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liberties as natural born subjects of Great Britain, and prepared an address to the king, and a petition to both Houses of Parliament, praying for redress. Similar petitions were forwarded to England by the colonies not represented in the Congress.
The very preparations for enforcing the stamp act called forth popular tumults in various places. In Boston the stamp distributor was hanged in effigy ; his windows were broken; a house intended for a stamp office was pulled down, and the effigy burnt in a bonfire made of the fragments. The lieutenant-governor, chief justice, and sheriff, attempting to allay the tumult, were pelted. The stamp officer thought himself happy to be hanged merely in effigy, and next day publicly renounced the perilous office.
Various were the proceedings in other places, all manifesting public scorn and defiance of the act. In Virginia, Mr. George Mercer had been appointed distributor of stamps, but on his arrival at "Williamsburg publicly declined officiating. It was a fresh triumph to the popular cause. The bells were rung for joy; the town was illuminated, and Mercer was hailed with acclamations of the people.1
The 1st of November, the day when the act was to go into operation, was ushered in with portentous solemnities. There was great tolling of bells and burning of effigies in the New England colonies. At Boston the ships displayed their colours but half-mast high. Many shops were shut; funeral knells resounded from the steeples, and there was a grand auto-da-fe, in which the promoters of the act were paraded and suffered martyrdom in effigy.
At New York the printed act was carried about the streets on a pole, surmounted by a death's head, with a scroll bearing the inscription, "The folly of England and ruin of America." Colden, the lieutenant-governor, who acquired considerable odium by recommending to government the taxation of the colonies, the institution of hereditary assemblies, and other Tory measures, seeing that a popular storm was rising, retired into the fort, taking with him the stamp papers, and garrisoned it with marines from a ship of war.
1 Holme's Annals, vol. ii., p. 138.
The mob broke into his stable, drew out his chariot, put hia effigy into it, paraded it through the streets to the common (now the Park), where they hung it on a gallows. In the evening it was taken down, put again into the chariot, with the devil for a companion, and escorted back by torchlight to the Bowling Green; where the whole pageant, chariot and all, was burnt under the very guns of the fort.
These are specimens of the marks of popular reprobation with which the stamp act was universally nullified. No one would venture to carry it into execution. In fact no stamped paper was to be seen; all had been either destroyed or concealed. All transactions which required stamps to give them validity were suspended, or were executed by private compact. The courts of justice were closed, until at length some conducted their business without stamps. Union was becoming the watch-word. The merchants of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and such other colonies as had ventured publicly to oppose the stamp act, agreed to import no more British manufactures after the 1st of January unless it should be repealed. So passed away the year 1765.
As yet Washington took no prominent part in the public agitation. Indeed he was never disposed to put himself forward on popular occasions, his innate modesty forbade it; it was others who knew his worth that called Viim forth; but when once he engaged in any public measure, he devoted himself to it with consciousness and persevering zeal. At present he remained a quiet but vigilant observer of events from his eagle nest at Mount Vernon. He had some few intimates in his neighbourhood who accorded with him in sentiment. One of the ablest and most efficient of these was Mr. George Mason, with whom he had occasional conversations on the state of affairs. His friends the Fairfaxes, though liberal in feelings and opinions, were too strong in their devotion to the crown not to regard with an uneasy eye the tendency of the popular bias. From one motive or other, the earnest attention of all the inmates and visitors at Mount Vernon, were turned to England, watching the movements of the ministry.
The dismissal of Mr. Grenville from the cabinet gave a temporary change to public affairs. Perhaps nothing had 1766.J FRANKLIN BEFORE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. 241
a greater effect in favour of the colonies than an examination of Dr. Franklin before the House of Commons, on the subject of the stamp act.
"What," he was asked, "was the temper of America towards Great Britain, before the year 1763?"
"The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a respect, but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs, and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Great Britain, were always treated with particular regard; as to be an OldEngland man was, of itself, a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us."
"And what is their temper now?"
"Oh! very much altered."
