Copyright
Whitelaw Reid.

The greatest fact in modern history [The rise and development of the United States] online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryWhitelaw ReidThe greatest fact in modern history [The rise and development of the United States] → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE GREATEST FACT
IN MODERN HISTORY



77-4-



ITELAWREID




LIBRARY

OF THK

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.



1/0



GIFT OF

r



fateateet fact in (J?o&ern j^i



0E)otiern



15p



OF THE

UNIVERSITY

OF




(Cflomae 2. Croweff ;



Copyright, 1907, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
Published January, 1907



Composition and electrotype plates by
D. B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, Boston



HE following paper was prepared at the
invitation of Cambridge University by
the American Ambassador to Great Britain
and delivered in the Senate House as the open
ing address in the course on the Eighteenth
Century for the summer meeting of 1906. The
University authorities named the subject. The
Ambassador said at the time he never should
have chosen it for that audience, but when it
was chosen for him he was unwilling to run
away from it. The Vice-chancellor presided
and introduced him, and at the close the Bish
op of Ely moved and the Mayor of Cambridge
seconded a vote of thanks, which was unani
mously carried.



207594




31 n



I AM asked to speak to you on the great
est fact in modern history, the rise and
development of the United States.
Neither George Canning nor his King called
this New World into being, and it was not
called into being by anybody for the purpose
of redressing the balance of the Old. As to its
most significant, and, for a long time, its lead
ing settlements, it was called into being by
Charles I., when he pursued Separatists, non-
Conformists, and others, in the professed in
terest of the Church of England. Its growth
was checked by the rise of Oliver Cromwell;
and while the Protectorate lasted the Puritan
emigration ceased. Charles II. revived it, and
he and his brother James, by their treatment
of the Puritans in England, and the Covenan
ters in Scotland, did more than any other hu
man power to make New England and other
large sections of the United States what they
are.

I



Tudors and Stuarts alike, whatever their in-
j&teatCGt tentions, were helpful to the infancy of the new
Jfact W nation, and there is fitness in its possessing
enduring monuments to commemorate them,
Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Jamestown,
and James River.

At the beginning of this period, say at the
<n opening of the Seventeenth Century, and near
ti?e first t he c i os e of Queen Elizabeth s long reign, all
En gland was much less than London is now.
The total population of England was a little
over four millions, and what is now far the
greatest city in the world had then possibly a
quarterof one million within its limits. A rapid
increase was prevented, in fact a material de
crease had been caused, by the enormous death
rate, due to epidemics which science had not
learned to control, to unhealthful surroundings,
to constant wars, and to a deplorable waste
of human life in the ordinary administration
of justice. Between 1592 and 1665 London had
eight visitations of the plague. The sweating
sickness and the smallpox were almost equally
dreaded and equally uncontrollable. The un
sanitary habits of the people were extraordi
nary. The very King for whom the first settle
ment in Virginia was named, if the declaration

2



of James Balfour may be trusted, never washed
even his hands. Prisoners were tortured, rob-
bers were hung-, witches and religious men fact in
whose orthodoxy was not our doxy were
burned. For trivial offences men and women
were whipped or set in the stocks, or nailed
by their ears to the pillory. Witchcraft was so
firmly embedded in the faith of the people that
the greatest legal writer of his time, Sir Wil
liam Blackstone, said as late as when the
American Colonies were on the point of revolt
ing", that every nation in the world had borne
testimony to it, and that to deny it was to deny
the revealed word of God.

This is, of course, not a fair picture of the
England from which the Colonists went out,
though some of the noticeable features are ac
curately portrayed. You can faintly conceive
the limitations of the England of that day, how
little it was like the present world, when you
add that it knew nothing of the circulation of
the blood, of vaccination, of gravitation, of the
velocity of light, of the power of steam, of illu
mination by petroleum, gas, or electricity, of
communication by fast or cheap mails, of the
telegraph or the telephone ; that it had no news
papers, and that its books were few and dear.

