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expense. It soon came out that the scheme
went even farther, contemplating" the with
drawal of the Colonial Charters, and the im
position of a uniform system of government
throughout the Colonies. Two years were spent
in talking about this revolutionary scheme,
while the Colonists vehemently protested the
substance of their language being that their
Charters were inviolable, and that taxation
by a Parliament in which they were not repre
sented was tyranny. At last the fateful Stamp
Act was passed in February, 1765 ; but could
not be signed by the King, except by Com
mission. The pathetic fact was not known at
the time that his reason was already unsettled.
The patience of the Colonists was now but
nine years from the breaking point.
The first effect of the Stamp Act was an out
burst of universal opposition in the Colonies,
and a concerted movement to paralyze its en
forcement by extorting the resignation of every
Stamp Officer. The next and even more omi
nous effect was the assemblage in New York
of a Congress containing duly authorized re-

20



presentati ves of nearly all the Colonies. Against <
the opposition thus concentrated the Act was
powerless. Scarcely a stamp was sold, and af
ter setting all America in a flame the Stamp
Act was repealed, thirteen months after it had
been passed.

Then was the moment, perhaps the last mo
ment, when the hands of the clock could have ijc *ea ta
been turned back. But the good will aroused
in America by the repeal was wasted. Sixteen
months later (June, 1767) the hour had struck,
and the Ministers carried through Parliament
the Bill decreeing the American Revolution.
It was a Bill reviving the effort to tax the
Colonists by a distant Parliament in which they
were not represented, for purposes about which
they had not been consulted, and reviving it
less than a year and a half after they thought
the mistake had been acknowledged and defi
nitely abandoned by the repeal of the Stamp
tax. The new Bill, as if nothing had happened,
imposed certain duties on articles imported
into America, including a tax of three pence a
pound on tea.

The Colonists instantly prepared to resist.
Otis and other leaders counselled moderation,
but submission was impossible. By a common

21



impulse they decided on non-intercourse as
t* 16 effective answer to an attempt to collect
in taxes on goods they were expected to buy.
In New England, New York, and Pennsylva-
nia alone, that answer cost British merchants
a reduction of over two-thirds in their sale of
the taxed articles in a single year. The move
ment spread till before 1770 it included all the
Colonies, and, as might have been foreseen,
gave a wonderful stimulus to home manufac
tures. Within a year a single town in Massa
chusetts made 80,000 pairs of women s shoes
and was selling them throughout the Colonies.
The Ministry resentfully talked of transport
ing leading men to England to be tried for
treason under an old Statute of Henry VIII.
Then it sent more troops. Lord North, speak
ing for the Ministry and the King, said:
"America must fear you before she can love
you. I am against repealing the last Act of
Parliament, securing to us a revenue out of
America. I will never think of repealing it un
til I see America prostrate at my feet." One of
the songs of the day, which were often dog
gerel, but sometimes poetry, was soon sung
freely in the streets of Boston. It might have
been taken as the Colonists response to Lord
North:

22



"Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall ;
To die we can bear, but to serve we disdain ;
For shame is to freedom more dreadful than pain.
In freedom we re born, in freedom we 11 live ;
Our purses are ready,
Steady, boys, steady,
Not as slaves, but as freemen, our money we ll give."

The government demanded that a Massa
chusetts Legislature should rescind its Acts, i?c troop*
and dissolved it when it refused. The legisla
tive functions of the New York Legislature
had already been suspended. As the tension in
creased and there was more talk of using the
troops, one Colonist wrote: "We cannot be
lieve that they will draw the sword on their
own children, but if they do, our blood is more
at their service than our liberties."

There was, as the circumstances made inev
itable, constant friction in Boston between the
troops and the exasperated citizens. Affrays
were not infrequent. At last came the inevit
able petty officer who loses his head in an
emergency. One of this species gave the word
to fire too soon, and the people were mad
dened by what was called the Boston Massa
cre. But in the spirit of conformity to law, as
they understood it, so characteristic of the

23



Colonists, they held a town meeting, opened
jfiwateet it with prayer, considered the occurrence, and
fact in ordered that the soldiers concerned be tried
for their lives in the civil courts. It was char-
acteristic again that such popular leaders as
John Adams and Josiah Quincy, under a con
viction of their duty as lawyers, answered the
appeal of the officer in command, appeared in
his defence, and saved him. More friction fol
lowing, the troops were ordered to leave the
town, and were actually sent to the citadel.
Conflicts occurred in New York and elsewhere,
with similar excitement.

