught our fathers union, secured to our country the opportunity of independence.

The mercantile system placed the benefit of commerce, not in a reciprocity of exchanges, but in a favourable balance of trade. Its whole wisdom was, to sell as much as possible—to buy as little as possible. Pushed to its extreme, the policy would destroy all commerce; it might further the selfish aims of an individual nation; the commerce of the world could flourish only in spite of it. In its mitigated form, it was a necessary source of European wars; for each nation, in its traffic, sought to levy tribute in favour of its industry, and the adjustment of tariffs and commercial privileges was the constant subject of negotiations among states. The jealousy of one country envied the wealth of a rival as its own loss.

Territorial aggrandizement was also desired and feared, in reference to its influence on European commerce ; and, as France, in its ambitious progress, encroached upon the German empire and the Spanish Netherlands, the mer. cantile interests of England led directly to an alliance with Austria as the head of the empire, and with Spain as the sovereign of Belgium.

Thus the commercial interest was, in European politics, become paramount; it framed alliances, regulated wars, dictated treaties, and established barriers against conquest.

The discovery of America, and of the ocean-path to India, bad created maritime commerce, and the great European colonial system had united the world. Now, for the first time in the history of man, the oceans vindicated their rights as natural highways; now, for the first time, great maritime powers struggled for dominion on the high seas. The world entered on a new epoch.

Ancient navigation kept near the coast, or was but a passage from isle to isle ; commerce now selected, of choice, the boundless deep.

The three ancient continents were divided by no wide seas, and their intercourse was chiefly by land. Their voyages were, like ours on Lake Erie, a continuance of internal trade; the vastness of their transactions was measured, not by tonnage, but by counting caravans and camels. But now, for the wilderness commerce substituted the sea ; for camels, merchantmen; for caravans, fleets and convoys.

The ancients were restricted in the objects of commerce ; for how could rice be brought across continents from the Ganges, or sugar from Bengal? But now com.

« 上一頁繼續 »