Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

respects different from the officers and dependants of the king. The friends of the people seized on this conduct of Mr Hutchinson, to represent him as one indifferent to the welfare of the poor, so he did not himself suffer.

The controversy, which arose in England, between Wilkes and the administration, (1763) excited a lively interest in Massachusetts, and tended to keep alive the feelings already awakened in favor of liberty. It was believed, by the whigs of that period, that Mr Wilkes, who was a member of parliament, was persecuted on account of his political principles, which were highly in favor of liberty. He was arrested by a warrant from the speaker of the house of commons, for an alleged libel on the house, and confined in the tower. But, on application to a judicial tribunal, was ordered to be discharged. His imprisonment was deemed altogether arbitrary and unjust, by the whigs both in England and America; and the occasion was seized to declaim against the tyranny of the administration, and the jealousy of the people was thereby aroused towards the friends of the British ministry in both countries. One of the principal advocates in Massachusetts, for the measures of administration, observed, "that men took sides in New England on mere abstract points in government, when there was nothing in practice which could give grounds for forming parties' as if principles were unimportant, and it was sufficient to object to real acts of oppression, or the execution of a despotic system. The motto of the patriots of Massachusetts was, "obsta principiis." The spirit of those who supported the measures of administration may be detected in the justification offered by the individual already quoted, when the officers of the crown, especially those of the customs, were charged with promoting measures restrictive of the rights and liberties of the people, "that they had the law on their side. "*

At this period, the terms, tory and whig were introduced in the colonies, as descriptive of the two great political parties, then forming, and soon after more distinctively known and designated. The appellation became very general, as the dispute became more warm and frequent, between those who supported the measures of administration, however arbitrary, and those who opposed them and professed to be friends of liberty, however vehement in their opposition, or extravagant in their opinions. The latter epithet was a passport to popular favor,

* Mr. Hutchinson, who was the lieutenant governor, chief justice of the superior court, judge of probate, &c. &c. &c.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

without regard to other qualities; and the former rendered one unpopular, though amiable and virtuous in private life. The distinction, certainly, was real and great between these respective classes of politicians; the one held to principles dangerous to republican freedom, and the other to such as were favorable to the liberties of the people; and yet party prejudices, as has always been the case, served to represent one class, as possessing none but selfish and malignant feelings, and the other as governed, in all cases, by generous and disinterested motives.

Mr. Hutchinson was of exemplary manners in domestic life, and deemed moral and correct in his intercourse with his fellow men. But he was considered ambitious and very covetous of honor and office. And with this ruling passion, he was induced to advocate the claims of the crown and the conduct of the British ministry, however oppressive to the people, or conflicting with the rights granted by the charter. The political principles of Mr Hutchinson, which led him to contend rather for the authority of the government, than for the rights and liberties of the people, and the decisions he had given, as chief justice, which were in favor of the officers of the crown, who were deemed very arbitrary and oppressive in their conduct, served to deprive him of the popular favor, and an influence was exerted in the general court to lessen both his salary and his power. It was proposed to exclude the lieutenant governor from the council-board, and to prohibit any justice of the superior court from being a member of either branch of the legislature. It was also contended, that he was to act only in case of a vacancy in the chair, and that being an officer appointed by the king, he ought not to be of the board of counsellors, who were elected by the representatives. But precedent was in favor of the lieutenant governor having a seat at the board. For the year 1762, no extra allowance was made the chief justice, as had been done for many previous years.

On the return of peace, the British ministry became particularly attentive to the state of the American provinces, and manifested a desire to learn their resources and population, Whether it was intended to alter their charters and maintain a different form of government, or whether it was apprehended that the people were aiming at independence, and that it would be necessary to have a military force to prevent it, did not appear. It was more probable that a plan was proposed to raise a revenue in the colonies, which were represented to be fully able to yield it, towards the support of the parent government, and the payment of its immense debt; and that from the

known opposition to such a measure, it would be necessary to have a military power to enforce it. This was justly deemed a difficult measure; for it was well known in England, that the colonies contended for the sole right of laying taxes and raising a revenue; and that they had long insisted, that they needed all which the people could well pay, for their own debts, and the ordinary expenses of their several governments.

As a part of this system, probably, (it was so considered in Massachusetts, however,) an order was sent to Governor Bernard, to have an exact census taken in the province. A law of the general court was necessary to carry such an order into effect, requiring the several towns to make returns of the number of their inhabitants. Great opposition was made to the passage of such a law. Some feared ulterior views had dictated the plan, unfavorable to the authority and interests of the province; and some were weak enough to object to it, as indicating a distrust in providence. The subject was postponed for several sessions of the general court, but at last a vote was obtained in favor of the measure by a small majority.