Once again the Ministry wavered in a course
partial repeal that threatened such storms, and in March,
1770, repealed all its taxes on America, save
that on tea. The non-importation agreements
relaxed. New York, which had held to them
more firmly than any of the associate Colonies,
wearied of seeing its imports fall off five parts
out of six, while the others profited by its ab
stinence, and so promoted a joint movement
for resuming trade in everything but tea. By
August, 1770, London was rejoicing at the re
turn of American orders and somewhat mis
construing them.

But, as if heaven had ordained that every op-
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portunity should be thrown away, a month
later the fortress commanding- Boston, built
and maintained by the Colony to be garrisoned, jfact in
as the Charter guaranteed, by its militia under
the command of its Governor, was taken over
by the regular troops ; and the harbor of Bos
ton made the rendezvous of all ships stationed
in North America. The answer of Massachu
setts to martial law was a commission to Ben
jamin Franklin to represent it in stating its
grievances to the Ministry in London.

Events were now moving in too resistless a
current for that benignant messenger of peace irritation
to check them. On a paltry question of exempt-
ing its Commissioners of Customs from tax
ation on their salaries, the Governor came
again in conflict with the Massachusetts As
sembly, and claimed for the Crown an unheard-
of power.

A few months later (January, 1772), South
Carolina was aggrieved at having been induced
to establish fixed salaries for the judges if made
permanent officials, only to have their own
judges forthwith removed, and an Irishman, a
Scotchman, and a Welshman sent over to take
these permanent places.

Two or three months later Virginia felt out-

25



raged at having its efforts to restrict the slave
J&teateet trade thwarted by an instruction to the Gov-
JfdCt in ernor "upon pain of the highest displeasure,
to assent to no law by which the importation
of slaves should be in any respect prohibited
or obstructed." An appeal was taken to the
Throne, and reached England just as Lord
Mansfield had decided that a slave becomes
free the moment he touches English soil. But
not even that could secure a hearing for the
Virginia appeal, or English consent to the Vir
ginia law to restrict the slave trade.

His Majesty s ship "Gaspee" needlessly ex
asperated the Rhode Islanders by taking live
stock, detaining vessels, and making illegal
seizures of goods. The Chief Justice gave an
opinion against these acts. The Admiral over
ruled the Chief Justice, and said if the people
of Newport attempted to rescue any vessel
he would hang them as pirates. Thereupon,
when the "Gaspee," pursuing the Providence
packet, ran aground, a few men from Provi
dence and Bristol boarded her, overpowered
the offensive lieutenant and his crew, set them
ashore and burned the vessel to the water s
edge. Commissioners were ordered to find the
offenders and send them to England for trial.
The Chief Justice refused to permit apprehen-
26



sions for transportation beyond seas. Then it
was proposed to take away the Charter of the
Colony.

Thus every month seemed to add to the pop-
ular ferment, and to spread it from one Colony
to another.



Meantime what had it all been worth? During
the progress of the "Gaspee" business the
Stamp Office found that it had spent twelve donc
thousand pounds in America to get a revenue
of fifteen hundred, and even this revenue came
only from Canada and the West Indies. That
was what the Stamp tax was worth. Ships and
soldiers employed to enforce the law taxing
tea had cost enormously, and the East India
Company had lost the sale of half-a-million
pounds worth of tea per year, while the total
revenue from the tax on it amounted to eighty-
five pounds. That was what the Tea tax was
worth.

