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law, in 1660, satisfied the colonists that their commerce was doomed, because it threatened to rival that of Great Britain. Not only was England interested in American commerce; but she was very much exercised over American industries, as she is to this day. After calling the attention of Parliament to American industries from time to time, laws were enacted to regulate them. In 1719, the House of Commons declared that “erecting any manufactories in the colonies tended to lessen their dependence on Great Britain,” and they were discouraged. Earlier than this an English author had written:
“There be fine iron works which cast no guns; no house in New England has above twenty rooms; not twenty in Boston have ten rooms each; a dancing-school was set up here, but put down; a fencingschool is allowed; there be no musicians by trade; all cordage, sail-cloth and mats come from England; no cloth is made there worth four shillings per yard; no alum, no salt made by their sun."
The British government kept as strict a guard over the manufactories as she did over their commerce, and what few goods were manufactured by one colony they were prohibited from selling, bartering or exchanging with another. Infant industries, instead of being fostered and protected, met with direct opposition from the home government.
It took the French and Indian wars to drive the colonies into the thought of uniting for mutual protection, and, once united, they began to sympathize with each other and brood over the wrongs heaped upon them by the mother country. That first little confederation of the New England colonies for mutual protection against the Indians was commented on. It had been a successful scheme and the wise men in the colonies began to argue that a general continental congress might be formed.
There were mental giants coming; there were statesmen growing up, whose bright and shining lights were yet to illuminate all future generations, and they were gathering strength every day to grapple with the great problems.
William Penn seems to have been the first to put forth a plan for a general union of all the colonies for their mutual welfare, in which he proposed the appointment of persons in each colony, who should meet at specified times in a general congress to mature plans for the common good, whose presiding officer should be a high commissioner appointed by the crown, and in time of war should command all of the colonial forces. His plan somewhat resembled the Grecian Amphictyonic Council, and was commended by many thoughtful persons. The idea was discussed through the press in both England and America, not with any thought of independence, but with the idea that a national unioa of colonies in America would redound to the glory of Great Britain. When it became apparent that the design of the French was to supplant the English in America, a prominent citizen of New Jersey, Daniel Coxe, published a volume in London (1722) in which he proposed that all the English colonies in America should be united by a national covenant, in a national government, over which a supreme viceroy or governor, appointed by the crown, should preside in some part of America, and the governors of the several colonies should be subordinate to him; and also that there should be a general congress of deputies chosen by the several colonies to promote unity of action in times of danger. Men of all shades of political opinion made similar suggestions; and Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia, recommended, not only a union of the colonies for mutual defence, but a confederation of the Indians then friendly toward the English, with the tribes more in the interior and under the influence of the French.
Meanwhile, there had been several conventions of the leading men of the colonies, as in the case of the convention at New London, Connecticut, in 1711, when the land and naval expeditions were sent under Colonel Nicholson on land and Sir Hovenden Walker by sea, which failed, as seen. In
1722, a congress of colonial officials and Indian sachems was held at. Albany for the promotion of a friendly feeling and the strengthening of the alliance then existing with the Iroquois confederacy. In 1744, a similar congress for the same purposes met at Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
These colonial congresses began to exhibit a tendency toward a national union. After news had reached the colonies of a preliminary treaty of peace having been signed by the commissioners of England and France, a colonial congress was held at Albany (1748) which certainly looked more toward a national union than for defence. This congress was convened for a two-fold purpose. The antagonisms between the royal governors and the people were alarming to the crown officers in America, and the latter wished to secure a colonial revenue through British interference, and not be subjected, in the matter, to the will or caprice of colonial assemblies. Foremost among these crown officers who were willing to abridge the rights of the people, were Governor Clinton of New York and Governor Shirley of Massachusetts. They promoted the assembling of the congress with a hope that that body would favor their scheme, and both were there with their political friends. Another purpose of the meeting was the strengthening of the bond of friendship between the Six Nations and their savage neighbors on the west and the English. A vast concourse of barbarians were there, and, while the royal governors gained nothing for themselves, a very satisfactory arrangement was made with the Indians. They agreed that no Frenchman should abide within their borders, also, not to send any delegation to Canada, and to have their warriors ready for the service of the English whenever they should be called upon.
That there was a crisis in political affairs in the colonies, every one knew. Nothing but the French and Indian wars prevented it coming sooner than it did. The royal governors saw that something must speedily be done to curb the democratic spirit of the people, or local self-government would supersede royal authority. It was necessary to convince Parliament of this truth. Only through the Lords of Trade and Plantations could this be done. This was the board or committee appointed by the crown in 1696, to whom was entrusted a general oversight of the affairs of the American colonies. It was originally composed of seven members and a president. To them the royal governors were requested to give frequent and full information of the condition of their respective governments concerning political and commercial affairs, and particularly of the proceedings of the assemblies; also, of the appropriations for the public service and