The policy of the British ministry for taxing the people in the colonies, for the support of the parent government, began to be manifested at this time, (1763) with less disguise than formerly. Still, it was a question, how it could be effected with the least offence to the American people. It was soon perceived, that it could be accomplished only by way of duties on trade; for, to direct and internal taxes the people would never submit. Even the first mode would be attended with difficulty in the collection. There would be frequent infractions or evasions of the law; and nothing but a military force would ensure success to the system. The ministry in England were ready enough to adopt the plan; but there was reason to believe that individuals in Massachusetts and the other provinces favored it, in the hope of obtaining office in the custom-houses, or large salaries from the revenue in other public stations.

*

During the year 1763, so full of interest relating to subjects of a merely political nature, a controversy arose of a religious character, which called into exercise the talents of a distinguished clergyman of Massachusetts, and which serves to illustrate the views and feelings of the people of that period. The society in England for propagating the gospel in foreign parts, which was composed of episcopalians, had nearly thirty mis

It was, in fact, proposed to keep up an army of 10,000 men in the colonies, at this period.

sionaries located in different parts of New England; and most, if not all of them, were in towns where the gospel was faithfully preached by the congregational or other dissenting ministers of good education. This was a gross misapplication of their funds, unless they took the exclusive ground, that the people in New England, who had not episcopal teachers, were without preachers of the gospel. Many feared, that it was intended to introduce episcopacy into the colonies, as had been more than once proposed before, and that it might be made the established religion, as in England. Several of these missionaries were placed in the vicinity of Boston, and one at Cambridge, where the people enjoyed the preaching of the gospel in all its fulness and truth. Such an injudicious and narrow spirit called for reprehension. Rev. Dr. Mayhew undertook to show the perversion of the designs, and the misapplication of the funds of the society, if its real object was to spread the knowledge of the gospel. His writings on the subject, were equally powerful and severe; and having the popular sentiment in their favor, extended and increased his literary fame. The ability displayed by Dr. Mayhew could not be resisted, and the society soon changed the direction of their efforts; but the fears of the people in New England were not removed, as to the designs of the English hierarchy. Such also was the connexion between the established church in England and the monarchy, that this movement, on the part of episcopacy, led to the apprehension that the parent government meditated designs incompatible with civil liberty.

During the years 1762 and 1763, there were no measures proposed, except those relating to the currency and the customhouse, already noticed, which brought into discussion the question of the supremacy of parliament and of the authority of the provincial legislature. Several subjects, indeed, were brought forward, bearing, in some degree, upon this important question; and the house never failed to assert their right to be consulted in raising or appropriating money, in all measures at all affecting the legislative authority which they had long claimed. The governor called for several hundred men to man the forts in the eastern parts of the province, and in Nova Scotia, and also to march to the lakes and westward; but, in some cases, they declined raising any of the men he required; and in others, ordered only a small portion which were called for. And when he advised that the forts on the frontiers should be repaired, they replied that the state of the public treasury was such, they had not the means to do it. When the governor

referred to express instructions from the ministry for the requisitions he made, they replied, that they must judge of the necessity of the case, and the ability of the people. They gave repeated directions to their agent in England, to attend to the rights of the province, in the bills before parliament, which related to the colonies, especially as to regulations of trade, and the duties imposed, for raising a revenue in the colonies for the benefit of the parent government, when the province was greatly in debt, and needed all its resources to support its credit, and to discharge the current expenses; and above all, as to the plan then suggested of keeping up an army in the colonies, when the war in America had ceased. In some cases, the house instructed the agent, without consulting the council, or asking them to join, as they were jealous of the leading members of that board, and feared they would not speak to the agent with sufficient decision and explicitness.

There was some just cause, at this period, to fear, that the British ministry cherished designs of governing the colonies, and of raising a revenue, without asking the consent of the assemblies; and of exercising all the great attributes of authority, which would be placing the province altogether in a dependent and very degraded state. Indications of this kind. appeared in several plans suggested by the ministry, and the agent of the province expressed his fears, that this was in contemplation. The intelligent men in Massachusetts were alarmed at these appearances, especially when the doctrine of the king's prerogative and of the supremacy of parliament found many advocates in the province. In a wish to guard their rights, they sometimes gave way to unreasonable jealousies; and sometimes asserted and claimed more power than the charter granted them. They perceived, however, as they believed, that the subjects in England had greater privileges, in some material points, than they had; particularly, as the people there were represented in the house of commons, where all taxes and duties were ordered, and all grants of money were made. The only security for the rights of the colonists, they said, was in the house of assembly having similar authority in the province; and every deviation from this principle, in any form, was opposed, as inconsistent with the rights of Englishmen, and as an exercise of arbitrary power.

In 1763, a committee was chosen to prepare a statement of the population, trade, and resources of the province. The statement which was made soon after, gave 245,000 inhabitants, 5000 of which were people of color. The manufactories were

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »