« PreviousContinue »
blessings of that everlasting gospel of peace, which had been the palladium of all her privileges, and enjoyments; that the same blessings might be imparted, through the same medium, to the nations who knew not God, nor have even heard of the gospel of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although the futility of the claims of the crown of England, to the right of soil, or the right of jurisdiction, in, and over the colonies, or settlements in America, is clearly shewn; yet the question may recur to some, why then did the colonies acknowledge this right of jurisdiction, by taking out letters patent, or charters from the crown of England? The answer is at hand: they, at that age, did not actually know any better; but as they had been born and educated in slavery, they were willing, or rather presumed they were in duty bound, to continue in civil slavery; their only object was religious freedom, or the rights of conscience; but when once they had become acquainted with that national freedom, they had found in the natives of America, their minds expanded, and they began to realise that they themselves were free; and they planted their civil, and religious institutions, upon the basis of this freedom, this rational, this natural liberty. Another cause which induced the pilgrims, as well as the first colonists of America at large, so settle under these letters patent, or charters, was that they might guarantee, and protect their rights of possession, against the encroachments of others; but when they found that the crown of England vexed them with a succession of oppressive, and tyrannical governors, who sought by every possible art, to undermine, and destroy their liberties; and that resistance to these was followed by the direct attack upon their liberties, by the attempt to remove their charters, and establish the usurpation of the Duke of York, as well to subvert their religious, as their civil liberties, their eyes were opened to a true sense
of their situation, and they sought all possible means to subdue the French, in Novascotia, and in Canada; that they might be free from Indian wars, as well as such a powerful rival state, and thus prepare the way for the quiet enjoyment of their civil, and religious rights. To effect this, the colonies co-operated with the mother country, in the Spanish war, and actually sent a strong military force to the West-Indies, to assist in the reduction of Carthagena, and the Island of Cuba. Great-Britain, in her turn, sent her fleets and armies to co-operate with the colonies, in reducing Novascotia and Canada; but it will be recollected, that at the time the Congress of governors met at Albany, to concert measures for the reduction of Canada, in the year 1754, it was proposed that a grand colonial council should be formed, consisting of a delegation, chosen from all the provincial assemblies, with a governor, or head, appointed by the crown; which council, should be vested with full powers, to manage the war, raise money, &c. Under such a government, the colonies were confident they were able to take Canada, as the eastern colonies had done Louisburg, several years before, without the aid of Great Britain; but the crown rejected this plan, as being dangerous to their authority, and proposed that Great-Britain should furnish troops, and money, for the enterprise, and reserve the right to tax the colonies after the war, to remunerate her expenses; this the colonies rejected, as dangerous to liberty. Such men as Dr. Franklin, and others, saw through this thin veil, and sounded the alarm; that the right of Britain being once admitted to tax the colonies, their liberties were gone, and they, slaves forever. These two points being rejected, the parties entered with spirit into the war, and formed a joint, and mutual co-operation. Canada was taken, the French were driven from America, and the colonies were freed from this troublesome neighbour, as we have before
related, by the peace of 1763. By this peace Great Britain had become mistress of the seas, and arbiter of the world. The colonies had triumphed over the French in the war, and laid the foundation of a lasting Indian peace.* When this war was closed, the British ministry, sensible that a people possessing the energies, and resources of the American colonies, supported by such a system of wise and virtuous institutions, whose hearts glowed with the purest principles of civil and religious liberty, and whose rich, and extensive country opened a vast theatre, upon which these principles combined, would soon display the character of a great, powerful, and independent nation. A question at once arose in the councils of England, what measures will become most effectual, to secure to Britain, a permanent sovereignty over these rising colonies? In this momentous question, her councils were divided. The one part were in favour of mild, and gentle measures, and at the head of these, stood the illustrious Earl of Chatham. The other part were for bold and energetic measures, and at the head of these, stood a North, and a Bute. The measures of the latter, comported well with the elevated pride, with which the successes, and triumphs of the last war, had inspired the haughty councils of Britain; and her evil genius, set at defiance the wise counsels of a Pitt; and these were the measures she pursued, to feed the malice, and jealousy of her enemies, as well as to ruin her own best interest. Her avarice led her to commence a system of taxation, on her colonies, under the pretext of a just remuneration of her expenses in the war; and to effect this, she commenced with a regular system of duties on merchandize. At this time, the navigation act of Great-Britain, was rigidly enforced, by which she engrossed the whole commerce of the colonies, excepting such
*For the particulars of this war, see the history of New-England in the first volume of this work.
as was carried on in a clandestine manner, with the colonies of France, and Spain, and even this was directly to the advantage of Britain, for this commerce furnished the colonies with gold and silver, that enabled them to make regular remittances, in their regular trade with the mother country. From the regular trade of the colonies, under this navigation act, Great-Britain derived a revenue from her American colonies, first by her profits on her extensive manufactures, and next by the duties drawn from this commerce, both which ought to have shewn her, where her true interest lay, and have led her to rest contented, with such a permanent revenue. This was a degree of wisdom she did not possess; but her jealously of her colonies, under such a flourishing commerce; and her avarice, as well as haughty imperious lust of domination, led her to check this free commerce, by a system of duties, that should amount to a general prohibition, sanctioned by the following act of Parliament." Whereas it is just, and necessary that a revenue be raised in America, for defraying the expenses of defending, securing, and protecting the same. We the commons, &c. towards raising the same, give, and grant unto your majesty, the sum of—" to be levied upon the following articles, and at the ratio therein specified. Viz. Upon all foreign clayed sugars, indigo and coffee, all foreign produce, upon all wines, except French, upon all wrought silks, and all callicoes, and upon molasses, and syrups, being the produce of a colony not under the dominion of Great-Britain. All which duties were ordered by the said act to be paid into his majesty's exchequer, and there specially appro. priated for the protection, and benefit of the American colonies. All this was plausible; but the colonies, who had held the purse strings in their own councils, against their own governors, with such a jealous eye, saw, or fancied they saw, the evils that lay concealed behind this
thin covering; took the alarm, and were determined to resist the usurpation at the threshold.
The act went on to enforce the collection of these duties, in the courts of admiralty, which increased the alarm in the colonies, because it deprived them of the right of trial by jury, which in that land of liberty, was an inestimable privilege, and not to be violated with impunity. The act also declared, that all duties aforesaid, should be paid in specie, which was a severe blow to their paper currency; and the more so, as these duties were designed to destroy that commerce, from which alone, the colonies derived their specie, to carry on their regular commerce with Britain. Added to all this, the admiralty judge, must of course be an officer of the crown, and his pay was to be derived from the penalties, and forfeitures, arising from his adjudications; and these were to follow the complaint, unless the defendant could prove his innocence.
This was the closing scene of the whole matter; here was despotism in the abstract, here was usurpation, and tryranny without a covering. Here was a bounty on informers, the worst of knaves; here was a grand commercial inquisition, caculated to fill the colonies with spies; and the reputation, as well as the peace, and interest of every honest man, was at stake, unless he was always prepared to prove his innocence, against the charges. of a set of venal spies, informers, and cut-throats; or in other words, unless he could always prove a negative, which to say the least of it, is perhaps of all other things the most difficult. Well might the colonies take an alarm, at such a bold stretch of power, and well might they sound the alarm through the country.
The sons of those sires, who had fled from the cruel persecutions of the mother country, to seek an asylum in the wilds of America, did sound the alarm, and the whole. country took the alarm, as if by the voice of inspiration,