RIVERSIDE LITERATURE SERIES
THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE BY JOHN FISKE
WITH MAPS, INDEX AND A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON, NEW YORK, AND CHICAGO
The Riverside Press Cambridge
Price, paper 30 cents; linen, 40 cents
The Riverside Literature Series
THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
BY JOHN FISKE
WITH MAPS, INDEX, AND A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Boston: 4 Park Street; New York: 85 Fifth Avenue Chicago: 378-388 Wabash Avenue
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1889 BY JOHN FISKE
COPYRIGHT, 1894 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This little book does not contain the substance of the lectures on the American Revolution which I have delivered in so many parts of the United States since 1883. Those lectures, when completed and published, will make quite a detailed narrative; this book is but a sketch. It is hoped that it may prove useful to the higher classes in schools, as well as to teachers. When I was a boy I should have been glad to get hold of a brief account of the War for Independence that would have suggested answers to some of the questions that used to vex me. Was the conduct of the British government, in driving the Americans into rebellion, merely wanton aggression, or was it not rather a bungling attempt to solve a political problem which really needed to be solved? Why were New Jersey and the Hudson river so important? Why did the British armies make South Carolina their chief objective point after New York? Or how did Cornwallis happen to be at Yorktown when Washington made such a long leap and pounced upon him there? And so on. Such questions the old-fashioned text-books not only did not try to answer, they did not even recognize their existence. As to the large histories, they of course include so many details that it requires maturity of judgment to discriminate between the facts that are cardinal and those that are merely incidental. When I give lectures to schoolboys and schoolgirls, I observe that a reference to causes and effects always seems to heighten the interest of the story. I therefore offer them this little book, not as a rival but as an aid to the ordinary text-book. I am aware that a narrative so condensed must necessarily suffer from the omission of many picturesque and striking details. The world is so made that one often has to lose a little in one direction in order to gain something in another. This book is an experiment. If it seems to answer its purpose, I may follow it with others, treating other portions of American history in similar fashion.
CAMBRIDGE, February 11, 1889.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF JOHN FISKE vii
I. INTRODUCTION 1
II. THE COLONIES IN 1750 4
III. THE FRENCH WARS, AND THE FIRST PLAN OF UNION 26
IV. THE STAMP ACT, AND THE REVENUE LAWS 39
V. THE CRISIS 78
VI. THE STRUGGLE FOR THE CENTRE 104
VII. THE FRENCH ALLIANCE 144
VIII. BIRTH OF THE NATION 182
COLLATERAL READING 195
LIST OF MAPS.
INVASION OF CANADA 92
WASHINGTON'S CAMPAIGNS IN NEW JERSEY AND PENNSYLVANIA 120
BURGOYNE'S CAMPAIGN 130
THE SOUTHERN CAMPAIGN 172
NOTE.—These maps are used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Messrs. Ginn & Company.
To relate, by way of leading up to this little book, all the previous achievements of its author would—without disrespect to the greater or the less—have somewhat the appearance of putting a very big cart in front of a pony. But no idea could be more mistaken than that which induces people to believe a small book the easiest to write. Easy reading is hard writing; and a thoroughly good small book stands for so much more than the mere process of putting it on paper, that its value is not at all to be judged by its bulk. The offhand word of a man full of knowledge is worth a great deal more than the carefully prepared utterance of a person who having spoken once has nothing more to say. In our introduction to this work, therefore, we propose to reverse the common process of tracing the author's development upwards, and instead, after stating the mere events of Mr. Fiske's life, to begin with "The War of Independence" and to follow his work backwards, attempting very briefly to show how each undertaking was built naturally upon something before it, and that the original basis of the structure was uncommonly broad and strong.
