Изображения страниц

in England to defend their conduct, and voted a salary to him, in preference to the Governor. Burnet, embarrassed in his means, and hampered and oppressed by this continued and offensive struggle, fell at last, as we have seen, a victim to the imbecility of the home, and the implacability of the local powers. The Assembly ordered an honourable public funeral, many of the patriots observing, with Puritanical charity, that a dead Governor was better than a living tyrant, and that burying the representative of royalty was an expense which the public would defray with great pleasure. While these disputes were disturbing the peace of Massachusetts, similar difficulties occurred at New York, and Governor Hunter, “tired,” as he said, “ of begging his bread,” and finding that the threats of the Board of Trade, and of Parliamentary interference, were viewed in the light of “bullying letters,” condescended to obtain by intrigue, and a highhanded exercise of power and patronage, what he could not procure by constitutional means. Mr. Belcher was appointed to succeed to the vacant command at Massachusetts, August, 1730. Warned and irritated by the defeat of preceding Governors, the King furnished him with much stronger instructions than had ever yet been given, on the disputed subject of the salary. He was told: “if the Assembly refuse to comply, his Majesty will be under the necessity of laying the undutiful behaviour of the province before the Legislature of Great Britain, not only in this single instance, but in many others of the same nature and tendency; whereby it manifestly appears, that the Assembly for many years past. has attempted, by unwarrantable practices, to weaken, if not cast off, the obedience they owe to the Crown, and the dependence which all colonies ought to have on the mother country.” He was also instructed that, “his Majesty expects that they do forthwith comply with this proposal, as the last signification of His Royal pleasure, and that you do come over immediately to this kingdom of Great Britain, in order to give him an exact account of all that shall have passed upon this subject, that he may lay the same before Parliament.” He was not more fortunate, however, than his predecessors, and finding at last that the General Court would not recede from their resolution against settling a salary, he directed his exertions to procuring an establishment during his continuance in office; but after flattering prospects of succeeding thus far, he failed even in this, and thenceforth gave up all idea of carrying the measure. He finally obtained leave of the Crown to accept such terms as should be granted, and so terminated, for this time, one of the most memorable conflicts between the Crown and the province which its political history hitherto affords. In this struggle, we may see a precedent never forgotten in the colonies, of the ultimate success of agitation, whenever spiritedly pursued for any length of time; of the want of firmness in the British Government, even in those matters in which it has both reason and justice on its side; and of the facility with which her friends who consistently support imperial control, and prerogative rights, are abandoned to the triumph of their enemies, and the unpopularity and odium necessarily attending the advocacy of measures opposed to the passions and prejudices of the people. Extorted concessions are regarded as acts of necessity, and not benevolence, and are neither entitled to, nor receive gratitude, while the abandonment of allies, without reward or protection, is an act of treachery, that not only repels future confidence, but increases the relative forces of the enemy, by detaching indignant and injured adherents. Now that the main question of a permanent salary was abandoned, the office became of little value, in point of emolument, while the increased impulse given to republicanism by the surrender of principle, rendered it still less desirable, from the perpetual struggle of parties. Up to this period every candid person must admit that the American colonists had nothing to complain of; the only just cause of regret being one, which they regarded as their greatest happiness, namely ignorance, or indifference on the part of England of what they were doing, and a total neglect, arising in part from these causes, and in part from inability to bestow her attention on anything else than her own more immediate concerns. A century had thus been allowed to elapse before the advantages of colonies began to be appreciated, or their forms of government properly adjusted, during which period a feeling had arisen of great repugnance to imperial control on the one hand, and a distrust of the tendency of Americans to republicanism on the other. New generations had grown up, on either side of the water, who knew nothing of each other; whose interests were apparently as distant as their respective positions, and who scarcely felt or acknowledged those ties of friendship that could alone bind them together. One would naturally suppose that after such an experience of colonization, ending in so fatal a result as the American Revolution, Great Britain would have avoided the effects of similar ignorance or neglect, if it were not, unfortunately, but too plain that the lessons of history, like personal experience, are of little use to any but the immediate actors. People living near together like the English, and inhabiting the same country, know as little of each other as if the sea rolled between them. Such are the advances of civilization, and such the effects of constitutional changes of modern times, that the countrymay now be said, for all practical purposes,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »