Page images

ministers that with regard to the People of this province & as they doubt not of all the colonies the charge is unjust.

The House is fully satisfyd that your Assembly is too generous and enlarged in sentiment, to believe, that this Letter proceeds from an Ambition of taking the Lead or dictating to the other Assemblys: They freely submit their opinions to the Judgment of others, & shall take it kind in your house to point out to them anything further which may be thought necessary.

This House cannot conclude without expressing their firm Confidence in the King our common head & Father, that the united & dutifull Supplications of his distressed American Subjects will meet with his royal & favorable Acceptance.

The response of the other colonies to the Massachusetts letter was prompt and cordial. The Virginia burgesses replied May 9, applauding the representatives of Massachusetts "for their attention to American liberty." On the same date the representatives of New Jersey acknowledged themselves "obliged" to Massachusetts and expressed themselves as "desirous to keep up a correspondence" on the subject. Connecticut, in replying on June 11, declared that "no constitutional measures proper for obtaining relief ought to be neglected by any," and that it was "important that their measures for that end should harmonize with each other, as their success may in great degree depend on their union in sentiment and practice, on this critical and interesting occasion."1 In addition to the colonies mentioned, New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Maryland replied― eight colonies out of twelve. Lord Hillsborough, who in January 1768 had been appointed to the newly created office of Secretary of State for the Colonies, and

1 The replies of the various assemblies may be found in John Almon, Prior Documents, London, 1777, pp. 213–219.


conceit, wrong

whose character Franklin summed up as headedness, obstinacy, and passion," wrote Governor Bernard the following instructions relative to the letter sent out by the Massachusetts legislature :

Whitehall, April 22a, 1768

It gives great concern to his Majesty to find that the same moderation which appeared by your letter to have been adopted at the beginning of the session in a full assembly, had not continued, and that, instead of that spirit of prudence and respect to the constitution, which seemed at that time to influence the conduct of a large majority of the members, a thin house at the end of the session should have presumed to revert to, and resolve upon a measure of so inflammatory a nature as that of writing to the other colonies on the subject of their intended representations against some late acts of parliament.

His Majesty considers this step as evidently tending to create unwarrantable combinations, to excite an unjustifiable opposition, to the constitutional authority of Parliament, and to revive those unhappy divisions and distractions which have operated so prejudicially to the true interests of Great Britain and the colonies.

After what passed in the former part of the session . . . his Majesty cannot but consider this as a very unfair proceeding, and the resolutions taken thereupon to be contrary to the real sense of the assembly, and procured by surprize: and therefore it is the King's pleasure that so soon as the General Court is again assembled at the time prescribed by the charter, you should require of the House of Representatives in his Majesty's name, to rescind the resolution which gave birth to the circular letter from the Speaker, and to declare their disapprobation of, and their dissent to that rash and hasty proceeding.

His Majesty has the fullest reliance upon the affection of his good subjects in the Massachusetts Bay, and has observed, with satisfaction, that spirit of decency, and love of order, which has discovered itself in the conduct of the most considerable of its inhabitants; and therefore his Majesty has the better ground to hope, that the attempts made by a desperate faction to disturb

the public tranquillity, will be discountenanced, and that the execution of the measure recommended to you will not meet with any difficulty.

If it should, and if, notwithstanding the apprehensions which may justly be entertained of the ill consequence of the continuance of this factious spirit, which seems to have influenced the resolutions of the assembly at the conclusion of the last session, the new assembly should refuse to comply with his Majesty's reasonable expectation, it is the King's pleasure that you should immediately dissolve them, and transmit to me, to be laid before his Majesty, an account of their proceedings thereupon, to the end that his Majesty may, if he thinks fit, lay the whole matter before his Parliament, that such provisions as shall be found necessary may be made, to prevent for the future a conduct of extraordinary and unconstitutional a nature.

As it is not his Majesty's intention that a faithful discharge of your duty should operate to your own prejudice, or to the discontinuance of any necessary establishments, proper care will be taken for the support of the dignity of government.

