Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

colonies in the same direction were met in the same way. By 1773 the irritation of the colonists had been urged so far that three ships in the port of Boston bringing cargoes of tea upon which duty was to be raised, were boarded and their tea thrown into the dock.

The Duke of Grafton's Ministry had been succeeded by that of Lord North, who ruled as agent for the king, and during thwhole of his disastrous Ministry, from 1770 to 1782, the country suffered from that interference of the king and the king's friends which Burke condemned in 1773 in his Thoughts on the cause of the Present Discontents.

In 1774, at a meeting of the county of Fairfax, with George Washington in the chair, it was resolved “that during our present difficulties and distress no sļaves ought to be imported into any of the British colonies on this continent; and we take this opportunity of declaring our most earnest wishes to see an entire stop forever put to such wicked, cruel, and unnatural trade."

The Government at home met opposition by enactments that virtually deprived Massachusetts of its charter, and placed it under strict British rule. Virginia voted in May, 1774 that an attack upon one colony was an attack upon all British America, and recommended a General Congress, which first met as the Continental Congress at Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. On the 20th of October it signed the agreement that established the American Association. On the day of the separation of this Congress, October 26th, the Congress of Massachusetts organized its inilitia, and began to prepare for the alternative of forcible resistance. Other colonies followed the example.

In the month of the first meeting of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia there was a general election in England, swayed by strong feeling against the colonists, and a large majority was returned of members pledged to a policy of coercion. Burke entered that Parliament as member for Bristol, then the second town in the kingdom ; and on the 22nd of March, 1775 he laid before the House of Commons thirteen resolutions for reconcilement with America, and made the greatest of all his speeches, that on Conciliation with America.

GOLDWIN SMITH'S HISTORICAL SUMMARY.

The United States, pp. 67–71. When Quebec fell the bonfires of loyalty were lighted. Eng. land and Chatham were in all colonial hearts. If only that happy moment could have been seized for parting in peace ! If, when the British flag was run up on the great stronghold of France, the mother country could have said to the child, “I have done for you all that a parent could do, I have secured to you the dominion of the new world, you have outgrown my protection and control, follow henceforth your own destiny, cultivate your magnificent heritage and be grateful to the arm which helped to win it for you!" Had those unuttered words been spoken, how different might have been the history of our race, perhaps to the end of time !

It is needless and would be painful to recount to Englishmen the annals of a quarrel which fills a too familiar page in English history, and, wretched as it was on both sides, went nearer through its European extension than even the domination of Louis XIV. or the conquests of Napoleon to bringing the head of England low among the nations. Few require to be again told how, when England was burdened by a heavy debt contracted in the war, George Grenville, in an evil hour, bethought him of making the colonies contribute to their own defence, while he enforced at the same time with calamitous industry the fiscal laws and the restrictions on trade ; how to raise revenue for a colonial army he imposed the stamp duty; how the colonists resisted and Chatham applauded their resistance ; how by Rockingham, with Burke at his side, the stamp duty was repealed, while with the repealing act was unhappily coupled, to save imperial honour, a declaration of the power of Parliament to bind the colonies by its legislation in all cases ; how peace and a measure of good feeling were thereby restored ; how Townshend, usurping command of the government during an eclipse of Chatham, madly reopened the fatal issue by the imposition of a number of import duties ; how Parliament gave a careless assent to Townshend's proposal ; how colonial resistance was renewed ; how, while the