Yet this England had Magna Charta, and

3



parliamentary government; had greater and
better secured personal liberties than any other
Jfact in country in Europe, and was more jealously
watchful of them; had an inbred respect for
l aw anc * f r its officers, and, in spite of a degree
of illiteracy that seems now surprising, proba
bly led Europe also in diffused intelligence and
in a reasoning devotion to religion. In the gal
lery of England s immortals, Milton was soon
to be added to Shakespeare; and the nation
was rapidly approaching the great contest in
which religious zeal and a passion for civil li
berty in an almost equal cooperation were to
precipitate a revolution and execute a King.

Meantime, the land in which the new nation
i?c t*ew was to spring up, a land of rivers and lakes
world and and unbroken forests, beyond the Atlantic, lay

ire coloni0t0

palpitating with wild life under summer suns
or blanketed under winter snows, practically
unpeopled. The first feeble colony arrived at
Jamestown seven years after the opening of
the century; the little company borne by the
"Mayflower" to Plymouth Rock thirteen years
after that. The only inhabitants at the begin
ning of the Seventeenth Century were the mys
terious Aborigines, whose origin, languages,
and customs were alike unknown, whose trails
4



through the forests were the only roads, whose
patches of Indian corn were the only agri-
culture, whose clusters of wigwams were the Jfact in
only cities. Between the Great Lakes and
the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Alleghanies,
there were in all less than 200,000 of them, in
limits which now contain the second city in
the world, seventeen great States, and a total
population of over thirty millions.
At the beginning of the Eighteenth Century
this New World had started into full life among
the forests. Scattered and still feeble Colonies,
controlled and mainly peopled by Great Bri
tain, lay in isolated settlements along the At
lantic coast, from Massachusetts to the Gulf of
Mexico, and at several points were spreading
westward toward the Alleghanies. By this time
they had come to include a sprinkling of several
Northern races soon to melt wonderfully into
the Anglo-Saxon mould and to renounce other
allegiance in order to seek the privileges of
British subjects. There were Dutch in New
York in fact New York was, for about half a
century, a Dutch city. There were Swedes in
Delaware, and Germans in Pennsylvania, and
to these were added the best France had to give
in a considerable influx of the persecuted and
exiled Huguenots. There were many sects too,

5



and these did not melt so readily into one mould.
1&teate$t There were Puritans in most of New England,
JfttCt in Baptists in Rhode Island, Episcopalians in
New York and Virginia, Presbyterians in New
Jersey and the Carolinas, Quakers and Lu
therans in Pennsylvania, Roman Catholics in
Maryland. All of them insisted on freedom to
enjoy their own religion many of them had
come to an ^uninhabited country for that pur
posebut not all were ready to tolerate other
people s religion.

At times there had been efforts to impose
upon them the Established Church of Eng
land, but to this they thought consent impos
sible. Religion and education they fostered
alike. The Church and the schoolhouse went
with>very fresh pioneer settlement. But many
of them left England to escape Bishops, others
to escape the ruling classes, and in their new
homes they would submit neither to a prelacy
nor to a nobility. They demanded the right of
the English-born to participate in the govern
ment, but they were not ready to let everybody
share it with them. In the early days of New
England none but Church members could vote
or hold office. As late as 1679, hardly one grown
man in Massachusetts out of five could vote.
Cotton denounced democracy, thinking, no
6



doubt, before Montesquieu, that liberty may be
least safe under a rule of the mere majority,
Nobody dreamed of letting Indians or negroes Jfact in
vote. Till long after the Revolution a consider- &)obctn
able property qualification was required from
every voter.

In one way or another they were ruled by
officers from England ; and they brought with
them the general body of English law. But
they had organized parliamentary government
in most of the Colonies, on the English pat
tern, with more exact representation and un
der written constitutional arrangements more
precise than England had ever employed. They
looked to England for protection, spoke of it
habitually as home, and held themselves under
its authority ; yet they already exercised a large
measure of local self-government, rightly con
sidered this a necessity of their remote situa
tion and peculiar perils, and regarded any in
fringement upon it with even more than the
historical Anglo-Saxon jealousy.