I am, with great truth and regard,

Sir, your most obedient

humble servant


trol of the

Among the more moderate American patriots, who 33. The conwanted reform of abuses but abhorred the thought of sepa- purse strings ration from England, none was more influential with the pen than John Dickinson,1 a prominent lawyer of Pennsylvania and Delaware. In his "Letters from a Farmer in

1 Dickinson earned the title of "the Penman of the Revolution." He wrote the Declaration of Rights (the protest of the Stamp Act Congress, 1765), the Petition of the First Continental Congress to the King (1774), the Address of the same Congress to the Inhabitants of Quebec (1774), most of the Declaration on the Colonists taking Arms, and the Final Petition to the King (1775). He also drafted the Articles of Confederation, which were the first Constitution of the United States (1781-1789). Dickinson lost his seat in the Continental Congress, and much of his popularity, by voting against independence in 1776.



Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies," (1768) he protested hotly against the Townshend Acts. The ninth letter reads in part :

My dear Countrymen

I have made some observations on the purposes for which money is to be levied upon us by the late act of parliament. I shall now offer to your consideration some further reflections on that subject: And, unless I am greatly mistaken, if these purposes are accomplished according to the expressed intention of the act, they will be found effectually to supersede that authority in our respective assemblies, which is essential to liberty. The question is not whether some branches be lopt off — The axe is laid to the root of the tree; and the whole body must infallibly perish, if we remain idle spectators of the work.

No free people ever existed, or ever can exist, without keeping, to use a common but strong expression," the purse strings" in their own hands. Where this is the case, they have a constitutional check upon the administration, which may thereby be brought into order without violence: But where such power is not lodged in the people, oppression proceeds uncontrouled in its career, till the governed, transported into rage, seek redress in the midst of blood and confusion. . . .

If money be raised upon us by others, without our consent, for our "defence," those who are the judges in levying it must also be the judges in applying it. Of consequence, the money said to be taken from us for our defence, may be employed to our (injury. We may be chained in by a line of fortifications - obliged to pay for the building and maintaining them—and be told, that they are for our defence. With what face can we dispute the fact, after having granted that those who apply the money had a right to levy it?... Besides, the right of levying is of infinitely 'more consequence, than that of applying. The people of England, who would burst out into fury, if the crown should attempt to levy money by its own authority, have always assigned to the crown the application of money. . . .


The declared intention of the act [of 1767] is " that a revenue should be raised in his Majesty's Dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charges of the Administration of Justice, and the support of civil government in such provinces where it shall be found necessary, and towards further defraying the expences of defending, protecting and securing the said dominions."

[ocr errors]

Let the reader pause here one moment—and reflect—whether the colony in which he lives, has not made such "certain and adequate provision" for these purposes as is by the colony judged suitable to its abilities, and all other circumstances. Then, let him reflect whether if this act takes place, money is not to be raised on that colony without its consent, to make "provision” for those purposes, which it does not judge to be suitable to its abilities, and all other circumstances. Lastly, let him reflect· whether the people of that country are not in a state of the most abject slavery, whose property may be taken from them under the notion of right, when they have refused to give it.


For my part, I think I have good reason for vindicating the honor of the assemblies on this continent, by publicly asserting, that they have made as "certain and adequate provision" for the purposes above mentioned, as they ought to have made, and that it should not be presumed, that they will not do it hereafter. Why then should these most important trusts be wrested out of their hands? Why should they not now be permitted to enjoy that authority, which they have exercised from the first settlement of these colonies? Why should they be scandalized by this innovation, when their respective provinces are now, and will be for several years, laboring under loads of debt, imposed on them for the very purpose now spoken of? . . . Is it possible to form an idea of slavery more complete, more miserable, more disgraceful, than that of a people, where justice is administered, government exercised, and a standing army maintained, at the expence of the people, and yet without the least dependence upon them? If we can find no relief from this infamous situation, let Mr. Grenville set his fertile fancy again at work, and as by one exertion of it he has stript us of our property and liberty, let him by another

« PreviousContinue »