« 上一頁繼續 »
same time, the judges in the Colonies were made dependent upon the good pleasure of the king; that is, were made tools of the crown. Still the people held their ground.
At length there arose a more determined and sagacious enemy of popular freedom than those the Colonies had hitherto baffled, — a minister who combined subtilty of invention with comprehensiveness of purpose, and energy of will, — Charles Townshend, first lord of trade, who scrupled at nothing, that he might abrogate the rights and privileges of the colonial assemblies, and make the authority of Parliament direct and absolute. Charters, laws, precedents, pledges, were to be set aside, and taxes imposed by Parliament, to be enforced, if need be, by a standing army. It was early in 1763 that Townshend broached his audacious scheme; but not till two years later did the ministry and Parliament have the courage, rather the infatuation, to put it into effect, by the act requiring all business and legal documents to be written or printed upon stamped paper, to be had only of the taxcollectors. For five and twenty years this particular measure had been hovering in the air, — now suggested by some colonial governor as a quietus to the troublesome scrutiny of the legislature in voting supplies ; now proposed by a lord of trade or of the treasury as a direct and easy way of raising revenue; again urged by the merchants of London, with a view to lessening the taxes of the empire; but at every point watched and warded off by the colonists, until at last it was attempted to be forced upon them as a means of subjugation, a test-measure of prerogative in taxation, or, at least, of priority in leyying a tax. It came upon them, therefore, with all the aggrava
Colonies. On Feb. 16, 1749, a bill was laid before Parliament "to regulate and restrain paper bills of creilit in the British Colonies and Plantations:” but Hansard reports (vol. xvi. p. 503), “ As it contained a clause for subjecting our Colonies and Plantations to such orders and instructions as should froin time to time be transmitted to them from the crown, it raised a general opposition from our Colonies and Plantations upon the continent of America;” and the bill was finally dropped. The series of ineasures that culminated in the Stamp Act of March 6, 1765, proceeded in the line of subjecting the Colonies to the direct control of the crown, anıl of a parliament subservient to the crown; and the resistance of the Colonies was simply a defence of rights established by charter or by usage against such usurpation. The English voter of to-day has reason to thank them for a stand that arrested royal dictation in England.
tion of an evil so long dreaded as to be an object of hate; and it came as the symbol of usurpation and tyranny. The Stamp Act said, in effect, “ that the Americans shall have no commerce, make no exchange of property with each other, neither purchase, nor grant, nor recover debts; they shall neither marry, nor make their wills, unless they pay such and such sums in specie for the stamps which must give validity to the proceedings.”1 Now, the American people of this generation have freely imposed upon themselves just such taxes to meet the enormous costs of war. But in 1765 they were not asked nor suffered to lay stamp duties on themselves, but at every step of life, from the cradle to the grave, were made to feel this annoying interference of a government in which they had no voice. The Stamp Act, like the late attempt to tax matches in England, set every house on fire. That it roused the mob to violent resistance is not to be wondered at; yet sober friends of liberty deplored, and sought to check, excesses that might prejudice their cause. But these sober people resisted the Stamp Act: first, by agreeing to trust to personal honor in matters of trade and law, so as to dispense with the stamped documents; by agreeing, as a measure of retaliation, to import no British goods for use or wear; by banding together in remonstrances to Parliament and for the defence of colonial rights; and, finally, by making stamp duties so odious, that no one could be found willing to take the office of collector. A stamp-officer was meaner than the publican in Judæa. With a guard at his beck, he slunk from public opinion. Through this unarmed resistance, the Stamp Act was repealed within a year after it was passed. That repeal was largely due to the personal influence of Franklin, who lived constantly in London as agent of the Pennsylvania Colony, and by correspondence and conversation with public men, and contributions to the press, labored to induce Parliament to retrace a step, that, if persisted in, must lead to open hostilities. At last Franklin was summoned before the House of Commons, in committee of the whole, to be examined touching the feelings and wishes of the Colonies. The examination lasted ten days: it was
1 Bigelow's Life of Franklin, i. 671.
deep and thorough, sometimes keen and hostile: but the wisdom, tact, knowledge, candor, boldness, of the plain philosopher, conquered the prejudices and the pride of Parliament; and the journal of the Commons records, “ Feb. 13, 1766, Benjamin Franklin, having passed through his examination, was excepted from further attendance; ” and, “Feb. 24, the committee reported that it was their opinion that the House be moved that leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal the Stamp Act;” and, on the 18th of March, the king signed the repeal. Well did the countrymen of Franklin, in striking a medal in his honor, coupling his political triumphs with his triumphs over nature, surround his head with the legend :
“ Eripuit cælo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis," — He drew the lightning from heaven, and wrested the sceptre from tyrants.”
