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1760

WRITS OF ASSISTANCE.

189

claimed that Parliament had no right to tax them. The ministers of George II. had not only asserted the right, but exercised it, by laying duties on various imported articles. The question was freely discussed throughout America, and everywhere a unanimous voice rose from the people that taxation without representation was unjust and intolerable. The law imposing the obnoxious duties was declared unconstitutional and oppressive. In New England it was constantly evaded, by secretly conveying the taxable articles ashore and concealing them from the collectors. To put a stop to this practice, on the accession of George III. in 1760, edicts were issued commanding all sheriffs and constables to aid the collectors, when called upon, in breaking open and searching cellars, houses, or vessels, that were suspected of containing concealed goods.

Salem was the first place in which it was attempted to enforce this law. The inhabitants denied the right of officers to force their dwellings, and the Supreme Court directed that the question should be argued at Boston. The people were represented by James Oʻ-tis, an eloquent and able lawyer, who had been advocate-general for the crown, but resigned his office rather than enforce an unconstitutional law. Otis' speech on this question produced a thrilling effect on the vast concourse that heard it. It was the ablest defence of popular rights yet put forth, and confirmed the patriots of Massachusetts in their resolution to resist, even by force of arms.

270. At the south, too, the same spirit was rife. In Virginia, the Church of England was established by law, and its ministers had been voted an annual salary of 16,000 pounds of tobacco each. In 1758, a year of scarcity, with the view of relieving the people, it was enacted by the colonial legislature that the salaries of the clergy, as well as other public

had the ministers of George II. exercised this alleged right ? What position was maintained by the colonists? How was the law imposing the offensive duties evaded? What was done on the accession of George III.? Where was the first attempt made to enforce this law! What position did the people of Salem take? Where was the question argued? Who spoke in behalf of the people? What was the effect of Otis' speech ? 270. Where else was the same spirit rife? What

dues, might be paid in cash, each pound of tobacco being rated at two pence, which was below its real value. The clergy resisted, and the king refused to sign the act. Several years passed, and in 1763 the clergy brought a suit for damages. The cause of the people was in the hands of Patrick Henry.

This distinguished man was born in Virginia, in 1736. A lover of nature, he had preferred rural pleasures and solitary forest rambles to his books, and had grown up with a mind strong but not cultivated, and an education varied rather than profound. He had tried mercantile pursuits and farming without success, and at last, turning his attention to the law, was licensed after six weeks' study. He had reached the age of twenty-seven without distinction; and now he stood in the old Hanover court-house, before the most learned of the colony, the triumphant clergy smiling at his awkwardness, and many an anxious eye bent on him in the crowded audience.

The commencement of his speech made little impression; but, as the young orator warmed with his subject, his eye lighted up with genius, his figure became erect, his expression grand, his action bold, his voice commanding, his words impassioned, his arguments irresistible. Men looked at each other in surprise, then, fascinated, drank in with eyes and ears,

, in death-like silence, the eloquence of the gifted speaker. The clergy shrank in alarm from his scathing sarcasm; and the jury, under the spell of his glowing appeals, returned a verdict of one penny damages. The people shouted with delight at their unexpected triumph, and bore their gallant champion from the court-house on their shoulders.

271. Meanwhile the British ministry, no longer guided by the liberal counsels of Pitt, pushed through Parliament a bill, which laid an impost on wines, increased the duty on sugar, and provided for the more rigid enforcement of the

difficulty had arisen between the clergy and the people? In 1763, what did the clergy do? Who pleaded the cause of the people? Give a sketch of the previous history of Patrick Henry. How old was he at this time? Give an account of his triumph in Hanover court-house. What verdict was returned ? How did the people reward their champion ? 271. What injudicious bill was next passed by

1765]

PASSAGE OF THE STAMP ACT.

