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Some mischief happened even at that time from this over-earnest zeal. Much greater happened afterwards, when it operated with greater power in the highest department of the finances. The bonds of the Act of Navigation were straitened so much that America was on the point of having no trade, either contraband or legitimate. They found, under the construction and execution then used, the act no longer tying, but actually strangling them. All this coming with new enumerations of commodities, with regulations which in a manner put a stop to the mutual coasting intercourse of the colonies, with the appointment of courts of admiralty under various improper circumstances, with a sudden extinction of the paper currencies, with a compulsory provision for the quartering of soldiers, - the people of America thought themselves proceeded against as delinquents, or, at best, as people under suspicion of delinquency, and in such a manner as they imagined their recent services in the war did not at all merit. Any of these innumerable regulations, perhaps, would not have alarmed alone; some might be thought reasonable ; the multitude struck them with terror.
But the grand manoeuvre in that business of new regulating the colonies was the fifteenth act of the fourth of George the Third, which, besides containing several of the matters to which I have just alluded, opened a new principle. And here properly began the second period of the policy of this country with regard to the colonies, by which the scheme of a regular plantation Parliamentary revenue was adopted in theory and settled in practice: a revenue not substituted in the place of, but superadded to, a monopoly; which monopoly was enforced at the same time with
additional strictness, and the execution put into military hands.
This act, Sir, had for the first time the title of • granting duties in the colonies and plantations of America," and for the first time it was asserted in the preamble " that it was just and necessary that a revenue should be raised there”; then came the technical words of “ giving and granting." And thus a complete American revenue act was made in all the forms, and with a full avowal of the right, equity, policy, and even necessity, of taxing the colonies, without any formal consent of theirs. There are contained also in the preamble to that act these very remarkable words, the Commons, &c., “ being desirous to make some provision in the present session of Parliament towards raising the said revenue." By these words it appeared to the colonies that this act was but a beginning of sorrows, – that every session was to produce something of the same kind, that we were to go on, from day to day, in charging them with such taxes as we pleased, for such a military force as we should think proper. Had this plan been pursued, it was evident that the provincial assemblies, in which the Americans felt all their portion of importance, and beheld their sole image of freedom, were ipso facto annihilated. This ill prospect before them seemed to be boundless in extent and endless in duration. Sir, they were not mistaken. The ministry valued themselves when this act passed, and when they gave notice of the Stamp Act, that both of the duties came very short of their ideas of American taxation. Great was the applause of this measure here. In England we cried out for new taxes on America, whilst they cried out that they were nearly
crushed with those which the war and their own grants had brought upon them.
Sir, it has been said in the debate, that, when the first American revenue act (the act in 1764, impos-. ing the port-duties) passed, the Americans did not object to the principle. It is true they touched it but very tenderly. It was not a direct attack. They were, it is true, as yet novices, as yet unaccustomed to direct attacks upon any of the rights of Parliament. The duties were port-duties, like those they had been accustomed to bear,-- with this difference, that the title was not the same, the preamble not the same, and the spirit altogether unlike. But of what service is this observation to the cause of those that make it? It is a full refutation of the pretence for their present cruelty to America ; for it shows, out of their own mouths, that our colonies were backward to enter into the present vexatious and ruinous controversy.
There is also another circulation abroad, (spread with a malignant intention, which I cannot attribute to those who say the same thing in this House,) that Mr. Grenville gave the colony agents an option for their assemblies to tax themselves, which they had refused. I find that much stress is laid on this, as a fact. However, it happens neither to be true nor possible. I will observe, first, that Mr. Grenville never thought fit to make this apology for himself in the innumerable debates that were had upon the subject. He might have proposed to the colony agents, that they should agree in some mode of taxation as the ground of an act of Parliament. But he never could have proposed that they should tax themselves on requisition, which is the assertion of the day. Indeed,
Mr. Grenville well knew that the colony agents could have no general powers to consent to it; and they had no time to consult their assemblies for particular powers, before he passed his first revenue act. If you compare dates, you will find it impossible. Burdened as the agents knew the colonies were at that time, they could not give the least hope of such grants. His own favorite governor was of opinion that the Americans were not then taxable objects.
“Nor was the time less favorable to the equity of such a taxation. I don't mean to dispute the reasonableness of America contributing to the charges of Great Britain, when she is able ; nor, I believe, would the Americans themselves have disputed it at a proper time and season. But it should be considered, that the American governments themselves have, in the prosecution of the late war, contracted very large debts, which it will take some years to pay off, and in the mean time occasion very burdensome taxes for that purpose only. For instance, this government, which is as much beforehand as any, raises every year 37,5001. sterling for sinking their debt, and must continue it for four years longer at least before it will be clear."
These are the words of Governor Bernard's letter to a member of the old ministry, and which he has since printed.
Mr. Grenville could not have made this proposition to the agents for another reason. He was of opinion, which he has declared in this House an hundred times, that the colonies could not legally grant any revenue to the crown, and that infinite mischiefs would be the consequence of such a power. When Mr. Grenville had passed the first revenue act, and in the same session had made this House come to a res
olution for laying a stamp-duty on America, between that time and the passing the Stamp Act into a law he told a considerable and most respectable merchant, a member of this House, whom I am truly sorry I do not now see in his place, when he represented against this proceeding, that, if the stamp-duty was disliked, he was willing to exchange it for any other cqually productive, — but that, if he objected to the Americans being taxed by Parliament, he might save himself the trouble of the discussion, as he was determined on the measure. This is the fact, and, if you please, I will mention a very unquestionable authority for it.
Thus, Sir, I have disposed of this falsehood. But falsehood lias a perennial spring. It is said that no conjecture could be made of the dislike of the colonies to the principle. This is as untrue as the other. After the resolution of the House, and before the passing of the Stamp Act, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New York did send remonstrances objecting to this mode of Parliamentary taxation. What was the consequence? They were suppressed, they were put under the table, notwithstanding an order of Council to the contrary, by the ministry which composed the very Council that had made the order; and thus the House proceeded to its business of taxing without the least regular knowledge of the objections which were made to it. But to give that House its due, it was not over-desirous to receive information or to hear remonstrance. On the 15th of February, 1765, whilst the Stamp Act was under deliberation, they refused with scorn even so much as to receive four petitions presented from so respectable colonies as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Carolina, besides one from the traders of Jamaica. As to the