The old ideas of blind loyalty to the throne
had been shaken, first by the Puritan revolt
against Charles, and later by the deposition
of James. They had twice seen Parliament set
aside a King, and it was only a step from this to
the belief that not the King but the representa-

7



tives chosen by the people must always be, in
1&teateet the end, the controlling power of the State.
JfttCt in From that again, the distant Colonists found
it only a step farther to the belief that in their
remote isolation they should choose their own
representatives instead of submitting to a rule
by representatives chosen back in England for
English purposes. Thus early had the " Mother
of Parliaments" taught the sons of Great Bri
tain beyond seas to better her instructions.
And yet a personal sense of loyalty to the
Sovereign remained down to the very outset
of the Revolution, often as strong in America
as in England, sometimes stronger and gen
erally more disinterested. Benjamin Franklin
wrote privately, in 1768, to his friends at home
of George III. as u the best monarch any nation
was ever blessed with." In 1769, when he had
to report the refusal by the House of Com
mons to repeal offensive customs duties, he
used even stronger language :

" I hope nothing that has happened or may
happen will diminish in the least our loyalty
to our Sovereign or affection for this nation in
general. I can scarcely conceive a King of bet
ter dispositions, or more exemplary virtues,
or more truly desirous of promoting the wel
fare of all his subjects. The body of this peo-
8



pie, too, is of a noble and generous nature,
loving 1 and honoring the spirit of liberty, and
hating arbitrary power of all sorts. We have
many, very many friends among them."

Seven years later came the bitter arraignment
of the same Sovereign in the Declaration of
Independence, and the richest possession of
the English crown was lost forever.

From the outset the Colonists were thrown
on their own resources, in a wild continent
and among savage people. The survival of the
fittest made them a picked body, a real corps
d e lite. Their faculties were quickened by ne
cessity, by danger and by climate. The lonely
life and the necessity for quick decisions, often
without much opportunity for consultation, led
to a marked personal independence, an .ever-
ready resourcefulness, and an absolute free
dom of individual initiative, which speedily
became general characteristics.

But at the beginning of the Eighteenth Cen
tury, their opinions and their traits had not
worked out to the logical conclusion. With all
their personal independence, the Colonists
never dreamed of standing alone; with all
their free personal initiative they still looked
implicitly to the Mother Country for guidance.

The growth of these Colonies, which for a

9



jfact in



long time was slow, painful, and intermittent,
^ ac ^ ^ ^ a ^ e Decome more rapid. Their popula-
t ^ on was on ly about 200,000 when James II.
was Deposed and William and Mary came to
t ^ ie throne. A quarter of a century later, when
the House of Hanover came in with the ac
cession of George I., the tables compiled for
the Board of Trade, giving in detail the whites
and negroes in the Colonies, showed an aggre
gate of 434,000. The number had thus more
than doubled. In the next half century this
again was trebled. By 1754, when the move
ments for taxing America were about to begin,
there were 1,165,000 whites and 253,000 ne
groes ; say, in round numbers nearly a million
and a half.



n0land in
tl?c jcvitt
Centur?



The England which after a variable, but on
the whole not unmotherly, care of the Colonies
was now to enter upon that unhappy experi
ment of arbitrary taxation, presented almost
as strong a contrast to the England we have
seen in the closing days of Elizabeth, as did
the thirteen Colonies of 1754 to the New World
before Jamestown and Plymouth. In numbers
it had grown from four millions to perhaps ten.
In government it had passed from Essex to
Newcastle and Bute. Landmarks on that long
10



road were a civil war, a Commonwealth, a res-
toration, more discontent, a deposition, the
choice of a new Sovereign from abroad, and fact in
enormously increased power in Parliament.
And now at last another royalist reaction, with
revival of old prerogatives through parliamen
tary methods by purchased majorities, was to
precipitate a crisis in the American posses
sions. Meantime, the nation had enjoyed an
enormous extension of commerce, beginning
with the revolution in 1688, had prospered on
Colonial trade, had won glory in foreign wars.
Of its entire exports one-fourth was taken by
its Colonies in America; under the inspiring
guidance of Chatham, England was rapidly
coming to the front in both hemispheres ; and
this political leadership among the nations was
followed by a sudden and enormous increase in
national wealth.