John Fiske was born in Hartford, Conn., 30th March, 1842, and spent most of his life, before entering Harvard as a sophomore in 1860, with his grandmother's family in Middletown, Conn. Two years after taking his degree at Harvard, in 1863, he was graduated from the Harvard Law School, but he cared so much more for writing than for the law that his attempt to practice it in Boston was soon abandoned. In 1861 he made his first important contribution to a magazine, and ever since has done much work of the same sort. He has served Harvard College, as University lecturer on philosophy, 1869-71, in 1870 as instructor in history, and from 1872 to 1879 as assistant librarian. Since resigning from that office he has been for two terms of six years each a member of the board of overseers. In 1881 he began lecturing annually at Washington University, St. Louis, on American history, and in 1884 was made a professor of the institution. Since 1871 he has devoted much time to lecturing at large. He has been heard in most of the principal cities of America, and abroad, in London and Edinburgh. All this time his home has been in Cambridge, Mass.
So much for the simple outward circumstances of Mr. Fiske's life. Turning to his studies and writings, one finds them reaching out into almost every direction of human thought; and this book, from which our backward course is to be taken, is but a page from the great body of his work. It is especially as a student of philosophy, science, and history that Mr. Fiske is known to the world; and at the present it is particularly as an historian of America that his name is spoken. In no other way more satisfactorily than in tracing the growth of his own nation has he found it possible to study the laws of progress of the human race, and from the first, through all the time of his most active philosophical and scientific work, this study of human progress has been the true interest of his life. With his historical works, then, let us begin.
In 1879 he delivered a course of six lectures on American history, at the Old South Meeting House in Boston. In previous years he had written occasional essays on historical subjects in general, but the impulse towards American history in particular was given by the preparation for these lectures, which were concerned especially with the colonial period. Of his own treatment of an historical subject he is quoted as saying: "I look it up or investigate it, and then write an essay or a lecture on the subject. That serves as a preliminary statement, either of a large subject or of special points. It is a help to me to make a statement of the kind—I mean in the lecture or essay form. In fact it always assists me to try to state the case. I never publish anything after this first statement, but generally keep it with me for, it may be, some years, and possibly return to it again several times." Thus it may safely be assumed that these Old South Lectures and the many others that have followed them have found or will find a permanent place in the series of Mr. Fiske's historical volumes.
The succession of these books has not been in the order of the periods of which they treat; but from the similarity of their method and the fact that they cover a series of important periods in American history, they go towards making a complete, consecutive history of the country. The periods which are not yet covered Mr. Fiske proposes to deal with in time. One who has talked with him on the subject of his works reports the following statement as coming from Mr. Fiske's own lips: "I am now at work on a general history of the United States. When John Richard Green was planning his 'Short History of the English People,' and he and I were friends in London, I heard him telling about his scheme. I thought it would be a very nice thing to do something of the same sort for American history. But when I took it up I found myself, instead of carrying it out in that way, dwelling upon special points; and insensibly, without any volition on my part, I suppose, it has been rather taking the shape of separate monographs. But I hope to go on in that way until I cover the ground with these separate books,—that is, to cover as much ground as possible. But, of course, the scheme has become much more extensive than it was when I started."
Taken in the order of their subjects, the five works already contributed to this series are, "The Discovery of America, with some Account of Ancient America and the Spanish Conquest" (two volumes); "Old Virginia and her Neighbours" (two volumes); "The Beginnings of New England, or the Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty;" "The American Revolution" (two volumes); and "The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789." Allied with these books, though hardly taking a place in the series, is "Civil Government in the United States, Considered with some Reference to its Origins," "The War of Independence," it will thus be seen, is the least ambitious of all these historical works. "A History of the United States for Schools" is addressed to the same audience, and in so far may be considered a companion volume.
