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HISTORICAL SKETCH OF EVENTS FROM 1763 TO THE REPEAL OF THE STAMP ACT IN 1766.
Reasoning of the English and the Colonists on the subject of raising a revenue in America—Attacks on the English clergy in Massachusetts and Virginia— Patrick Henry's conduct—Navy officers ordered to enforce the laws of trade—Mr. Grenville's plan of taxation—Inter-colonial trade stopped—Sugar Act passed—Clause authorising suits in Admiralty Courts —Theories of different parties as to power of Parliament to tax colonies—Publications in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, and other colonies against taxation—Representation in Parliament abandoned — Conciliatory act ineffectual — Arguments against the measure—Speech of Col. Banes and Patrick Henry—News of Stamp Act having passed is received—Effect of it at Boston and elsewhere—Riots in Boston, New York, and other places—Non-importation Association—General Court recommends a Congress—Declaration of rights—Congress assembles at New York, and appoints a Speaker—Change in the English Ministry—Repeal of the Stamp Act—
- Singular form of Act of Indemnity passed by General Court.
THE common object the English and the provincials had in view, which had hitherto cemented their union, having been obtained by the overthrow of the French power in America, they cordially congratulated each other on their success. Flushed with victory, both claimed a full share of the merit of the triumph, and of the sacrifice of life and treasure at which it was obtained ; but their attention was soon withdrawn from their conquests to their own relative position and rights. Great Britain lamented over the enormous expense of the war, and argued that, having relieved the colonies of a formidable and relentless foe, and enlarged their boundaries, it was but reasonable they should contribute to the reduction of the national debt, so greatly increased in their defence, as well as defray, for the future, the cost of their own government.
To this it was answered, you have not extended our territory, but added to your own empire. Had it not been for your ambitious wars, in which, as dependencies, we have been unhappily involved, we should have preserved a friendly relation with our Gallic neighbours, and maintained a most advantageous and profitable trade with them. We were powerful enough to resist aggression, and punish insult, and could have defended ourselves as heretofore without your assistance. If your expenses have been large, ours have been altogether beyond our means, and evince a generous participation in your undertakings, that justly entitle us both to gratitude and remuneration. Thirty thousand colonial soldiers have perished in the struggle, by disease or the sword. We have expended more than sixteen millions of dollars, only five millions of which have been reimbursed by Parliament. Massachusetts alone has kept annually in the field from four to seven thousand men, besides furnishing garrisons, and supplying recruits to the regular army, and expended two millions and a half of dollars over and above the advances from the military chest. The small colony of Connecticut has, during the same period, raised two millions of dollars, while the outstanding debt alone of New York amounts to nearly a million. If the southern plantations have been less profuse, they have far exceeded all former experience, for Virginia, at the close of the war, had an outstanding debt of two hundred thousand pounds. Beyond this the new argument became personal and bitter, for men more easily forgive an injury than an insult. The irregular levies of New England troops, though hardy, brave, and admirably suited for American warfare, made a sorry and grotesque appearance on parade; and the primitive manners, nasal pronunciation, and variegated and antique clothing of both officers and men, subjected them to the ill-concealed ridicule, or open insolence of the British army. On their part they knew and felt, that if they were inferior in drill and equipments to the regulars, they infinitely excelled them in the field, and pointed with great complacency to the numerous instances in which they covered their retreat, extricated them from ambush, and opened the way for their success. Much of the same arrogant assumption is still unhappily exhibited by the inhabitants of the Old World, on visiting the New, and with a similar unpleasant result. The war had thus, as has been before observed, filled the provinces with soldiers and officers, all accustomed to active service, and an efficient, resolute, and experienced militia, who formed a formidable body of men, trained to regard a resort to arms as a natural and effectual means of deciding disputes. What the scheme of the English ministry was for governing America, or raising a revenue from it, no one yet knew ; but everybody was aware that some such intention, whether matured or not, was seriously entertained. Men's minds were filled with doubts and fears, and the Puritans, as of old, endeavoured to increase the general discontent, by asserting that it was the intention of government to subject them all to the hierarchy. In Massachusetts it had the effect (probably the only one designed, for there was no endowment to attack or confiscate) of still more alienating parties, and keeping alive the animosity, unhappily but too deeply rooted, of the people against England, her institutions, and her authority.