So at last the East India Company begged for
relief, and asked leave to export to America
free of all duties. Lord North preferred another
way. He held to the tax in America, but gave
the Company a drawback on such export of
all the import duties it had paid. The Company
was warned that this meant trouble, but Lord

27




North would listen to no objections. He said
j&teattQt he meant "to try the question with America."
fact in So it was tried. The tea was sent to Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Bos
ton threw it into the harbor, i6th December,
1773. New York was ready to do the same, but
adverse winds kept the ship away. Philadel
phia, through a town meeting of five thousand
men, "persuaded" the consignee to resign and
the captain to take his ship and cargo back to
London. Charleston "persuaded" the consignee
to resign, there was nobody to pay the duty or
sell the tea, and it rotted in the cellars where
it was stored. And, finally, when a tea ship at
last reached New York (ipth April, 1774), four
months after the Boston occurrence, it was sent
back the next day, while eighteen chests of tea
found in another vessel were merely thrown
into the bay, Lord North s experiment was
complete! Also the substantial union of the
Colonies was revealed.

Franklin had been furnished with certain let-

jrankiin ters by the Governor and Lieutenant-Gover-

<mmitcd nor O f Massachusetts, quite at variance with

their public professions, and evidently designed

to foment existing difficulties and secretly pro-



28



voke the Ministry to take yet more stringent (lf$e
measures against the Colony. He thought it
right to send those letters to the Speaker of the Jfact in
Assembly. Ultimately, though contrary to his
expectation, they became public, and naturally
aroused fierce resentment against the Ameri
can-born officers, who were thus found de
ceiving and underhandedly conspiring against
their countrymen, and bringing the military
occupation upon them. The Assembly peti
tioned the King for the removal of the ex
posed Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, and
Franklin was instructed to present the peti
tion. Lord Dartmouth received it with his usual
courtesy ; but when it was referred to the Privy
Council for a hearing, the whole case went off,
not on the obvious guilt of the double-dealing
officials, but on the alleged misconduct of
Franklin in exposing them by showing their
letters. Franklin, now venerable and distin
guished throughout Europe, was kept stand
ing at the bar while Wedderburne, the Solici
tor-General, insulted and lampooned him for
stealing or betraying private correspondence
and this from a Ministry that habitually vio
lated the seal of every letter it cared for and
could intercept in the mails! The Lords in



29



Council roared with delight. The petition which
neateet all men knew to be true was dismissed as

fact in "groundless, vexatious, and scandalous." But
years afterwards, when Wedderburne died, the

?t6torp King he had thus served said : " He has not left
a greater knave behind him in my dominions."
The King could not say that of the man that
had opposed him Franklin, the faithful ser
vant of his own country, the idol of France,
and the admiration of the world.

The work to which every step of the Ministry
xi?e final had for years been tending was nearly finished.
In March, 1774, Lord North carried through
Parliament a Bill closing the port of Boston
till the tea was paid for, and till the King should
be satisfied of the good conduct of the city for
the future. Burke and Fox made the debate
memorable and splendid, and Lord Dartmouth
showed signs of the desire to conciliate, always
gratefully remembered in his relation to the
Colonies. But the same Lord Mansfield who
had decided that a slave could not exist on
English soil, while the Ministry he supported
was refusing to let Virginia limit the slave
trade, now encouraged that Ministry to the
uttermost, exclaiming, "The sword is drawn,



and you must throw away the scabbard. Pass
this Act, and you will be across the Rubicon."
He told the truth, more exactly than he knew.

General Gage, military Commander-in-Chief
for all North America, and now made Civil
Governor of Massachusetts also, was sent out
with four more regiments to close the port of
Boston, quarter troops in the town, bring the
ring-leaders in the late disturbances to punish
ment for high treason, abolish town meetings,
except for selecting town officers, appoint and
remove sheriffs at pleasure, and give sheriffs
so appointed the selection of juries. If the Col
ony had been already conquered, harder usage
could scarcely have been proposed. But Gen
eral Gage thought the conquest easy. He had
assured the King that the people of Massachu
setts "will be lyons whilst we are lambs, but if
we take the resolute part, they will undoubt
edly prove very weak."

This time the answer of America was a
Continental Congress. New York proposed it
through her "Sons of Liberty." Virginia bur
gesses, after being dissolved by the Governor,
held a meeting elsewhere, adopted it, and asked
Massachusetts to appoint the time and place
of meeting. The Massachusetts Assembly en-



gaged in that business, when General Gage,
iStcatcet hearing what was on foot, sent to dissolve them,
but found the door locked. It was not opened
until five delegates had been appointed to at
tend a Continental Congress in Philadelphia
on September i, 1774 about five months after
Parliament had passed the Boston Port Bill !

