« PreviousContinue »
born within the realm of England;?—3dly, "That his Majesty's
's liege people of this his ancient colony have enjoyed the right of being thus governed by their own assembly, in the article of taxes and internal police, and that the same has never been forfeited or yielded up, but been constantly recognized by the king and people of Britain;--4thly, Resolved, therefore, that the general assembly of this colony, together with his Majesty or his substitutes, have, in their representative capacity, the only exclusive right and power to lay taxes and imposts upon the inhabitants of this colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any other person or persons whatsoever than the
general assembly aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional and unjust, and hath a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American liberty;'-5thly, Resolved, that his Majesty's liege people, the inhabitants of this colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatever upon them, other than the laws or ordinances of the general assembly aforesaid;-—6thly, “Resolved, that any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or persons, other than the general assembly of this colony, have any right or power to impose, or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to this his Majesty's colony."
The heat engendered by the debates, which in various colonies issued in resolutions to the tenor of the foregoing, at length broke out in acts of violence. The populace of Boston attacked the houses of the officers of government, and destroyed their furniture. Similar excesses took place in some of the other colonies; and the general antipathy of
Repeat the third resolution, the fourth, the fifth and sixth,
the public against the act sheltered the perpetrators of these outrages from punishment.
These ebullitions were followed by more regular and more effective proceedings on the part of the American patriots. On the 6th of June the assembly of Massachusetts, sensible of the necessity of union to the maintenance of their rights and liberties, invited the other colonial legislative bodies to send deputies to a general congress to be holden at New York on the second Tuesday of October, for the purpose of deliberating on the steps necessary to be taken in the existing circumstances. This summons was readily answered by all the colonies, except those of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, which, however, heartily approved of the purposed measures, but were prevented by their respective governors from meeting for the purpose of electing deputies to attend the congress. The representatives of nine colonies met at the time and place appointed, and after mature deliberation agreed upon a declaration of their rights and a statement of their grievances, and also drew up and signed petitions to the king and to both houses of parliament. Similar steps were taken individually by the colonies which had been prevented from sending deputies to the congress.
REPEAL OF THE STAMP-ACT, 10TH OF MARCH, 1766.-NEW AT
TEMPT AT TAXATION, AND RESISTANCE TO THE SAME.
The first of November, the day on which the stamp-act was to commence its operation, was ushered in throughout
What took place on the 6th of June?
the colonies by the funereal tolling of bells. In the course of the day, various processions and public exhibitions were made, all indicative of the abhorrence in which the detested statute was universally held. By common consent, the act was utterly disregarded, and not a stamp was bought to legalize any transaction. Nor did the Americans content themselves with this sullen opposition to the measures of ministers. They entered into solemn resolutions not to import any British manufactured goods, till the stamp-act was repealed; and an association was formed to oppose the act by force of arms. The latter step had no immediate effect; but the non-importation agreement brought such distress upon the British manufacturers, that they besieged parliament with petitions against the measures which had been adopted for the taxing of the colonies. Thus assailed by the clamors of the colonists and by the complaints of the suffering British merchants, his Majesty's government, at the head of which was now placed the Marquess of Rockingham, for a time wavered at the view of the unpleasant alternative which was set before them, of either repealing or enforcing the obnoxious statute. The former measure was grating to the pride of the nation at large, and the latter evidently involved in its prosecution the danger of a civil war. During this period of hesitation, the state of the colonies was frequently discussed in parliament. It was, in particular, the prominent subject of debate at the opening of the session on the 17th of December, 1765. On this occasion Mr. Pitt seems to have exerted all the energies of his powerful mind to avert the mischiefs which he beheld impending over his country. “It is a long time, Mr. Speaker,' said he, since I have attended in parliament. When the resolution was taken in the House to tax America, I
What resolutions were entered into?
was ill in bed. If I could have endured to have been carried in my bed, so great was the agitation of my mind for the consequences, I would have solicited some kind hand to have laid me down on this floor, to have borne my testimony against it. It is now an act that has passed; I would speak with decency of every act of this House, but I must beg the indulgence of the House to speak of it with freedom. I hope a day may be soon appointed to consider the state of the nation with respect to America. I hope gentlemen will come to this debate with all the temper and impartiality that his Majesty recommends, and the importance of the subject requires—a subject of greater importance than ever engaged the attention of this House, that subject only excepted, when, nearly a century ago, it was the question whether you yourselves were to be bound or free. In the mean time, as I cannot depend upon health for any future day, such is the nature of my infirmities, I will beg to say a few words at present, leaving the justice, the equity, the policy, the expediency of the act to another time. I will only speak to one point-a point which seems not to have been generally understood—I mean to the right.-Some gentlemen seem to have considered it as a point of honor. If gentlemen consider it in that light, they leave all measures of right and wrong, to follow a delusion that may lead to destruction.
It is my opinion that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time I assert the authority of this kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever. They are the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind, and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen. Equally bound by its laws, and equally participating of the constitution of this free country, the Americans are the sons—not the bastards of England.-Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power.
The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone. In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike concerned; but the concurrence of the peers and the crown to a tax is only necessary to close with the form of a law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. In ancient days the crown, the barons, and the clergy possessed the lands. In those days the barons and clergy gave and granted to the crown. They gave and granted what was their own. At present, since the discovery of America, and other circumstances admitting, the Commons are become the proprietors of the land. The crown has divested itself of its great estates. The church (God bless it) has but a pittance. The property of the Lords, compared with that of the Commons, is as a drop of water in the ocean; and this House represents those Commons, the proprietors of the lands; and those proprietors virtually represent the rest of the inhabitants. When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our
But in an American tax what do we do? We, your Majesty's Commons of Great Britain, give and grant to your Majesty'—what?--our own property ?-No! give and grant to your Majesty the property of your Majesty's Commons of America! It is an absurdity in terms.' "There is,' said Mr. Pitt, towards the close of his speech, there is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually represented in this House. I would fain know by whom an American is represented here? Is he represented by any knight of the shire in any county in this kingdom? Would to God that respectable representation was augmented to a greater number!
Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative of a borough-a borough which, perhaps, no man ever saw. This is what is called the rotten part of the constitution. It cannot continue a
What said Mr. Pitt towards the close of his speech?