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vacancies. Even during this interval "the ministry found no regular or consistent plan of operation and mutual support.” 1
When at last the ministry did decide upon a total and immediate repeal, it had to make head, as Dr. Moffatt, an American, wrote to another American, "against a sea of hindrances and opposition from many quarters felt, known and unseen.”? It had to face not only open opposition in Parliament, but the secret opposition of the king and his party.
And lest mankind (writes Horace Walpole) should misapprehend the part the favourite intended to take on the Stamp Act, Lord Denbigh, his standard-bearer, and Augustus Hervey asked . . . leave to resign their places, as they purposed to vote against the repeal. The farce was carried on by the king . . . his Majesty told them, that they were at liberty to vote against him and keep their places. This was, in effect, ordering his servants to oppose his ministers."
Besides "the king's friends,” the Bedford and Grenville factions opposed the repeal and were for taking "violent measures, Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son. The ministry, however, maintained with firmness its decision to secure a total repeal and not a modification of the act, and this in its turn modified the “violent measures” of the opposition. The latter, abandoning a futile attempt to obtain the enforcement of the act as it stood, now advocated its modification and then its strict enforcement in its modified form. Thus George Grenville, the leader of the opposition in the lower house, moved on January 5, that the words "explain and amend” be substituted for "repeal”;' while the Duke of Bedford, an opposition leader in the House of Lords, about the same time informed the king that
should his Majesty be inclined to pursue the modification, instead of the total repeal of the Stamp Act which his ministers intend to propose to Parliament, the Duke of Bedford will be happy to receive his Majesty's commands for attending him.
· Parliamentary History, xvi, 90, 91, foot-nete. ? Grenville Papers, iii, 237. • Walpole Memoirs, ii, 183.
* Parliamentary History, xvi, 89. 6 Memoirs of Rockingham, i, 275. & Bedford, Correspondence, edited by Lord John Russel, iii, 329, foot-note.
This is an excellent example of the intrigues against which the ministry had to contend.
II. The support of the repeal by influential men in Parliament. - While the new ministry had to face a powerful opposition, it found on the other hand an unexpected ally in Mr. Pitt, and an unlooked-for strength in its follower, Edmund Burke. Mr. Pitt's attitude towards the act had not hitherto been known, and so far the ministry had looked in vain to him for support and advice. Now, however, he came forward as the strongest champion for repeal, and a most important one, as he was the popular hero of the day, and his name, as Walpole says, made “a sort of party.” 1 Burke was at this time almost unknown, and the influence he exerted for the repeal was merely that of eloquence, but eloquence great enough to receive the praise of Pitt? and an “address of thanks” from seventy-seven merchants. Probably equal in influence to the support of Pitt was the testimony of Benjamin Franklin. His examination in the House of Commons doubtless dispelled many popular illusions regarding the colonies, as for instance their fabulous wealth, and gave convincing proof of their determination to resist the act to the bitter end. It gave the house the rare but exceedingly valuable opportunity of viewing their own colonial legislation from the American standpoint. The support of Lord Camden in the House of Lords was probably not unexpected, since he owed his seat to the Rockingham ministry; but it was very valuable, as he was one of the foremost lawyers of his day, and exceedingly popular because of his acquittal of Wilkes, while he was chief justice. The importance of his able advocacy of the repeal in the upper house becomes apparent when one remembers that Lord Mansfield, who had hitherto monopolized the leadership of that house, spoke against the bill.
What, however, were the considerations that constrained a vacillating ministry to propose to Parliament the repeal of the Stamp Act? These were undoubtedly the opposition of the colonists and the protests of the British merchants.
1 Walpole, Letters to Sir Horace Mann, i, 277. ? Parliamentary History, xvi, 108, foot-note. 3 Correspondence of Burke, edited by Fitzwilliam, i, 194.
III. The opposition in America. — Before the passage of the Stamp Act in March, 1765, the grievances of the colonists were mainly economic, and the full significance of such a measure as the proposed act does not seem to have been generally realized until the autumn of 1764. In April, 1764, the Grenville ministry had passed an act imposing heavy duties on foreign sugar, wine, coffee, silk, and other goods imported into the colonies. These were the chief articles of colonial commerce, and the requirement that the duties should be paid in bullion made the burden heavier, as money was extremely scarce in the colonies. Besides this, the famous Molasses Act of George II, which had placed almost prohibitory duties on foreign rum and molasses, was made perpetual. This act had been passed to force New England to abandon her trade with the prosperous French and Dutch West Indies, and to bring her lumber and horses to the thriftless English West Indies alone. The strict enforcement of this act would have deprived New England to a great extent of its most lucrative trade, and of its one source of bullion with which to pay for English manufactured goods; fortunately the act had remained mere paper legislation. But now the rates were so lowered as to transform an almost prohibitory duty into one for revenue, and the law was rigidly enforced by the officers of the British ships stationed along the coast. This brought especial distress upon New England, but the new duties affected all the colonies in a greater or less degree.