A convention of towns in Suffolk County,
Winston Massachusetts, resolved that a King who vio-
and concord lates the chartered rights of his people forfeits
their allegiance, and it therefore refused obe
dience to the recent Act. One of the first things
the Continental Congress did was to send Paul
Revere to bear to Boston their warm approval
of the Suffolk County resolutions. General
Gage now undertook to arrest Adams and
Hancock, as conspicuous leaders in this policy,
and to transport them to England for trial. He
sent a body of regular troops to do it under
cover of night. Warren started Paul Revere
on a midnight ride, ahead of the British troops,
to give the alarm. At Lexington these troops
came upon a body of minute men commanded
by the grandfather of Theodore Parker, ordered
them to disperse, and as they still stood, grim but
undemonstrative, fired upon them. Eight fell
and ten more were wounded. Concord followed
32



an hour or two later, the embattled farmers

fired the shot heard round the world, and the

war was begun. Franklin, seeing that there fact in

was no more hope in London, was already upon

the ocean, returning to take his place with

his own people.

I have finished the story. What remains is
merely the fighting the ghastly civil war be- *oti?
tween Great Britain and her sons.

But the contest was not really between the
British people and their colonizing sons, and
as a matter of fact both profited by the result.
Even the fighting was largely between Ameri
cans and Hessians. The Ministry hired sol
diers to carry on its war, because Great Bri
tain did not readily furnish them. The actual
contest was between what are now universally
recognized as Anglo-Saxon principles of gov
ernment, and a movement under the King of
the day that would have set England back to
the times of Charles I. The Colonists were in
spired by the Protestant Reformation and by
Magna Charta. The intellectual emancipation
that came from the one and the fervor for
personal rights that came from the other
reached their natural development easier and
quicker amid the untrammelled surroundings

33



of a new world. Their triumph checked a re-
iSteateet action in England, and the British Govern-
fact in ment of the Nineteenth Century was distinctly
more advantageous to the people, more glori-
ous for the nation, and a greater beneficence
to Europe and the world, because of this
struggle with the Colonists in the last quarter
of the Eighteenth.

It used to be said that American histories
of that period were unfriendly and unfair to
Great Britain. Perhaps they were. At the close
of this civil war with the Mother Country,
Americans may have been somewhat in the
temper of the Puritans after the Parliament
ary wars, or of the Royalists after the restora
tion. Certainly they had not reached that stage
in the evolution of free government which en
abled them, eighty years later, to close an
other civil war without a single execution and
with a speedy return to the defeated side of
all its political privileges. It has even been
said that our histories now tend to perpetuate
an old unfairness and bitterness. If that were
ever true, I hope and believe it is true no
longer. At any rate, Americans, while not al
ways agreeing, accept in the main with pleas
ure the work upon that period of recent Eng
lish historians like the lamented Lecky. They
34



are satisfied with the admirable history of
"The American Revolution," on which the 1$teate6t
Right Hon. Sir George Otto Trevelyan, late fact in
of your own Government, is still engaged. And
they are likewise content with the compre
hensive report of what that Revolution led
to, in the luminous pages of "The American
Commonwealth," by a member of your pre
sent Government, the Right Hon. James Bryce,
Secretary for Ireland. May I take the liberty,
if not as an American at least as a loyal and
grateful son of Cambridge, to add and adopt
the lines of your great Victorian poet, with
which one of these Englishmen introduces his
work:

11 0, thou, that sendest out the man

To rule by land and sea,
Strong mother of a Lion-line,
Be proud of those strong sons of thine

Who wrench d their rights from thee."

When the war began, Edmund Burke esti
mated the population of the Colonies at from sro\vti? and
one-fifth to one-fourth that of Great Britain. <*"
White and black, it scarcely reached two and
three-quarter millions. When the war closed
there were 2,389,000 whites, and probably in
all little short of three millions. Seven years
later, at the first periodical census in 1790,

35



there were nearly four millions. The war had
J^teatcet cost the Colonists one hundred and forty mil-
fact in lions of dollars. Eighty years later they had
&)obem another civil war which left them with a debt
of 2,844,649,626 dollars, and with a population
of thirty-five millions; and to-day their debt is
reduced more than one-half (to 1,284,461,413
dollars), and their population increased to over
eighty millions (seventy-six millions by the
census of six years ago), to say nothing of the
population of island dependencies. Then they
formed a narrow fringe along the Atlantic
coast, with a few frontier settlements break
ing through the gaps in the Alleghany range
to the fertile valleys on its western slopes; to
day they overspread a continent, and swarm in
the islands of the sea.

