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ink, and paper: they were led by a thread. They had not only a respect, but an affection, for Great Britain, -- for its laws, its customs and manners, — and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce.” Yet this loyal and willing people had been dealt with like aliens and malcontents, to be subjected by the arm of power.
The Stamp Act was indeed repealed, but only as a matter of expediency, since Parliament made the fatal mistake of confounding a conflict of principle with a distaste for a measure of policy; and, while repealing the Stamp Act, it passed a bill declaring the absolute power of Parliament to bind America, and thus struck a wanton blow at the principle of local government in the Colonies. Against this assumption to govern the Colonies without respect to their own legislatures, Franklin had distinctly warned the Commons, that the Colonies “think itextremely hard and unjust that a body of men in which they have no representatives should make a merit to itself of giving and granting what is not its own, but theirs, and deprive them of a right they esteem of the utmost value and importance, as it is the security of all their other rights.” In the parliamentary debate on the repeal of the Stamp Act, Pitt said, “ The Commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this their constitutional right of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed it.” | Camden took the same ground in the Lords. On this point the Colonies were consistent, united, and steadfast. They never shifted their ground, never invented pretexts for thwarting the British Government, never opposed for the sake of opposing, never schemed for independence, never resisted on the score of money alone; but, having freely and loyally met their dues, they withstood the attempt to extort money by direct levies of Parliament. This identity of the question of taxes with the question of rights was the core of the controversy between the Colonies and Parliament: hence the joy at the repeal of the Stamp Act was short-lived; for it soon became evident that Parliament was aiming, not at taxation as a means of revenue, but at political subjugation, for which enforced taxation was the ready instrument.
1 Jan. 14, 1766. Hansard, vol. xvi. 100,
In March, 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed. In the following June, Townshend, in the House of Commons, openly advocated the annulling of all colonial charters, and the substitution of a uniform government, proceeding from the crown, by which the local assemblies should be restrained, and the royal governors, judges, and attorneys be rendered independent of the people ;' and, a year later, this reckless and resolute opponent of the freedom of the Colonies was the leader of the British ministry, and persuaded Parliament to test again its power in America by taxes upon sundry imports, and especially tea.
That roused the women of America, whose tea-parliaments were invaded by a tax on their favorite beverage. In every village, in every circle, it was resolved to drink no tea till the tax should be repealed. The good dames culled the herbs of the field, dried these, and brewed from them a tea that could not but make them the more bitter against Parliament every time they tasted it. In many places, a decree of social exclusion was pronounced against any who should drink a cup of tea. The town of Lexington resolved, “If any head of a family in this town, or any person, shall from this time forward, and until the duty be taken off, purchase any tea, or sell and consume any tea in their family, such person shall be looked upon as an enemy to this town and to his country, and shall by this town be treated with neglect and contempt.” In a small village community of that day, what sentence could be more galling than this of being outlawed by that supreme court of America, — public opinion ?
As no tea could be sold, the merchants ceased to import it. But the British premier said, “ The king means to try the question with America ;” and the attempt was made to force tea upon the Colonies. Three tea-ships arrived in Boston Harbor; but a guard of citizens refused to let them land their cargo. An immense meeting of the people called upon the governor to order the ships back to England: he refused; and a band of men disguised as Indians went to the ships, and, in the most quiet and orderly manner, dropped their three hundred and forty chests of tea into the water. This was the famous “ Boston Tea-Party"