191

regulations for collecting the revenue. Even before the passage of this bill was announced, the principle it involved was condemned in the strongest terms in a town-meeting at Boston. Samuel Adams, a stout-hearted patriot, who had already proved that taxation and representation were inseparable, protested in the name of the people against the assumption by Parliament of powers fatal to liberty and inconsistent with the rights to which every

Briton was born. 272. In 1765, the famous Stamp Act was passed. It had long been contemplated by the enemies of America, but no British statesman, up to this time, had ventured to urge its passage. According to its provisions, no deed, bond, note, lease, contract, or other legal document, was valid, without a stamp, costing, according to the nature of the instrument, from 3 pence to £6. Every newspaper, pamphlet, almanac, &c., was also required to bear a stamp, costing from a halfpenny

to 4

pence; and on each advertisement they contained a duty of two shillings was imposed. The passage of this act seemed to sound the knell of freedom in America. “ The sun of liberty is set," wrote Franklin to Charles Thompson, the future secretary of Congress; “the Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy.' “Be assured,” was his friend's answer,

shall light torches of a very different character.” Such was the general feeling of the colonists-war, rather than submission to injustice.

The House of Burgesses of Virginia was in session when the news arrived. Odious as the measure was, there was danger in opposing it, and no one durst introduce the subject. Patrick Henry was the youngest member. After waiting in vain for older men to lead the way, he hastily drew

up on the blank leaf of an old law-book five resolutions, which in strong terms asserted the rights of the colonies, and denied the authority of Parliament to impose taxes upon them. The reading of these resolutions produced unbounded

we

Parliament? Before the news arrived, where was the principle it involved strongly condemned? What did Samuel Adams do!' 272. In 1765, what act was passed ? What was the substance of the Stamp Act? On its enactment, what did Franklin write to one of his friends ? What was his friend's reply? What was the general feeling throughout the colonies ? What body was in session

consternation in the House. The Speaker and many

of the members were royalists, and a protracted and violent debate followed. But the eloquence of Henry bore down all opposition. Indignant at the attempt to inthrall his country, the fearless orator, in the midst of an impassioned harangue,

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exclaimed, “ Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles I. his Cromwell, and George III.--" “ Treason!” shouted the Speaker. “Treason ! Treason!” was heard in different parts of the House.

“And George III.," repeated Henry, with flashing eye and unfaltering voice, “may profit by their example. If that be treason, make the most of it.” Again the young mountaineer triumphed. The resolutions were carried. They were circulated throughout the colo

when the news arrived ? State what took place in the House of Burgesses.

1765]

EXCITEMENT AGAINST THE STAMP ACT.

193

nies, and everywhere excited the same determined spirit that they breathed.

Among those who listened to the inspiring words of Patrick Henry on this occasion, was a young Virginian, destined to play no unimportant part in his country's history. It was Thomas Jefferson, then a student twenty-two years old. Standing in the lobby, he heard the whole discussion. The words of the eloquent patriot found an abiding echo in his heart, and awakened there the sentiment which directed all his future conduct—that “resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”

273. The indignation of the people at the passage of the Stamp Act was not confined to Virginia. Similar resolutions to those of Patrick Henry were passed in New York, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. Early in October, 1765, delegates from nine colonies assembled at New York, and drew up a declaration of their grievances and rights. A petition embodying their views was forwarded to both king and Parliament.

The Act was to go into effect on the first of November, and the excitement became intense as the day approached. Those who were appointed to sell the stamps were burned in effigy, and compelled to resign or quit the country. On the arrival of stamps at the seaport towns, the flags were placed at half-mast, muffled bells were tolled, and the citizens walked the streets attired in mourning. In New York, ten boxes of stamps were destroyed by the people, and the merchants resolved to import nothing from the mother country till the offensive act was repealed. The business men of Philadelphia and Boston followed this example. In the latter city, a handbill was posted at the corners, warning the person who should first distribute or use stamped sheets to take care of his property and person. A paper was issued, bearing for

What was the effect of Patrick Henry's eloquence? Who listened to Henry's words on this occasion ? What feeling did they awaken in him ? How old was Jefferson at this time? 273. In what other colonies were resolutions against the Stamp Act passed? What took place in October, 1765 ? When was the Stamp Act to go into effect? What was done to the stamp officers? How did the inhabitants express their indignation when the stamps arrived? What was done

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