To follow the effects of this rise of the United
States farther now is beside my present pur
pose. That its echo was first heard amid the
crashing of old institutions in the French Re
volution cannot be doubted. It was certainly a
factor in the subsequent rapid extension of
popular rights throughout Europe, the broad
ening of citizenship, the freer participation of
the people in their governments. As it stimu
lated liberty by its political development, so it
stimulated material welfare by its inventions,
36



its products, and its opportunities. We can
scarcely conceive now of a world without j$tC(ltC6t
American food and American cotton, without fact in
the American applications of steam and elec
tricity, or without the American outlet for su
perfluous energy and superfluous population.

The people of the new nation held, as firmly
as they had while Colonists, that there should
be no taxation without representation, and
they were some time in doubt as to whether
there should be any representation without
taxation. In several States ownership of a
freehold of fifty acres or a town lot was neces
sary; in scarcely any could the suffrage be ex
ercised without a return of considerable tax
able property, real or personal. A reasonable
degree of intelligence was also exacted and
the illiterate were excluded. Far fewer offices
than now were elective. The judges were gen
erally appointed, sometimes for seven years,
sometimes during good behavior. Even the
delegates to the Continental Congress were
chosen not by the people but by the Legisla
tures.

There was no hindrance in learning trades ;
no limit to the hours of labor; no power to
keep a man from working if he wanted to work
and found work. The Colonists would have ac-

37



cepted unreservedly those golden words with
iSveateet which Clemenceau lately thrilled the French
Jfact in Chamber of Deputies, but while accepting them
would have wondered why he thought it ne-
cessary to say so obvious a thing in so solemn
away, "J estime que tout homme, qui a besoin
de travailler et qui trouve du travail, a le droit
de travailler; j estime que la societd et les
pouvoirs publics ont le devoir de lui assurer
I exercice de ce droit."

The result of it all is the marvel of modern
secret of ti?e history. It was one of your own prelates and
scholars who said of it, "Time s noblest off
spring is the last." What in the final analysis
made the success? for who shall say the
splendid growth will survive, if what made it
be lost?

Well, first of all it was made, as most suc
cesses are, by character. America in the mak
ing was intelligent, moral, religious, and reli
giously devoted to the education of children.
It was desperately earnest. It was alert and
industrious almost without a class that only
amuses itself. It was passionately attached to
the personal rights of Englishmen. It had an
inborn respect for authority and reverence for
law. Its ancestors had been used to represen-

38



tative institutions for centuries, and it was
thoroughly trained in parliamentary govern-
ment.

And next the success was made by circum-
stance. The inefficient were sifted out those
left were a picked class. They were alone, in
a wild but fertile and, as it seemed, boundless
land. Opportunities opened on every hand ; the
time, like the climate, was electric, and there
was an absolute freedom for individual initia
tive.

It is not sure that such a success could be
won now; it is not sure that such a govern
ment as they founded could be carried on now,
if that character were materially changed. Is
it even sure that the success could be main
tained, if those circumstances were materially
altered, and particularly if that fecund freedom
of individual initiative should be destroyed, by
the collectivist or socialist tendencies of the
times?

But such a catastrophe is not to be thought
of. Whatever may be the wild speculations of
the hour, whatever the temporary variations
from the historic course, no vessel that carries
the English-speaking races has lost its chart,
on none has the compass gone hopelessly a-
stray.The old headlights still burn. Inspired by

39



tite
fact in



the same traditions, led by the same instincts,
these races in either hemisphere, in whatever
zone, on whatever continent or island, will
surely in the end hold fast to the ancient char-
acteristics of a strong, free people, and so keep


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Online LibraryWhitelaw ReidThe greatest fact in modern history [The rise and development of the United States] → online text (page 2 of 3)