What makes Mr. Fiske's histories just what they are? Another step backward in the stages of his own development will enable us to see, and the sub-title, "Viewed from the Standpoint of Universal History," of one of his earlier books, "American Political Ideas," will help towards an understanding of his power. It is due to the fact that he brings to his historical work on special subjects the broad philosophic and general view of a man who is much more than a specialist,—the scientific habit of mind which must look for causes when effects are seen, and must point out the relations between them. There could be no better preparation for the writing of history than the apparently alien study of the questions with which the names of Darwin and Spencer are inseparably associated. When Darwin's "Origin of Species" appeared, Mr. Fiske's own thought had prepared him to take the place of an ardent apostle of Evolution, and it is held that no man has done more than he in expounding the theory in America. Standing permanently for his work in this field are his books, "Excursions of an Evolutionist" and "Darwinism, and Other Essays." One of his first important works was "Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy" (1874), and in more recent years "The Destiny of Man" and "The Idea of God" speak forth very distinctly, not as interpretations, but as his own contributions to the progress of philosophic thought. One other phase of the use to which Mr. Fiske's mind has been put should surely be mentioned in any summary of his qualifications for writing histories. He is extremely fond of hearing and telling good stories. His book on "Myths and Myth-makers" (1872) gave early evidence of this fondness, and surely there is the very spirit of the lover of tales in the Dedication of the book, "To my dear Friend, William D. Howells, in remembrance of pleasant autumn evenings spent among were-wolves and trolls and nixies." Thus, besides the ability to see a story in all its bearings, Mr. Fiske has the gift of telling it effectively,—a golden power without which all the learning in the world would serve an historian as but so much lead.
But all of these works preceding Mr. Fiske's historical writings did not come out of nothing. His mental acquirements as a young man and boy were very extraordinary, and give to the last stage of his career at which we shall look—the earliest—perhaps the greatest interest of all. A description of it without a knowledge of what followed would be all too apt to remind readers whose memories go back far enough of the instances, all too common, of men whose early promise is not fulfilled. Summa cum laude graduates settle down into lives of timid routine that leads to nothing, just as often as the idle dreamers who stay consistently at the foot of their classes wake up when the vital contact with the world takes place, and do something astonishingly good. These, however, are the exceptions. A development like Mr. Fiske's follows the lines of nature.
Happily, there were books in the house in which he was brought up. At the age of seven he was reading Rollin, Josephus, and Goldsmith's Greece. Much of Milton, Pope, and Bunyan, and nearly all of Shakespeare he had read before he was nine; histories of many lands before eleven. At this age he filled a quarto blank book of sixty pages with a chronological table, written from memory, of events between 1000 B. C. and 1820 A. D.
All this would seem enough for one boy, but there were the other worlds of languages and science to conquer. It is almost discouraging merely to write down the fact that at thirteen he had read a large part of Livy, Cicero, Ovid, Catullus, and Juvenal, and all of Virgil, Horace, Tacitus, Sallust, and Suetonius,—to say nothing of Caesar, at seven. Greek was disposed of in like manner; and then came the modern languages, —German, Spanish,—in which he kept a diary,—French, Italian, and Portuguese. Hebrew and Sanskrit were kept for the years of seventeen and eighteen. In college, Icelandic, Gothic, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, and Roumanian were added, with beginnings in Russian. The uses to which he put these languages were not those to which the weary schoolboy puts his few scraps of learning in foreign tongues, but the true uses of literature,—reading for pleasure and mental stimulus.
It is needless to relate the rapid course of Mr. Fiske's first studies in science; it is no whit less remarkable than that of his other intellectual enterprises. As mathematics is akin to music, it will be enough to say that when he was fifteen a friend's piano was left in his grandmother's house, and, without a master, the boy soon learned its secrets well enough to play such works as Mozart's Twelfth Mass. Later in life Mr. Fiske studied the science of music. He has printed many musical criticisms, and has himself composed a mass and songs.
Few boys can hope to take to college with them, or, for that matter, even away from it, a mind so well equipped as Mr. Fiske's was when he went to Cambridge. Three years of stimulating university atmosphere, and of indefinitely wide opportunities for reading, left him prepared as few men have been for just the work he has done. He has had the wisdom to see what he could do, and being possessed of the qualities that lead to accomplishment, he has done it; and any reader who understands more than the mere words he reads will be very likely to discover in this small volume, "The War of Independence," something of the spirit, and some suggestions of the method which, in this sketch, we have endeavored to point out as characteristic of one of the foremost living historians.
THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.
