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The whole scheme of a union, therefore, fell through, and no further attempt was made to bring the colonies together until ten years afterwards, in 1765, when the arbitrary measure of the Stamp Act threw the whole country into alarm for their liberties.
That principle of Saxon independence which formed the basis of the colonial character, revolted at the very idea of submitting to a tax of any description, or for any purpose, which was not laid on by their own free and independent choice.
The first section of the famous, or, as our ancestors held it to be, infamous Stamp Act, read as follows: “For every kind of skin of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed, any declaration, plea, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of three cents.”
The whole act contained fifty-five sections, which placed a stamp duty upon everything for which paper · or parchment was used.
There were many sagacious statesmen in the British Parliament who foresaw what a blaze this act would kindle on the North American continent, and who did their utmost in Parliament to defeat it.
Among these, the gallant and far-seeing Col. Barre, in reply to a remark of Lord George Granville that“ the colonies were planted by the care of the British govern. ment,” replied “ No ! your oppression planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny into a then uncultivated land, where they were exposed to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable. And yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with
which it was supposed was to be used as a stamp office, it halted, and paid its respects to the said house, by de. molishing it to the level of the ground.
Next they went to the dwelling of Oliver, and there, in front of his door, beheaded his effigy, broke all his windows, and then marched on with cries and shouts that almost split the heavens down over their heads.. They, however, soon returned, broke open his dvorsOliver having in the meantime fled to some other house for safety-and, entering the lower part smashed all the furniture to pieces.
The next day Oliver wrote to England, requesting to be excused from the office of stamp distributor.
These violent scenes not only took place in Boston, but every part of the colony was one scene of riot and violence.
The fire that was kindled swept through all the colo. nies. At Providence, Rhode Islanıl, a gazette extraor. dinary was published on the 24th of August, with “ vox Populi, vor Dei,” in large letters for the frontispiece, and at the bottom “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.-St. Paul."
Elligies of stamp officers were dragged through the streets with halters tied to their necks, then hung to gibbets, and afterwards burned.
Everywhere the frantic populace rushed headlong through the streets into the most irrational cxcesses, while men of order and character, if they testified their disapprobation in more moderate ways, were not less determined in their resolution to resist, to the bitter end, the odious act of Parliament.
Thus the spirit of resistance and liberty which was kindled by Virginia, and fanned by Massachusetts, ran over the land, spreading such terror in the minds of the officers of the crown, that on the first day of Novem.
ber, the day fixed by law for the emission of stamped paper, not a single sheet of. it could be found in all the colonies, from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. It had either been committed to the flames during the popular commotions, or been sent back to England by the frightened officers to whom it was addressed.
It may perhaps seem almost strange to you that our fathers should make such an ado about a two-pence stamp upon a bit of paper. But, it was not the amount to be paid it was the principle against which our fa. thers struck.
Their battle was still for that ancient Saxon principle of local independence-of entire sovereignty over every one of their own domestic insiitutions.
These anti-stamp riots, or wars—for they were almost wars—have two important bearings upon our subject
1st.-They illustrate the intense spirit of indepen. dence which animated the breasts of all the patriotic founders of the Republic.
20.—They caused a long stride on the part of all the colonies towards that combination which ultimately resulted in the Union.
While these wild and disorderly demonstrations were progressing on every hand, the colonists of New York called a general meeting of the people in the fields ad. jacent to the city, for the purpose of appointing a committee of persons of known patriotism, to communicate with the friends of liberty in other provinces, in order to enable all the colonists to move together as one body to resist a common enemy.
Articles of a general plan of co-operation were drawn up and circulated from hand to hand by an organization called “The Sons of Liberty,” among all the colonies.
Although this organization never entertained the thought of declaring colonial independence of Great
Britain, and much less of effecting any political union between the colonies, yet the very fact of combining for mutual defense and safety was nevertheless a great step towards the formation of the Union that was to be.
The preamble of this colonial anti-stamp league began by declaring that they would continue to defend and support the crown in every just and lawful act, and. closed with this sentence :
“We will defend the liberty of the press from all illegal violation, and from every impediment which may result from the stamp act—the press being the only means, under Divine Providence, of preserving our lives, liberty, and property. We will also defend and protect the judges, advocates, attorneys, and notaries, against all penalties, fines or vexations they may incur in not conforming to the act aforesaid."
Beside this popular league, the merchants of the various cities, throughout the colonies, entered into another, by which they all agreed to write to England, ordering no more goods to be sent to them until the stamp act was repealed.
They also prohibited any lawyer from instituting an action for moneys due an inhabitant of England ; and no American was to make any payment for the benefit of a subject of that kingdom, until the act was repealed.
There was yet another league, called “ The Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce,” formed for the purpose of rendering the colonies more independent of the wares of the mother country.
Markets were opened for the sale of articles manuo factured in the colonies, to which were soon brought, in considerable abundance, cloths, linens, stuffs of wool and a great variety of articles of general utility,
That articles of woollen stuff might be more abund, ant, it was resolved to abstain entirely from the flesh
of lambs, and also from buying meat of any butchers who should kill or offer for sale these animals. Rich men would wear old clothes, sooner than buy new cloth of English manufacture.
The colonies of Virginia and South Carolina agreed to suspend all exportation of tobacco to any part of Great Britain, which was a great blow to British commerce, as England supplied foreign markets with immense quantities of these tobaccos.
While these things were progressing on every hand, Massachusetts conceived the plan of a general Congress of all the colonies, for the purpose of affecting a gen. eral and public confederacy against the laws of which they complained.
This movement was received by all the colonies; and on Monday, the 7th October, 1765, the deputies from each assembled in general Congress in the city of NewYork.
After a long premable, full of extraordinary protestations of affection and loyalty towards the person of the king and towards the English Government, this Congress adopted a series of fourteen articles, setting forth their determination to run every hazard in defense of the sacred principle of local independence and selfgovernment. And then it adjourned, with a recommendation that they should meet again the next May.
When the news of these events in America reached England, two parties were formed there, which contended with great bitterness with each other in Parliament. The ministerial party were for punishing the colonists with the utmost rigor of coercive force.
But there was another party, led by Mr. Burke and the venerable William Pitt, which opposed the ministerical schemes of force with great power.
Mr. Pitt, who was already stricken with years, fore