"If the act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?"
"A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection."
"Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?"
"No, never, unless compelled by force of arms. "!
The act was repealed on the 18th of March, 1766, to the great joy of the sincere friends of both countries, and to no one more than to Washington. In one of his letters he observes: "Had the Parliament of Great Britain resolved upon enforcing it, the consequences, I conceive, would have been more direful than is generally apprehended, both to the mother country and her colonies. All, therefore, who were instrumental in procuring the repeal, are entitled to the thanks of every British subject, and have mine cordially." 8
8 Parliamentary Register, 1766.
8 Sparks. Writings of Washington, ii., 345, note.
Still, there was a fatal clause in the repeal, which declared that the king, with the consent of Parliament, had power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to "bind the colonies, and people of America, in all cases whatsoever."
As the people of America were contending for principles, not mere pecuniary interests, this reserved power of the crown and Parliament left the dispute still open, and chilled the feeling of gratitude which the repeal might otherwise have inspired. Further aliment for public discontent was furnished by other acts of Parliament. One imposed duties on glass, pasteboard, white and red lead, painters' colours, and tea; the duties to be collected on the arrival of the articles in the colonies; another empowered naval officers to enforce the acts of trade and navigation. Another wounded to the quick the pride and sensibilities of New York. The mutiny act had recently been extended to America, with an additional clause, requiring the provincial Assemblies to provide the troops sent out with quarters, and to furnish them with fire, beds, candles, and other necessaries, at the expense of the colonies. The Governor and Assembly of New York refused to comply with this requisition as to stationary forces, insisting that it applied only to troops on a march. An act of Parliament now suspended the powers of the Governor and Assembly until they should comply. Chatham attributed this opposition of the colonists to the mutiny act to "their jealousy of being somehow or other taxed internally by the Parliament; the act," said he, "asserting the right of Parliament, has certainly spread a most unfortunate jealousy and diffidence of government here throughout America, and makes them jealous of the least distinction between this country and that, lest the same principle may be extended to taxing them." 4
Boston continued to be the focus of what the ministerialists termed sedition. The General Court of Massa chusotts, not content with petitioning the king for relief against the recent measures of'Parliament, especially those imposing taxes as a means of revenue, drew up a circular,
Chatham's Correspondence, vol. ii'., p. 189-192.
1766.] MILITARY DEMONSTRATIONS AT BOSTON. 243
calling on the other colonial legislatures to join with them in suitable efforts to obtain redress. In the ensuing session, Governor Sir Francis Bernard called upon them to rescind the resolution on which the circular was founded; they refused to comply, and the General Court was consequently dissolved. The governors of other colonies required of their legislatures an assurance that they would not reply to the Massachusetts circular; these legislatures likewise refused compliance, and were dissolved. All this added to the growing excitement.
Memorials were addressed to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and remonstrances to the House of Commons, against taxation for revenue, as destructive to the liberties of the colonists; and against the act suspending the legislative power of the province of New York, as menacing the welfare of the colonies in general.
Nothing, however, produced a more powerful effect upon the public sensibilities throughout the country, than certain military demonstrations at Boston. In consequence of repeated collisions between the people of that place and the commissioners of customs, two regiments were held in readiness in Halifax to embark for Boston, in the ships of Commodore Hood, whenever Governor Bernard, or the general, should give the word. "Had this force been landed in Boston six months ago," writes the commodore, "I am perfectly persuaded no address or remonstrances would have been sent from the other colonies, and that all would have been tolerably quiet and orderly at this time throughout America."*
Tidings reached Boston that these troops were embarked, and that they were coming to overawe the people. What was to be done? The General Court had been dissolved, and the governor refused to convene it without the royal command. A convention, therefore, from various towns met at Boston, on the 22nd of September, to devise measures for the public safety, but disclaiming all pretensions to legislative powers. While the convention was yet in session (September 28th), the two regiments arrived, with seven armed vessels. "I am very confident," writos Com
5 Grenville Papers, vol. iv., p. 362.