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no article of European commerce might be imported except from England.
America however carried on an illicit commerce with every part of the globe, and the navigation laws could not be enforced. A radical change therefore, from the former measures to worse, was now contemplated: and Mr George Grenville, who succeeded lord Bute in the administration, avowed, as we have seen, an intention of drawing from the colonies a revenue equal to the alleged expence of their protection and government. This was to be accomplished by enforcing the old navigation laws, and by instituting additional taxes. We must digress from our narrative, to offer a short sketch of the consequences of these attempts.
A squadron was equipped in England, in 1763, to prevent smuggling, and despatched to the American coast in the double capacity of ships of war and revenue cruizers. The seizures that were made were resented by the colonists, who denounced vengeance against the officers, and exceedingly annoyed them in the discharge of their duty, considering these restrictions upon the commerce and property a despotic usurpation of power. So violent were the public commotions in the northern states, that the judges feared popular vengeance in the courts, and could rarely be brought to condemn property and ships seized under any circumstances. On one occasion the people at Rhode Island fired from their batteries upon his majesty's schooner St John, for having taken a smuggler in that port.
The next acts that excited the popular ferment, were the imposition of new duties on their commerce, particularly on East India goods, wines, and many other articles ; the demanding taxes in specie; and the abolition of paper money as a legal tender. But the last and most odious measure, was the long-announced STAMP Act, which, on 22nd March 1765, received the royal assent. When intelligence reached Boston of this unhappy proceeding, it is impossible to describe the consternation it produced. The ships in the harbour hoisted their colours half-mast high, in token of the deepest mourning; the bells were muffled, and rang a funeral knell; a reprint of the act was exhibited, in the title of which, instead of the king's arms, appeared a figure of death's head. The act was cried publicly in the street as "the folly of England, and ruin of America,” and together with effigies of its authors and supporters was burnt with public ignominy. The press also teemed with the most audacious attacks upon king and parliament; and a newspaper was boldly circulated, in the title of which appeared the significant figure of a snake cut in thirteen pieces, each piece bearing the initial letter of one of the thirteen colonies, accompanied with the motto, “join or die.” At Philadelphia and other places the cannon both in the town and barracks were spiked under the very eyes of the military. In Virginia the discussions of the Assembly were of the most alarming nature. One member, Patrick Henry, proclaimed aloud, that “ Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles I his Oliver Cromwell, and George III
." The assembly of Massachusetts Bay resolved, that it was expedient to hold a general congress, consisting of deputies from all the assemblies in the American continent, to consider the common grievances, and frame petitions to government. Circulars were accordingly sent. In Boston the mob burnt in effigy Mr Oliver, the colonial secretary, who was a distributor of stamps, pulled down his house in defiance of the police, and would have murdered him, had he not eluded their research, and promised to give up the stamps. The lieutenant-governor, chief justice, and sheriff, narrowly escaped with their lives. The populace next destroyed the house of the comptroller of customs, and the registry of the admiralty, burning all the records of that court. The house of the lieutenant-governor was then attacked, the public papers committed to the flames, and his money, plate, and furniture scattered in the street. When the gover
nor sent written orders for the colonel of the provincial militia to call out his men, the latter refused to obey. At New York, the head-quarters of general Gage, commander-in-chief of the forces in America, the people surrounded the fort, and demanded that the stamps should be given up to them; a requisition which induced that officer to deposit them with the magistrates of the town. So that on the 1st of November, the day appointed for the commencement of the law, there were neither stamps for sale, nor distributors of stamps who dared to offer them, throughout the whole of North America. In this state of things business was suspended, and the courts of justice shut up, for want of legal instruments. The Quakers are said to have recommended that writings should be executed on the bark of trees, in order to evade the law: that being neither paper nor parch. ment!
Such confusion could not possibly be of long duration. The congress of delegates from nine colonies met at New York on 7th of October, and framed petitions to the king and parliament, containing a declaration of their rights and grievances. This assembly was was the origin of that celebrated body of the same name, which combined the system of opposition to Great Britain, and effected the revolution. They agreed to import no more British commodities, and to discontinue the use of them; to encourage their own manufactures; and to suspend commercial transactions with the parent-country, until their grievances were redressed.
In England petitions came pouring in from the merchants, who were distressed by want of trade the effect of the late regulations in America; and by the refusal of the Americans to pay British debts, till they were removed. Parliament was greatly divided in opinion. Some of the members rejoiced that the Americans had resisted Mr Grenville; and his colleagues were dismissed from the ministry, the Marquis Rockingham and his friends succeeding. The new
ministry now therefore contained, among them members who originally opposed the bill, and the desire of dropping it began generally to prevail. ; In February 1766, Dr Franklin, who was still in London, was examined before the house of Commons, as a means of obtaining information on the subject; and to the strength and freedom of his observations the repeal of the obnoxious act was attributed. The Parliament however insisted on its right to tax the colonies, severely censuring the late excesses; and with the repeal of the Stamp Act his majesty graciously recommended the Assemblies to renumerate those of his injured subjects, whose property had fallen a sacrifice. Yet harmony now seemed not very remote, and very few duties existed in the colonies.
In July a further change took place in the ministry; and Mr Pitt, become earl of Chatham, and in declining health, was again called into power. An unfortunate act of Mr Grenville's however still remained in force, a sort of rider upon the Stamp Act, passed with a view of enforcing that measure. It first empowered military officers to quarter their soldiers in private houses; or enjoined, as a modification, the Assemblies to find them quarters, hedding, beer, rum, &c., which they entirely refused to do. This resistance of its authority the Parliament of Great Britain resolved to chastise; and as New York had been most opposed to the measure, an act suspending the legislature of that province was now carried by the minister. This again threw the colonies into commotion; and they now began to contemplate a final rupture with Britain, Yet some members of the cabinet still entertained the project of taxing the colonies; and Mr C. Townsend, during the indisposition of Mr Pitt, introduced a bill to lay duties on glass, china, painters' colours, tea, paper, &c., and established a resident board of commissioners to collect the revenue, and to prevent contraband trade. Power was given to the custom officers to break into dwelling-houses; and sir Samuel Hood sent to relieve lord Colville in command of the squadron for the detection of smugglers, &c.
This tax was also at once resisted in America; and the inhabitants of Boston, at a public meeting, drew up resolutions, after the example of New York, for discontinuing the use of British manufactures, and encouraging their own. These resolutions of the town of Boston arrived in London in 1768, and created considerable excitement. Dr Franklin endeavoured to palliate them by addresses in the public papers; and, as the disturbances of the colonies were greatly misunderstood, he inserted a letter in the Chronicle of January 7th, entitled “ The Causes of the American Discontents before 1768,” with the motto-" The waves never rise but where the winds blow.” He here wisely avoids arguing the abstract question of the right of the mother-country to tax the colonies; states himself to be merely an impartial historian of American facts and opinions; and dwells altogether on the inexpediency of the late measures. He affects not to be able to estimate the weight due to America; yet contrives to enforce it with great ability by the following significant enumeration of the evils generally endured by thriving colonies, until goaded into self-deliverance:-" They reflected,” he observes, “ how lightly the interests of all America had been estimated here; that the whole American people was forbidden the advantage of a direct importation of wine, oils and fruit, from Portugal; but must take them loaded with all the expense of a voyage one thousand leagues round about, being to be landed first in England, to be re-shipped to America ; expenses amounting, in war time, at least to thirty pounds per cent. more than otherwise they would have been charged with; and all this merely that a few Portugal merchants in London may gain a commission on those goods passing through their hands. That on a slight complaint of a few Virginia merchants, nine colonies had been restrained from making paper