As a specimen of the shrewdness of Franklin, take his last two answers to the House of Commons.
Question. — What used to be the pride of the Americans ?
Answer. – To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain.
Q. — What is now their pride ?
Ans. — To wear their old clothes over again till they can make new ones.
Those were answers that every manufacturer and tradesman in England could understand. Other answers display no less boldness than shrewdness.
Q. — If the Stamp Act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences ?
Ans. — A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection.
Q. — If the Stamp Act should be repealed, would it induce the assemblies of America to acknowledge the right of Parliament to tax them ?
Ans. — No, never! ... No power, how great soever, can force men to change their opinions.
But the great value of Franklin's testimony is, that it caused to be spread upon the journal of the House of Commons a statement of the attitude of the Colonies toward the mother-country, that could not then be contradicted; and that is the standing vindication of the Colonies in afterwards taking up arms in their defence. It had been urged that the stamp tax was a just method of recovering from the Colonies what Britain had spent on their account in wars with the French and Indians. This is the statement which has been revived by “ The Westminster Review;” and, though I have answered it conclusively from the parliamentary journals of the time, I would now emphasize the fact, that it was refuted by Franklin before the House of Commons, and the refutation put on record at the time.
Q. — Do you think it right that America should be protected by this country, and pay no part of the expense?
Ans. — That is not the case. The Colonies raised, clothed, and paid, during the last war, near twenty-five thousand men, and spent many millions.
Q. — Were you not reimbursed by Parliament?
Ans. — We were only reimbursed what, in your opinion, we had advanced beyond our proportion, or beyond what might reasonably be expected from us; and it was a very small part of what we spent. Pennsylvania, in particular, disbursed about five hundred thousand pounds; and the reimbursements, in the whole, did not exceed sixty thousand pounds.
Concerning the French and Indian war, Franklin testified, " I know the last war is commonly spoken of here as entered into for the defence, or for the sake, of the people in America. I think it is quite misunderstood. It began about the limits between Canada and Nova Scotia ; about territories to which the crown indeed laid claim, but which were not claimed by any British colony. None of the lands had been granted to any colonist: we had, therefore, no particular concern or interest in that dispute. ... The Indian trade is a British interest; it is carried on with British manufactures, for, the profit of British merchants and manufacturers: therefore the war, as it commenced for the defence of territories of the crown (the property of no American) and for the defence of a trade purely British, was really a British war; and yet the people of America made no scruple of contributing their utmost
towards carrying it on, and bringing it to a happy conclusion.”
Again he said, “ America has been greatly misrepresented and abused here, in papers and pamphlets and speeches, as ungrateful and unreasonable and unjust, in having put this nation to an immense expense for their defence, and refusing to bear any part of that expense. The Colonies raised, paid, and clothed near twenty-five thousand men during the last war, - a number equal to those sent from Britain, and far beyond their proportion: they went deeply into debt in doing this; and all their estates and taxes are mortgaged for many years to come for discharging that debt.”
Franklin reminded the House, that, in response to messages from the king, they had annually voted during the war two hundred thousand pounds for compensation to the Colonies. “This is the strongest of all proofs that the Colonies, far from being unwilling to bear a share of the burden, did exceed their proportion; for if they had done less, or had only equalled their proportion, there would have been no room or reason for compensation.”2
There was no disputing these facts at the time. Here was the open testimony of King and Commons that the Colonies were loyal, brave, generous; were even forward to tax themselves for the defence of the crown: yet King and Commons would now extort money from them by a stamp duty griping every man's purse. The Colonies had never been a farthing's expense to the government of Britain, and, until their liberties were threatened, had never caused anxiety or trouble. As Franklin testified, 6. They submitted willingly to the government of the crown, and paid in their courts obedience to the acts of Parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen,
1 This was barely two-fifths of their actual outlay.
2 Hansard gives Franklin's examination nearly in full; and, in his report of the debate on the repeal of the Stamp Act, says, “The Colonies being repaid part of their debt is convincing proof that Parliament were of opinion they had contributed beyond their abilities” (xyi, 205).
3 With the single exception of Georgia.