Since the year 1875 we have witnessed, in many parts of the United States, public processions, meetings, and speeches in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of some important event in the course of our struggle for national independence. This series of centennial celebrations, which has been of great value in stimulating American patriotism and awakening throughout the country a keen interest in American history, will naturally come to an end in 1889. The close of President Cleveland's term of office marks the close of the first century of the government under which we live, which dates from the inauguration of President Washington on the balcony of the Federal building in Wall street, New York, on the 30th of April, 1789. It was on that memorable day that the American Revolution may be said to have been completed. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 detached the American people from the supreme government to which they had hitherto owed allegiance, and it was not until Washington's inauguration in 1789 that the supreme government to which we owe allegiance to-day was actually put in operation. The period of thirteen years included between these two dates was strictly a revolutionary period, during which it was more or less doubtful where the supreme authority over the United States belonged. First, it took the fighting and the diplomacy of the revolutionary war to decide that this supreme authority belonged in the United States themselves, and not in the government of Great Britain; and then after the war was ended, more than five years of sore distress and anxious discussion had elapsed before the American people succeeded in setting up a new government that was strong enough to make itself obeyed at home and respected abroad.
It is the story of this revolutionary period, ending in 1789, that we have here to relate in its principal outlines. When we stand upon the crest of a lofty hill and look about in all directions over the landscape, we can often detect relations between distant points which we had not before thought of together. While we tarried in the lowland, we could see blue peaks rising here and there against the sky, and follow babbling brooks hither and thither through the forest. It was more homelike down there than on the hilltop, for in each gnarled tree, in every moss-grown boulder, in every wayside flower, we had a friend that was near to us; but the general bearings of things may well have escaped our notice. In climbing to our lonely vantage-ground, while the familiar scenes fade from sight, there are gradually unfolded to us those connections between crag and meadow and stream that make the life and meaning of the whole. We learn the "lay of the land," and become, in a humble way, geographers. So in the history of men and nations, while we remain immersed in the study of personal incidents and details, as what such a statesman said or how many men were killed in such a battle, we may quite fail to understand what it was all about, and we shall be sure often to misjudge men's characters and estimate wrongly the importance of many events. For this reason we cannot clearly see the meaning of the history of our own times. The facts are too near us; we are down among them, like the man who could not see the forest because there were so many trees. But when we look back over a long interval of years, we can survey distant events and personages like points in a vast landscape and begin to discern the meaning of it all. In this way we come to see that history is full of lessons for us. Very few things have happened in past ages with which our present welfare is not in one way or another concerned. Few things have happened in any age more interesting or more important than the American Revolution.
THE COLONIES IN 1750.
It is always difficult in history to mark the beginning and end of a period. Events keep rushing on and do not pause to be divided into chapters; or, in other words, in the history which really takes place, a new chapter is always beginning long before the old one is ended. The divisions we make when we try to describe it are merely marks that we make for our own convenience. In telling the story of the American Revolution we must stop somewhere, and the inauguration of President Washington is a very proper place. We must also begin somewhere, but it is quite clear that it will not do to begin with the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776, or even with the midnight ride of Paul Revere in April, 1775. For if we ask what caused that "hurry of hoofs in a village street," and what brought together those five-and-fifty statesmen at Philadelphia, we are not simply led back to the Boston Tea-Party, and still further to the Stamp Act, but we find it necessary to refer to events that happened more than a century before the Revolution can properly be said to have begun. Indeed, if we were going to take a very wide view of the situation, and try to point out its relations to the general history of mankind, we should have to go back many hundreds of years and not only cross the ocean to the England of King Alfred, but keep on still further to the ancient market-places of Rome and Athens, and even to the pyramids of Egypt; and in all this long journey through the ages we should not be merely gratifying an idle curiosity, but at every step of the way could gather sound practical lessons, useful in helping us to vote intelligently at the next election for mayor of the city in which we live or for president of the United States.
