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just as that word is now applied to recent manifestations of opinion in Boston, - even to the memorial of her twenty-nine hundred merchants. But these “treasonable” resolutions soon found response. New York followed. Massachusetts came next. In an address from the Legislature to the Governor, the true ground of opposition to the Stamp Act, coincident with the two radical objections to the Slave Act, are clearly set forth, with the following pregnant conclusion :

“ We deeply regret it that the Parliament has seen fit to pass such an act as the Stamp Act; we flatter ourselves that the hardships of it will shortly appear to them in such a point of light as shall induce them, in their wisdom, to repeal it; in the mean time we must beg your Excellency to excuse us from doing anything to assist in the execution of it.1

The Stamp Act was welcomed in the Colonies by the Tories of that day, precisely as the unconstitutional Slave Act has been welcomed by an imperious class among us. Hutchinson, at that time Lieutenant-Governor and Judge in Massachusetts, wrote to Ministers in England :

“The Stamp Act is received among us with as much decency as could be expected. It leaves no room for evasion, and will execute itself.” 2

Like Judges of our day, in charges to Grand Juries, he resolutely vindicated the Act, and admonished "the jurors and people” to obey.3 Like Governors of our day, Bernard, in his speech to the Legislature of Massachusetts, demanded unreasoning submission. “I shall not,” says this British Governor, “enter into any disquisition of the policy of the Act. I have only to say that it is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain.” 1 The elaborate answer of Massachusetts the work of Samuel Adams, one of the pillars of our history — was pronounced "the ravings of a parcel of wild enthusiasts, " ? even as recent proceedings in Boston, resulting in the memorial before you, have been characterized on this floor. Am I not right in this parallel ?

1 Journal of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay, October 24, 1765, p. 135. Hutchinson. Vol. III., Appendix, p. 474

2 Bancroft, History of the United States, Vol. V. 3 Ibid.

p. 272.

The country was aroused against the execution of the Act. And here Boston took the lead. In formal instructions to her Representatives, adopted unanimously in town meeting at Faneuil Hall, the following rule of conduct was prescribed :

“We therefore think it our indispensable duty, in justice to ourselves and posterity, as it is our undoubted privilege, in the most open and unreserved, but decent and respectful terms, to declare our greatest dissatisfaction with this law : and we think it incumbent upon you by no means to join in any public measures for countenancing and assisting in the execution of the same, but to use your best endeavors in the General Assembly to have the inherent, unalienable rights of the people of this Province asserted and vindicated, and left upon the public records, that posterity may never have reason to charge the present times with the guilt of tamely given them away.

The opposition spread and deepened, with a natural tendency to outbreak and violence. On one occasion in Boston, it showed itself in the lawlessness of a mob most formidable in character, even as is now charged.

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1 Journal of the House of Representatives, September 25, 1765, p. 119. Hutchinson, Vol. III.


467. 2 Bancroft, History of the United States, Vol. V. p. 349. 3 Boston Gazette, September 23, 1765.

Liberty., in her struggles, is too often driven to force. But the town, at a public meeting in Faneuil Hall, called without delay, on the motion of the opponents of the Stamp Act, with James Otis as Chairman, condemned the outrage. Eager in hostility to the execution of the Act, Boston cherished municipal order, and constantly discountenanced all tumult, violence, and illegal proceeding: On these two grounds she then stood : and her position was widely recognized. In reply, March 24, 1766, to an address from the inhabitants of Plymouth, her own consciousness of duty done is, thus expressed :

“If the inhabitants of this metropolis have taken the warrantable and legal measures to prevent that misfortune, of all others the most to be dreaded, the execution of the Stamp Act, and, as a necessary means of preventing it, have made any spirited applications for opening the custom-houses and courts of justice, if, at the same time, they have bore their testimony against outrageous tumults and illegal proceedings, and given any example of the love of peace and good order, next to the consciousness of having done their duty, is the satisfaction of meeting with the approbation of any of their fellow-countrymen.” 1

Thus was the Stamp Act annulled, even before its actual repeal, which was pressed with assiduity by petition and remonstrance, at the next meeting of Parliament. Among potent influences was the entire concurrence of the merchants, and especially a remonstrance against the Stamp Act by merchants of New York, like that now made against the Slave Act by merchants of Boston. Some at first sought only its mitigation. Even James Otis began with this moderate aim. The King himself showed a disposition to yield to this extent. But Franklin, who was then in England, when asked whether the Colonies would submit to the Act, if mitigated in certain particulars, replied : “No, never, unless compelled by force of arms."1 Then it was that the great Commoner, William Pitt, in an ever-memorable speech, uttered words which fitly belong to this occasion. He said:

1 Boston Gazette, March 31, 1766.

Sir, I have been charged with giving birth to sedition in America. They have spoken their sentiments with freedom against this unhappy Act, and that freedom has become their crime. Sorry I am to hear the liberty of speech in this House imputed as a crime. But the imputation shall not discourage me. It is a liberty I mean to exercise. No gentleman ought to be afraid to exercise it. It is a liberty by which the gentleman who calumniates it might have profited. He ought to have profited. He ought to have desisted from his project. The gentleman tells us America is obstinate, America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of Liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest. . . . . I would not debate a particular point of law with the gentleman ; but I draw my ideas of Freedom from the vital powers of the British Constitution, — not from the crude and fallacious notions too much relied upon, as if we were but in the morning of Liberty. I can acknowledge no veneration for any procedure, law, or ordinance, that is repugnant to reason and the first elements of our Constitution. .... The Americans have been wronged. They have been driven to madness by injustice...... Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my opinion. Įt is, that the Stamp Act be repealed, absolutely, totally, and

1 Hansard, Parliamentary History, XVI. 140.

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immediately, ---- that the reason for the repeal be assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle.?

Thus spoke this great orator, at the time tutelary guardian of American Liberty. He was not unheeded. Within less than a year from its original passage, the Stamp Act — assailed as unconstitutional on the precise grounds which I now occupy in assailing the Slave Act

was driven from the statute-book.

Sir, the Stamp Act was, at most, an infringement of civil liberty only, not of personal liberty. How often must I say this? It touched questions of property only, and not the personal liberty of any man.

Under it, no freeman could be seized as a slave. There was an unjust tax of a few pence, with the chance of amercement by a single judge without jury ; but by this statute no person could be deprived of that vital right of all which is to other rights as soul to body,-- the right of a man to himself. Who can fail to see the difference between the two cases, and how far the tyranny of the Slave Act is beyond the tyranny of the Stamp Act? The difference is inmeasurable. And this will yet be pronounced by history.

I call upon you, then, to receive the petition, and hearken to its prayer. All other petitions asking for change in existing legislation are treated with respect, promptly referred and acted upon. This should not be an exception. The petition asks simply the repeal of an obnoxious statute, which is entirely within the competency of Congress. It proceeds from a large number of respectable citizens, whose autograph signatures are attached. It is brief and respectful, and, in its very

1 Hansard, Parliamentary History, XVI. 103 - 108. Bancroft, History of the United States, V. 391–395.

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