The spirit of constitutional liberty came with the pilgrim fathers to the shores of the New World. It received its first embodiment in the cabin of the Mayflower ; where, before landing, those earnest men trusting in God" nant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation.”

This simple compact constituted the nucleus of the early governments in the New England Colonies. The royal prerogative was subsequently asserted, and the charter system superseded the previous action of the settlers. The authority, however, still vested in the people to elect all officers-legislative and executive—to establish courts of justice, and to enact such laws as seemed necessary, provided only that these enactments should not conflict with the laws of England.

The charter, the royalwhere the power vested in the crown—and the proprietary, were the three forms of government established over the colonies.

The settlements, in their incipient stages, offered little inducement to tempt the monarch and the horde of eager and hungry officials of the mother country. They were left to defend themselves, as best they could, against savage foes, to subdue, as they were best able, the unbroken forests, and to endure the rigors of a northern climate. Human enterprise, urged on by necessity, met nature hand to hand and triumphed. Sites were carved out for thriving towns and populous cities, and the elements of a power created, which, in the vindication of justice and right, challenged the admiration and won the approval of the civilized world.

As wealth responded to the stroke of industry, and prosperity began to smile along the coast, and cast its influence inland, tracing the course of great streams, threading the prosperous valley and cropping out on the mountain side, and commerce began to whiten the ocean with the cheering emblem of a thriving people, the colonists were deemed no longer competent to manage their own affairs, and large numbers of officials were sent out to supervise them, “ that the king's interest should receive no detriment.”

Then began that long series of peculation, of aggression, of insult and of oppression, on the part of the parent country, which was met by a determined and manly resistance, that knew no relaxation until the two countries became separate and distinct governments.


How far Great Britain might legitimately exercise her authority in the Colonies, was a question out of which grew much dissension and great alienation of feeling. The home government asserted her right to change modify, or abolish the colonial charters; on the other hand, these instruments were held in the light of civil



compacts, and as such could be changed only by mutual consent. It was likewise maintained that the only limitation to colonial legislation was, that their enactments should not be antagonistic to the laws of the realm ; these laws being held as none other than those appertaining to the essential and fundamental rights of persons, secured to every citizen in the magna charta and the bill of rights. So wide a divergence of opinion could be reconoiled with difficulty. The crown, arrogant and conscious of power, asserted its authority with unbending rigor; while the colonists, strengthened by an inherent sense of right, and goaded by insult, would not purchase peace by surrendering their just prerogatives.

The colonial governors and other officials being in the interest of the king, aided in precipitating upon their subjects the most odious feature of British usurpation-taxation without representation. An Act of Parliament, holding that it had the right“ to bind the Colonies in all cases whatsoever,” forced the colonists to accept a position inferior to that of regular British subjects, or to stand out in opposition to the unequivocal declaration of that body. The most of the colonists claimed the rights common to British subjects, and that they were not bound, neither could they be bound by laws in the enactment of which they had been permitted no voice; and that all powers not specifically withheld from them in their charters were subject to their own immediate control. Hence, while granting to Parliament the reserved right to impose duties for the purpose of regulating commerce, the colonists claimed the exclusive supervision over all internal interests, and the sole right to levy and collect taxes.

After a thorough and animated discussion the Colonies sent up a united protest against the aggressions of Parlia ment. The several legislatures, that of Plymouth in

1636, Maryland in 1650, Massachusetts in 1661, Rhode Island in 1664, Virginia in 1665, declared that taxes should not be imposed save by consent of the freemen or their representatives. That distinguished statesman, John Adams, who understood perfectly the condition of colonial interests, thus presents the current sentiment on this question: “ The authority of Parliament was never generally acknowledged in America. More than a century since, Massachusetts and Virginia both protested against the act of navigation, and refused obedience, for this very reason, because they were not represented in Parliament, and were therefore not bound, and afterward confirmed it by their own provincial authority. And from that time to this, the general sense of the Colonies has been, that the authority of Parliament was confined to the regulation of trade, and did not extend to taxation or internal legislation."


To cripple the energies and retard the growth of the Colonies seemed to be an enterprise worthy the highest efforts of the parent country. The colonial trade was monopolized at an early day and made to pay tribute to the treasury of England. At an early period to avoid the heavy duties which were imposed in that country, tobacco was shipped direct to Holland. A decree was soon issued requiring all goods to be landed first in England, and the duties paid. The employment of Holland merchantmen as carriers evaded this decree until the issue of the “navi. gation act,” in the year 1651; in which it was ordained that no merchandise should be carried into or exported from the Colonies save in English ships.

It was supposed that Britain would not attempt, in her exercise of authority, to go beyond the foreign trade.

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Not so.

In the year 1672 a tariff of duties was imposed on various articles of inter-colonial traffic. To counteract so illiberal a policy, home industry set in motion various manufacturing interests. Again was felt the weight of English authority, and these enterprises were so crippled and fettered in their operations as to render all efforts abortive.

These movements were followed up by the impost of additional duties on imports, and with provisions for a more rigid enforcement of the regulations for collecting the revenue. A still bolder step even was in prospect, the declared policy of the ministry to resort to direct taxation. In order to avert this blow public meetings were held, petitions and remonstrances to the king and Parliament were drafted, and agents sent with them to England. It availed nothing. The decree was fixed. In 1765 the famous Stamp Act was passed. According to its provisions all writings were null and void unless executed on paper bearing a stamp; the cost of which was from three pence to four pounds. Newspapers, pamphlets, and almanacs were likewise subject to a tax, as were indeed all the advertisements which they contained.

The passage of this Act, striking as it did a heavy blow at the highest interests of the colonists, served only to augment their

courage and unite their strength. Resolutions denying the right of Britain to tax the Colonies without their consent were immediately introduced into the House of Burgesses of Virginia, and were, under the lead of the bold and fearless Henry, triumphantly passed. The indignation of the people was aroused. From New York, Massachusetts, and the entire country went forth a solemn and earnest protest. In October, 1765, the Colonies met by delegates in convention at New York, to consult on measures for relief. All the Colonies,

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