1 See Townshend's Speech in Bancroft, vi. 9. 2 June, 1767.
of Dec. 16, 1773; and so well did the participants disguise themselves and their secret, that nobody was ever brought to account for it. Yet this mild riot brewed in England a fearful storm. First came the Boston Port Bill, closing the port to all trade; but other seaports refused to profit by the patriotic sacrifices and sufferings of Boston, and then restraining acts were imposed upon the commerce of all the Colonies. Next followed the quartering of an army upon the people ; and in 1774 the Regulation Acts, destroying free government and free speech. What was the effect of this last blow has been told by one of the clearest lawyers of the United States in his Centennial Address at Lexington:
“ The Regulation Acts were radical and revolutionary. They went to the foundations of our public system, and sought to reconstruct it from the base on a theory of parliamentary omnipotence and kingly sovereignty. The councillors had been chosen by the people through their representatives. By the new law they were to be appointed by the king, and to hold at his pleasure. The superior judges were to hold at the will of the king, and to be dependent upon his will for the amount and payment of their salaries; and the inferior judges to be removable by the royal governor at his discretion, he himself holding at the king's will. The sheriffs were to be appointed by the royal governor, and to hold at his will. The juries had been selected by the inhabitants of the towns: they were now to be selected by the new sheriffs, — mere creatures of the royal governor. Offenders against the peace, and against the lives and persons of the people, had been tried here by our courts and juries; and in the memorable case of the soldiers' trial for the firing of March, 1770, we had proved ourselves capable of doing justice to our enemies. By the new act, persons charged with capital crimes, and royal officers, civil or military, charged with offences in the execution of the royal laws or warrants, could be transferred for trial to England, or to some other of the Colonies.
“But the deepest-reaching provision of the acts was that aimed at the town-meetings. They were no longer
1 Richard H. Dana, jun.
to be parliaments of freemen, to discuss matters of public interest, to instruct their representatives, and look to the redress of grievances. They were prohibited, except the two annual meetings of March and May, and were then only to elect officers; and no other meetings could be held, unless by the written permission of the royal governor; and no matters could be considered, unless specially sanctioned in the permission. Am I not right in saying that these acts sought a radical revolution, a fundamental reconstruction of our ancient political system? They sought to change self-government into government by the king; and, for home-rule, to substitute absolute rule at Westminster and St. James's Palace. They gave the royal governor and his council here powers which the king and his council could not exercise in Great Britain,
- powers from which the British nobles and commons had fought out their exemption, and to which they would never submit."
Thus far Mr. Dana. I have now established the three points that I laid down at the outset: (1) The American Colonies had no quarrel with the English nation, of which they would have been proud to remain an integral part; (2) The British ministry had itself to thank for American independence; (3) The English people owe to the American Revolution no small share in the conservation of their own local and popular freedom against the encroachments of the crown, and also in that wise and liberal policy that now retains English Colonies within the British Empire.
To enforce the subversion of local government in the Colonies, a British army was quartered upon the people; and the first aim of its commander was to disarm the militia, that, under authority of their legislature, the towns had organized, and which had been always ready to defend the crown of England against foreign foes. That handful of the men of Lexington, who, on the morning of the 19th April, 1775, drew themselves up in military order on their village green to await the British regulars, represented the town in its ancient rights of government and of defence. It was not liberty alone, but law, — the English law of a thousand years, — that was embodied in that
of thepon their ten, neighboy refused. the people cams was
little company. The demand to lay down their arms was a demand" to surrender the liberty of the people and the sovereignty of law; and they refused. There they stood,
— wives, children, neighbors, looking on, — sixty freemen upon their own soil, and that soil the little campus of the town militia ; stood to represent the right of the town to exist, and its determination not to yield its immemorial rights; stood facing eight hundred British regulars; refused to surrender their trust; refused to give up their arms, and with these the right of bearing arms; refused to disperse, and thus to abandon the townright of muster; stood still till they were fired upon, being resolved to put Britain in the wrong, by showing that her government was bent upon destroying the liberties of her subjects, and trampling out local government by arbitrary power. In violation of the chartered rights of Massachusetts, in violation of militia laws that the king himself had taken advantage of for his help against the French, the British troops were sent to seize all military stores in the keeping of the towns, and to disarm the militia. Against this usurpation, Lexington had written to Boston, “ We trust in God: we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates, and every thing dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause.” The men of Lexington kept their yow:
66 They went where duty seemed to call:
They scarcely asked the reason why;
Those men of Lexington and Concord stood for English liberty and the English constitution against a despotic revolution attempted by a bullying king and a toadying parliament. That I do not use these epithets unadvisedly, or in a hostile spirit,2 « The London Times” bears witness
2 I am truly sorry to use such terms concerning the powers that were ; but I have sought in vain for more euphonious words to express the exact