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In Virginia the case was different, for there was a stipend established by law, and the dissenters and democrats used all their influence to deprive the clergy, who were loyalists, of their means of support. The “parson's due,” as it was called, was, owing to the scarcity of gold and silver, made payable in tobacco, and came therefore within the class of claims popularly called “Tobacco debts.” A short crop having enhanced the value of that staple, a temporary act was passed, authorising the payment of all such claims, at twopence per pound weight. Subsequently, under pretence of an expected failure, a temporary law, commonly called the “Tender Act,” was revived, whereby the income of the clergy were very materially reduced. This law, by the assistance of Sherlock, Bishop of London, was disallowed by the King, and suits were accordingly brought to recover the difference between the real value of the article and the fictitious standard. It was on the trial of one of these causes that Patrick Henry, afterwards so celebrated, was first brought into notice. Knowing that the law and the court were both opposed to such a flagitious defence, he trusted to his powers of declamation, which were of no ordinary kind, and with such topics as religious liberty, the sacred rights of freemen, the odious Royal veto, and the blessing of self-government on the one hand, and an excited audience and interested jurors on the other, he succeeded, by obtaining a verdict, in denuding the law of its power, and the clergy of their subsistence. The Assembly even went so far as to vote moneys to defend any further actions that the parsons might bring, who were thus compelled, notwithstanding their clear legal right, to submit to the unjust spoliation. Distrust and disaffection were generally dif. fused throughout the country; and the rashness and indecision, open aggression, and ill-timed conciliation of the English ministry, soon supplied abundant materials for agitation. The agent of Massachusetts had informed the General Court that, at the commencement of the late hostilities, the Board of Trade had proposed a scheme of transatlantic taxation. In the course of the war, Pitt had intimated to more than one colonial governor, that when it was over, the authority of Parliament would be invoked to extort from America the means of its own support, Peace was no sooner proclaimed than his successor hastened to mature a somewhat similar plan. Less difficulty was felt in asserting the right, than in devising means for putting it into execution. Still it was a question how it could be effected, without irretrievably alienating the natives. Duties on trade afforded the easiest, because a well-known, and accustomed mode; while the objections to direct and internal taxation appeared almost insuperable. Even the first mode, it was obvious, would be attended with great difficulty in the collection. There would be frequent evasions or infractions of the law; and nothing short of a military force would insure success; but a standing army of ten thousand men, it was thought, would overawe all opposition. No time, therefore, was lost in exacting a rigid compliance with the regulations of trade. Orders were issued to the officers of the navy in America, vigilantly to enforce the several Acts of Parliament on that subject. Nothing could be more vexatious than the manner in which these instructions were executed, and nothing
more impolitic than the measure itself; for it degraded the officers in their own eyes, by transforming them into tide-waiters and customhouse officials, and at the same time rendered them excessively obnoxious to the provincials. They were not only uninformed of the cases in which ships were liable to penalties, but of those in which they were exempt from detention, and therefore obstructed the trade without increasing the revenue. The evil was aggravated by the difficulty of redress.
The board in England could alone give relief, and the expense and delay of restitution, or satisfaction, often exceeded the original amount of the loss.
At that time a very lucrative trade was carried on between the American provinces and the colonies of Spain, and from New England to the French West India Islands. In the former, the merchant exchanged either British or their own manufactures for gold and silver, medical drugs, dye stuffs, and live stock. In the latter they bartered their surplus goods and native productions, for the rum, sugar, molasses, and money of the planters, both which branches of commerce were extremely profitable. This inter
course, though opposed to the letter of the acts of trade, had been heretofore openly connived at by the custom-house officials, but was now totally put an end to by the naval commanders, who, urged on by the prospect of prize-money, seized indiscriminately the ships engaged in it, whether belonging to subjects or foreigners.
Immediately afterwards, and while the public mind was agitated by these vexatious proceedings, the attempt to raise a revenue was openly announced and acted upon, imposts being resorted to in the first instance. In the year 1764, Mr. Grenville brought before Parliament his plan for raising a transatlantic revenue. He stated that, during the last four years sixty-three millions had been added to the national debt, a great part of which had been incurred for the necessary expenses of the war in America; that such was the state of the public finances, that it was necessary every part of the empire should contribute, according to its means, to lighten the public burden ; that the charge of the government in the plantations was £350,000 per annum, and that it was but reasonable that those who derived all the benefit of the expen