[Sidenote: The half-way station in American History]
We are not now, however, about to start on any such long journey. It is a much nearer and narrower view of the American Revolution that we wish to get. There are many points from which we might start, but we must at any rate choose a point several years earlier than the Declaration of Independence. People are very apt to leave out of sight the "good old colony times" and speak of our country as scarcely more than a hundred years old. Sometimes we hear the presidency of George Washington spoken of as part of "early American history;" but we ought not to forget that when Washington was born the commonwealth of Virginia was already one hundred and twenty-five years old. The first governor of Massachusetts was born three centuries ago, in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada. Suppose we take the period of 282 years between the English settlement of Virginia and the inauguration of President Benjamin Harrison, and divide it in the middle. That gives us the year 1748 as the half-way station in the history of the American people. There were just as many years of continuous American history before 1748 as there have been since that date. That year was famous for the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which put an end to a war between England and France that had lasted five years. That war had been waged in America as well as in Europe, and American troops had played a brilliant part in it. There was now a brief lull, soon to be followed by another and greater war between the two mighty rivals, and it was in the course of this latter war that some of the questions were raised which presently led to the American Revolution. Let us take the occasion of this lull in the storm to look over the American world and see what were the circumstances likely to lead to the throwing off of the British government by the thirteen colonies, and to their union under a federal government of their own making.
[Sidenote: The four New England colonies.]
In the middle of the eighteenth century there were four New England colonies. Massachusetts extended her sway over Maine, and the Green Mountain territory was an uninhabited wilderness, to which New York and New Hampshire alike laid claim. The four commonwealths of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island had all been in existence, under one form or another, for more than a century. The men who were in the prime of life there in 1750 were the great-grandsons and great-great-grandsons of the men who crossed the ocean between 1620 and 1640 and settled New England. Scarcely two men in a hundred were of other than English blood. About one in a hundred could say that his family came from Scotland or the north of Ireland; one in five hundred may have been the grandchild of a Huguenot. Upon religious and political questions these people thought very much alike. Extreme poverty was almost unknown, and there were but few who could not read and write. As a rule every head of a family owned the house in which he lived and the land which supported him. There were no cities; and from Boston, which was a town with 16,000 inhabitants, down to the smallest settlement in the White Mountains, the government was carried on by town-meetings at which, almost any grown-up man could be present and speak and vote. Except upon the sea-coast nearly all the people lived upon farms; but all along the coast were many who lived by fishing and by building ships, and in the towns dwelt many merchants grown rich by foreign trade. In those days Massachusetts was the richest of the thirteen colonies, and had a larger population than any other except Virginia. Connecticut was then more populous than New York; and when the four New England commonwealths acted together—as was likely to be the case in time of danger—they formed the strongest military power on the American continent.
[Sidenote: Virginia and Maryland]
Among what we now call southern states there were two that in 1750 were more than a hundred years old. These were Virginia and Maryland. The people of these commonwealths, like those of New England, had lived together in America long enough to become distinctively Americans. Both New Englander and Virginian had had time to forget their family relationships with the kindred left behind so long ago in England; though there were many who did not forget it, and in our time scholars have by research recovered many of the links that had been lost from memory. The white people of Virginia were as purely English as those of Connecticut or Massachusetts. But society in Virginia was very different from society in New England. The wealth of Virginia consisted chiefly of tobacco, which was raised by negro slaves. People lived far apart from each other on great plantations, usually situated near the navigable streams of which that country has so many. Most of the great planters had easy access to private wharves, where their crops could be loaded on ships and sent directly to England in exchange for all sorts of goods. Accordingly it was but seldom that towns grew up as centres of trade. Each plantation was a kind of little world in itself. There were no town-meetings, as the smallest political division was the division into counties; but there were county-meetings quite vigorous with political life. Of the leading county families a great many were descended from able and distinguished Cavaliers or King's-men who had come over from England during the ascendency of Oliver Cromwell. Skill in the management of public affairs was hereditary in such families, and during our revolutionary period Virginia produced more great leaders than any of the other colonies.