other duties were repealed, pride and obstinacy retained the tea duty as a proof of power ; how strife again broke out, and ended only with the destruction of the unity of the British race. Nor would it be profitable to rehearse arguments which were mostly in the air, though they had too practical an influence on the conduct of statesmen and of political assemblies. A sovereign power there must have been somewhere. Where could it be but in the Imperial Parliament ? Had not the colonists just acquiesced in an act declaring the power of Parliament to bind them in all cases ? Out of the jurisdiction of Parliament they could not pretend to be, since they had submitted to laws made by Parliament respecting navigation, trade, naturalization, and other imperial matters, not to mention the Habeas Corpus Act, or the common law which was recognized in the colonies, and must have had for its basis the legislative supremacy of the Parliament of Great Britain. That there was an essential difference between internal and external taxation, as Chatham in the interest of peace and unity contended, few will now maintain. The sovereign power must include the power of taxation, and taxation is but an exercise of the legislative power in the form of a law enacting that the impost shall be paid. We rely for our judgment respecting these questions mainly on Burke. But Burke, though of all rhetoricians the most philosophic, was still a rhetorician, and presented only one side of a case. Of this his essay on the French Revolution is the memorable and disastrous proof. Though he goes deep into everything he seldom goes to the bottom. You cannot extract from him any definite theory of the colonial relation, of the authority which an imperial country was entitled really to exercise over colonial dependencies, or of the use of such dependencies if authority really to be exercised there was none. Was Great Britain bound to defend the colonies, and were the colonies not bound, unless they chose, to contribute to the defence? Was each colonial legislature in the case of a peril calling for common effort to be at liberty to renounce its share of the burden ? It is said that if England had then done by the American colonies as she has since done by her other colonies, the result would have been equally happy. The result is that she bears the whole ipurden of imperial defence and all other expenses of the Empire, while the colonies lay protective duties on her goods. Of such an empire neither Burke nor anyone else at that time dreamed. They all, however indistinct their vision inight be, had in their mind an empire of real power and solid gain. Would Chathain have thought of allowing the colonies to lay protective duties on British goods, he who talked of forbidding them even to make a nail for a horseshoe ? Wisdom spoke, albeit in a crabbed way, by the mouth of Dean Tucker, on whose inind, Tory as he was, the truth had dawned that colonial dependencies were of no real use commercially, inasmuch as you might trade with a colony just as well when it was independent, and of less than no use politically when they were in a chronic state of smothered sedition, and refused to contribute to the defence of the Empire. The Dean advised, if the colonies persisted in their refusal, to bid them begone in peace, an invitation which at that time they would almost certainly have declined. But the voice of wisdom was not recog. nized even by the philosophic Burke. On the other hand, Burke was surely right in rejecting the plan, countenanced by Adam Smith, of colonial representation in the Imperial Parliainent. The difficulty of distance would have been very great, that of the appointment of representatives still greater, especially as the House of Commons was then constituted ; that of a total want of community of interest between states on opposite sides of the Atlantic would have been the greatest of all. The plan of a federal union between the American colonies and Great Britain floated, as some think, before the mind of Chatham. Such a union might have lived with Chatham ; with Chatham it would have died.

At the same time we must recognize the natural sentiment of empire. When Chatham speaks with pride of that “ancient and most noble monarchy" which his genius had raised to the height of glory, and with anguish of its possible dismemberment, his emotion is surely not less generous than any that swelled the bosom of Samuel or John Adains, Patrick Henry, or Thomas Paine. It may even be said that the determination of George III. to hold the colonies at whatever cost of blood and treasure, at whatever risk to his crown, was more compli.

mentary to them, if it was less kind, than the proposal of Dean Tucker at once to show them the door.

JOHN FISKE'S HISTORICAL SUMMARY.

The War of Independence, pp. 58–64, 69–70. The principle that people must not be taxed except by their representatives had been to some extent recognized in England for five hundred years, and it was really the fundamental principle of English liberty, but it was only very iinperfectly that it had been put into practice. In the eighteenth century the House of Cominons was very far from being a body that fairly represented the people of Great Britain. For a long time there had been no change in the distribution of seats, and meanwhile the population had been increasing very differently in different parts of the kingdom. Thus cities which had grown up in recent times, such as Sheffield and Manchester, had no representatives in Parliainent, while many little boroughs with a handful of inhabitants had their representatives. Some such boroughs had been granted representation by Henry VIII. in order to create a majority for his measures in the House of Commons. Others were simply petty towns that had dwindled away, somewhat as the mountain villages of New England have dwindled since the introduction of railroads. The famous Old Sarum had members in Parliament long after it had ceased to have any inhabitants. Seats for these rotten boroughs, as they were called, were simply bought and sold. Political life in England was exceedingly corrupt; some of the best statesmen indulged in wholesale bribery as if it were the most innocent thing in the world. The country was really governed by a few great families, some of whose members sat in the House of Lords and others in the House of Commons. Their measures were often noble and patriotic in the highest degree, but when bribery and corruption seemed necessary for carrying them, such means were employed without scruple.

When George III. came to the throne in 1760, the great families which had thus governed England for half a century belonged to the party known as Old Whigs. Under their rule

« ForrigeFortsett »