But in the attempt now to begin for stretch
ing the power of the Crown in the Colonies,
one thing was forgotten. While the people that
elected their Sovereign by Parliament had thus
made their own representatives supreme, few
realized that Americans could learn the les
son. It scarcely entered many English minds
that those dependent poor relations might in
their turn demand an equal authority for their

ii



representatives. Ministers at this date were
1&watC6t indeed curiously ignorant of the Colonies.
fact in Distance, inattention, and misinformation co
operated to produce political blindness. An
acute English historian, explaining how sub
servient and prejudiced English officials in
America misled their Sovereign, said that in
fact "his own Governors, by their reports to
him, wrote King George out of America." To
them, and so easily enough to him, it seemed
a natural thing that the Colonists should be
content to buy everything from England un
reasonable that they should want to manufac
ture things for themselves; a matter of course
that they should accept interference from Eng
land in their domestic concerns, and pay Eng
lish taxes disloyal and rebellious that they
should hesitate.

And yet these uneasy Colonists had given
support b? splendid proof of their devotion. Unaided, they
ti?c colons* had captured Louisburg, then the greatest
French stronghold in America, for the British
Crown. They had responded to Pitt s calls, in
volving both men and money, far beyond rea
sonable expectations. Nearly two-thirds of
Abercrombie s force on Lake George had been
sent from New England, New York, and New

12



Jersey. Another year Connecticut had 5,000
men under arms to support the British cam-
paign, and Massachusetts 7,000. When disas- fact in
ters came, the feeble Colonists strained afresh
their resources. Massachusetts sent out one
in six of all its inhabitants capable of bearing
arms, and Connecticut an equal or even greater
proportion. While the war lasted that expelled
the French from the Great Lakes and from
the Ohio, New Jersey taxed herself at the rate
of a pound per head for every inhabitant. Mas
sachusetts levied on personal incomes at the
rate of thirteen shillings and fourpence to the
pound, besides land-taxes, poll-taxes, and even
Colonial stamp-taxes. Connecticut, though fee
bler in resources, was no whit behind. With such
warmth did the Colonists support the great
sympathetic Minister of the Crown, while he
rescued Tennessee, Michigan, and the coun
try of the Great Lakes, conquered the West,
and conquered Canada. What might not have
happened had Chatham but remained in
power?

At this period the Colonies had been develop
ing in America for about a century and a half, a people to
England might well have taken pride in the bc proud of
result, for the race that had sprung up amid

13



the trials of the Western wilderness, though
f different from the race at home, had lost few
of its conspicuous virtues and had found
others. The Colonists were, in the main, curi
ously orderly and law abiding. They were tem
perate, moral, generally religious. The world
had never seen such widely scattered rural
communities with a more general diffusion
of intelligence and a smaller percentage of il
literacy. Everybody worked and enjoyed the
fruits of his labor there were no rich and com
paratively few poor. There was a nearer ap
proach to equality of opportunity than older
countries could show, and to personal equality
when the opportunity had been wisely im
proved. There was no governing class; all
took part in the government, and the man
who had been called to the public service, at
the end of it dropped back naturally into his
position, and instead of making laws might
again be making shoes. There were no palaces,
but (away from the frontier settlements) there
were very few hovels; and according to the
standard of the times the mass of the popula
tion was probably as comfortably housed as
in England, and with better surroundings,
though often in unpainted dwellings of wood.



The proportion of considerable landholders to
mere householders was naturally larger than
in older communities. Social life was every
where simple, but not without dignity or, in
the rising cities, without grace. They had the
English virtue of hospitality, accompanied by
the unusual freedom from reserve or con
straint, which came with their environment.
In a word, they were, in the main, like the
best type of English middle-class rural popu
lation, but with the independence and alert
ness bred of the never-ending conflict with
the wild country, wild beasts, and wild men.
Chatham and Burke were proud of their
Americans; it would have been well for New
castle and Bute and men higher still, if at
least they had understood them.
These last left such comprehension instead
to a young Frenchman whom the world a few
years later was glad to listen to. "Vast regions
of America!" exclaimed Turgot, at the Sor-
bonne, in 1750. "Equality keeps them from
both luxury and want, and preserves to them
purity and simplicity with freedom. Europeher-
self will find there the perfection of her po
litical societies and the surest support of her
well-being. But," Turgot added, in words that



i^teateet
fact in
tyobetn



actions



might have borne a profitable warning across
the Channel, "colonies are like fruits, which
cling to the tree only till they ripen."