These new duties were commonly considered as taxes, and the distinction between internal and external taxation — later so strongly emphasized — was not yet generally made. Proof of this is found in the instructions of the colonial agents, and in the petitions and resolutions of the colonial assemblies. For instance, Hutchinson, the historian of New England, would seem to imply that before the passage of the act of 1764 the Massachusetts assembly drew a distinction between a duty imposed for mere trade regulation and one for revenue, and regarded the latter as a tax. According to his account, the proposition of the Massachusetts agent Bollan, that the colony should apply for a reduction of the sugar duty, was rejected by the assembly because "it was not advisable to apply for the reduction of the duty in order to the
payment of it, but rather that the act should be revived as a prohibition.”? Moreover, when in January, 1764, this same assembly drew up a protest against the proposed renewal of the Sugar Act, “in which the authority of Parliament to impose the duty was not denied," "the opposers of the address in the house laboured for the assertion of an exclusive right to impose taxes and duties on inhabitants in all cases whatsoever." 3 Likewise, the town of Boston in the instructions to its representatives, in May of that year, acknowledged its submission to all just and necessary regulations of trade; but, on the other hand, it declared: “There is no room for delay ... These unexpected proceedings may be preparatory to more extensive taxation; for if our trade may be taxed, why not our lands and everything we possess ? ” : Again in the next month, in the instructions drawn up by the Massachusetts assembly, under the guidance of Otis, for their London agent, the question is raised:
Can it be possible that duties and taxes shall be assessed without the voice or consent of an American parliament? ... Prohibitions of trade are neither equitable nor just, but the power of taxing is the great barrier of British liberty.
Here again the distinction that is drawn is between duties imposed for trade regulation and those imposed for revenue. Resolutions were also adopted by this same assembly, protesting against "the Imposition of Duties and Taxes by the Parliament of Great Britain, upon a people who are not represented in the House of Commons. It likewise sent circular letters to the other colonial assemblies asking their coöperation to “obtain a Repeal of the Sugar Acts and ... to prevent a Stamp Act” — making no difference between the two.
In the Rhode Island assembly also no distinction between the two forms of taxation seems to have been made: in its instructions to the committee appointed to confer with the other colonies,
· Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay Colony, i, 108, 109. ; Ibid., i, 114, 115.
3 Ibid., i, 107.
4 Ibid., i, 112. Proceedings in Parliament and in Massachusetts (pamphlets published, 1774), P5
Votes of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, 1758–1767, p. 355.
the Sugar and Duty Acts and the proposed Stamp Act are grouped together without any discrimination. In October of that same year, the New York assembly sent the following manifesto to the House of Lords:
The authority of the parliament of Great Britain to model the trade of the whole empire, so as to subserve the interest of her own, we are ready to recognize ...; but the freedom to drive all kinds of traffic, in subordination to and not inconsistent with the British trade, and an exemption from all duties in such a course of commerce, is humbly claimed by the colonies as the most essential of all the rights to which they are entitled. . . . For, since all impositions, whether they be internal taxes, or duties paid for what we consume, equally diminish the estates upon which they are charged, what avails it to any people by which of them they are impoverished ? ?
In that same month the North Carolina assembly stated in its address to the governor: “We observe our commerce . . . burthened with new taxes . . . against what we esteem our inherent right and exclusive privilege of imposing our own taxes.'
Not only the resolutions of the assemblies, but also the writings of the prominent politicians and statesmen show that until the autumn of 1764 the distinction between the two forms of taxation was not commonly made. For example, Governor Bernard, in that summer, in his scheme of American polity, declared that Parliament's power both to impose port duties and to levy internal taxes was not to be disputed. James Otis, in his attack on Bernard's scheme, agreed with him that “There is no foundation for distinction between external and internal taxes; if parliament may tax our trade, they may lay stamps, land-taxes, tithes and so on indefinitely." 5 This opinion was reiterated by Thomas Hutchinson in a letter to the secretary of the chancellor of the Exchequer. “Nor are the privileges of the people,” he wrote, “less affected by duties laid for the sake of the money arising from them than by an internal tax.” 6 Beside Otis, another emi
1 Colonial Records of Rhode Island, vi, 403.
5 Ibid., iii, 82.
. Ibid., üi. 85.