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Whatever might have been the fate of the commercial regulations, the resolution concerning the duties on stamps excited great and general ferment in America. The right of Parliament to impose taxes on the colonies, for the purpose of raising a revenue, became the subject of universal conversation, and was almost universally denied. Petitions to the King and memorials to both Houses of Parliament, against the measure, were transmitted by several of the provincial assemblies to the Board of Trade in England, to be presented immediately to His Majesty; and to Parliament, when that body should again be convened*. The House of Representatives of Massachussetts instructed their agent to use his utmost endeavours to obtain a repeal of the late act respecting duties, and to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act, or any other act levying taxes or impositions of any kind on the American provinces. A committee was appointed to act in the recess of the General Court, with instructions to correspond with the legislatures of the respective colonies, to communicate to them the instructions given to their agent, and to solicit their concurrence in similar measures. These legislative proceedings were in many places seconded by associations, entered into by individuals, for diminishing the use of British manufactures.
Perceiving the opposition to be encountered by adhering to the vote of the last session, the Administration informed the agent of the colonies in London, that, if they would propose any other
* These petitions, as well as one from the merchants trading to America, were not received by Parliament, it being alleged to be contrary to order, to receive pe titions against money-bills.
mode of raising the sum required*, their proposition would be accepted, and the stamp duty laid aside. The agents replied, that they were not authorized to propose any substitute, but were ordered to oppose the bill when it should be brought into the House, by petitions questioning the right claimed by Parliament to tax the colonies. The controversy was now placed on ground which seemed to admit of no compromise. The right of taxa tion was as peremptorily denied by one party as it was asserted by the other. Determined to persevere in the system he had adopted, and believing successful resistance to be absolutely impossi ble, Mr. Grenville brought into Parliament his celebrated act for imposing stamp duties in America; and it passed both Houses by very great majorities, but not without animated debates. So little weight does the human mind allow to arguments the most conclusive, when directed against the existence of power in ourselves, that General Conway stood alone in denying the right claimed by the British Legislature. He alone t had the courage to stem the torrent of public opinion, and with magnanimous firmness to protest against their right to give away the money of those who were not represented in that body.
The arguments of the minority on this interesting occasion were unusually ardent. The claim of England was declared " to be diametrically opposite to the letter and spirit of their constitution, which has established as a fundamental axiom, that taxation and representation are inseparable from each other; and
+ Mr. Pitt was not in the house; and Mr. Ingersoll in his Letter states that Alderman Beckford joined General Conway.
that, as the colonies were not, and, from local and political obstacles, could not be, represented in the British Parliament, it would be the very essence of tyranny to attempt to exercise an authority, over them, which from its nature must inevitably led to gross abuse.-For, when Great Britain should be in full possession of the power now contended for, could it be imagined that Parliament would not rather vote away the money of the colonists than of themselves and their own constituents?"
The measure was treated not only as tyrannical, but as unnecessary also. America, it was said, " had never been deficient in contributing her full proportion towards the expenses of the wars in which, conjointly with England, she had been involved; and that, in the course of the last memorable contest, large sums had been repeatedly voted, as an indemnification to the colonies, for exertions allowed to be disproportionate to their means and resources*."
Mr. Grenville had concluded a long argument in favour of the bill with saying, "These children of our own planting, nourished by our indulgence until they are grown to a good degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms→→→→ will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy load of national expense which we lie under?" In answer to this observation Colonel Barré indignantly and elo
* Parliament had granted at different times to the American colonics, by way of reimbursement for their extraordinary expenses in the course of the last war, the sum of 1,031,6661. 13s. 4d. sterling. And the colonists are said to have lost in the course of the war near thirty thousand of their young men. N 2
CHAP. IL quently exclaimed, “Children planted by your care!-N o: your oppression planted them in America; they fled from your tyranny into an uncultivated land, where they were exposed to all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and, among others, to the savage cruelty of the enemy of the country,—a people the most subtle, and, I will take upon me to say, the most terrible that ever inhabited any part of God's earth. And yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suf fered in their own country from those who should have been their friends. They nourished by your indulgence!-No: they grew by your neglect:-when you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, who were the deputies of some deputy sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them;-men whose behaviour, on many occasions, has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them ;-men promoted to the highest seats of justice-some of whom were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of justice in their own. They protected by your arms!-They have nobly taken up arms in your defence; have exerted their valour, amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country, the interior of which, while its frontiers were drenched in blood, has yielded all its little savings to your en largement. Believe me-remember I this day told you so the same spirit which actuated that people at first still continues with them : -But prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from party heat. However superior to me in general knowledge and experience any one here may be, I claim to know more of America, having seen and been con
versant in that country. The people there are as truly loyal, I believe, as any subjects the King has; but they are a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them if they should be violated. But the subject is delicate-I will say no more."
The passing of this act, the operation of which was to commence on the first of November, excited throughout the colonies: the most serious and universal alarm: it was believed sincerely to wound vitally the constitution of the country, and to destroy the most sacred principles of liberty. Combinations against its execution were every where formed, and the utmost exertions were used to render as diffusive as possible a knowledge of the pernicious consequences which must flow from admitting that America could be taxed by a Legislature in which she was not represented.
The Assembly of Virginia was in session when the intelligence was received. The subject was taken The subject was taken up, and, by a small majority, several resolutions*, which had been introduced by Mr. Henry,
*These, being the first resolutions of any assembly after the passing of the Stamp Act, are inserted.
Whereas the honourable House of Commons in England has of late drawn into question how far the General Assembly of this colony hath power to enact laws for laying taxes and imposing duties payable by the people of this His Majesty's most antient colony; for settling and ascertaining the same to all future times, the House of Burgesses of this present General Assembly have come to the several following resolutions :
Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers of this His Majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia brought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other His Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this His Majesty's colony, all the