How that predicted end was hastened with
such an English people as we have been de
scribing, by efforts to abridge or withdraw
rights on which all Englishmen insisted, may
now be seen in the events of the next twenty
years. The tendency was noticeable in the later
Ministries of George II.; the policy was pur
sued with continuity and earnestness from the
accession of George III.

In 1750 the construction of more iron mills in
the American Colonies was forbidden, that
there might be more demand for the English
product. While the liberty to manufacture was
thus hampered, the liberty to import slaves,
under the guise of a right to trade between
the Barbary Coast and the Cape of Good Hope,
was in the very same year extended specifi
cally "to all subjects of the King of England."
In 1753 a new Governor was instructed to with
hold from the New York Assembly the right
it had always exercised of considering and vo
ting annually the allowances for the support
of the government and of examining the ac-



16



counts. This Englishman (Sir Danvers Os-
borne), when he found these men of English
blood and parliamentary experience would not fact in
submit to such orders, was so horror-stricken
at the situation in which he was involved, that
he went out and hanged himself. The next
year the Colonies were required to contribute
to a general fund, and Halifax, by the King s
command, proposed an American Union for
that purpose, with a congress of one Commis
sioner from each Colony to adjust the quotas.
Ominous suggestion ! Franklin had already fa
vored the Union, but with modifications. He
would have no taxation by Parliament, unless
with ample representation in that body, and
legislation on an equal basis for all.
A year later, in 1756, the British Commander-
in-Chief was reinforcing the recommendation
of various royal Governors for an Act of Par
liament levying a stamp duty, a poll-tax, and
an excise-tax on all the Colonies for a gen
eral fund, and, if any Colony failed to pay
promptly, providing means for collecting by
Royal Warrants of distraint and imprisonment.
He was succeeded the same year by Loudoun,
who, under a commission prepared by Chan
cellor Hardwicke, was instructed to make the



Colonial Assemblies " distinctly and precisely
understand" that the King required of them
jact in "a general fund to be issued and applied as
tyobetn the Commander-in-Chief should direct," and
j>t6torp likewise to pay for the quarters of the soldiers.
When an attempt was made, under this, to
billet officers of the army upon New York City,
the Mayor objected that it was contrary to the
laws of England, the privileges of Englishmen,
and common law. "Free quarters are every
where usual," replied the Commander-in-Chief;
"I assert it on my honor, which is the highest
evidence you require. God damn my blood, if
you do not billet my officers upon free quar
ters this day, I 11 order here all the troops in
North America under my command, and billet
them all upon the city myself." New York sub
mitted, unwillingly enough, and soon after
Philadelphia, under similar compulsion, did
the same. While the troops were thus quar
tered in the principal cities, the frontiers were
left open to the Indians and the French.

With such conditions prevailing in America,
*eor0e 533 George III. came to the throne in October,
j?c 0tamp I76o It took scarce i y fourteen years more to

precipitate the crisis. Early in 1761 the restric-



18



tions in the Acts of Trade were brought into
court in Boston, and James Otis appeared to
resist the call upon all executive officers and
subjects of the Colony to assist in their enforce- ^
ment. His arguments were cogent, but what )
startled alike the Court and the community
was the defiant challenge he flung at the feet
of the judges. He would sacrifice everything,
he said, to "the sacred calls of his country, in
opposition to a kind of power, the exercise of
which cost one King of England his head and
another his throne." The Court, quite stag
gered for the moment, postponed a decision,
and the Chief Justice wrote to England ! Mean
time, the fiery orator was elected to the As
sembly, and next year we find him declaring
there that no taxes could be arbitrarily levied
without the consent of the legislative body.
That was the advantage, he said, of being an
Englishman rather than a Frenchman; and
for the Colonists he held that the rights of a
Colonial Assembly were the same as were
those of the House of Commons for residents
of England. To such outspoken tones did the
policy of the Ministers carry the Colonists in
the first two years of George III. s reign.
By the first day of the next year (1763) it was



admitted that the plans of the Ministry in-
iSteateet eluded the permanent quartering of twenty
Jfact m battalions on the Colonies after the peace in
Europe, the Colonies themselves to bear the


1 3

Online LibraryWhitelaw ReidThe greatest fact in modern history [The rise and development of the United States] → online text (page 1 of 3)