[Sidenote: New York and Delaware]
There were yet two other American commonwealths that in 1750 were more than a hundred years old. These were New York and little Delaware, which for some time was a kind of appendage, first to New York, afterward to Pennsylvania. But there was one important respect in which these two colonies were different alike from New England and from Virginia. Their population was far from being purely English. Delaware had been first settled by Swedes, New York by Dutchmen; and the latter colony had drawn its settlers from almost every part of western and central Europe. A man might travel from Penobscot bay to the Harlem river without hearing a syllable in any other tongue than English; but in crossing Manhattan island he could listen, if he chose, to more than a dozen languages. There was almost as much diversity in opinions about religious and political matters as there was in the languages in which they were expressed. New York was an English community in so far as it had been for more than eighty years under an English government, but hardly in any other sense. Accordingly we shall find New York in the revolutionary period less prompt and decided in action than Massachusetts and Virginia. In population New York ranked only seventh among the thirteen colonies; but in its geographical position it was the most important of all. It was important commercially because the Mohawk and Hudson rivers formed a direct avenue for the fur-trade from the region of the great lakes to the finest harbour on all the Atlantic coast. In a military sense it was important for two reasons; first, because the Mohawk valley was the home of the most powerful confederacy of Indians on the continent, the steady allies of the English and deadly foes of the French; secondly, because the centre of the French power was at Montreal and Quebec, and from those points the route by which the English colonies could be most easily invaded was formed by Lake Champlain and the Hudson river. New York was completely interposed between New England and the rest of the English colonies, so that an enemy holding possession of it would virtually cut the Atlantic sea-board in two. For these reasons the political action of New York was of most critical importance.
[Sidenote: The two Carolinas and Georgia; New Jersey and Pennsylvania]
Of the other colonies in 1750, the two Carolinas and New Jersey were rather more than eighty years old, while Pennsylvania had been settled scarcely seventy years. But the growth of these younger colonies had been rapid, especially in the case of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which in populousness ranked third and fourth among the thirteen. This rapid increase was mainly due to a large immigration from Europe kept up during the first half of the eighteenth century, so that a large proportion of the people had either been born in Europe, or were the children of people born in Europe. In 1750 these colonies had not had time enough to become so intensely American as Virginia and the New England colonies. In Georgia, which had been settled only seventeen years, people had had barely time to get used to this new home on the wild frontier.
The population of these younger colonies was very much mixed. In South Carolina, as in New York, probably less than half were English. In both Carolinas there were a great many Huguenots from France, and immigrants from Germany and Scotland and the north of Ireland were still pouring in. Pennsylvania had many Germans and Irish, and settlers from other parts of Europe, besides its English Quakers. With all this diversity of race there was a great diversity of opinions about political questions, as about other matters.
[Sidenote: Why Massachusetts and Virginia took the lead.]
We are now beginning to see why it was that Massachusetts and Virginia took the lead in bringing on the revolutionary war. Not only were these two the largest colonies, but their people had become much more thoroughly welded together in their thoughts and habits and associations than was as yet possible with the people of the younger colonies. When the revolutionary war came, there were very few Tories in the New England colonies and very few in Virginia; but there were a great many in New York and Pennsylvania and the two Carolinas, so that the action of these commonwealths was often slow and undecided, and sometimes there was bitter and bloody fighting between men of opposite opinions, especially in New York and South Carolina.
[Sidenote: The two republics; Connecticut and Rhode Island]
If we look at the governments of the thirteen colonies in the middle of the eighteenth century, we shall observe some interesting facts. All the colonies had legislative assemblies elected by the people, and these assemblies levied the taxes and made the laws. So far as the legislatures were concerned, therefore, all the colonies governed themselves. But with regard to the executive department of the government, there were very important differences. Only two of the colonies, Connecticut and Rhode Island, had governors elected by the people. These two colonies were completely self-governing. In almost everything but name they were independent of Great Britain, and this was so true that at the time of the revolutionary war they did not need to make any new constitutions for themselves, but continued to live on under their old charters for many years,—Connecticut until 1818, Rhode Island until 1843. Before the revolution these two colonies had comparatively few direct grievances to complain of at the hands of Great Britain; but as they were next neighbours to Massachusetts and closely connected with its history, they were likely to sympathize promptly with the kind of grievances by which Massachusetts was disturbed.
[Sidenote: The proprietary governments: Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland]
Three of the colonies, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, had a peculiar kind of government, known as proprietary government. Their territories had originally been granted by the crown to a person known as the Lord Proprietary, and the lord-proprietorship descended from father to son like a kingdom. In Maryland it was the Calvert family that reigned for six generations as lords proprietary. Pennsylvania and Delaware had each its own separate legislature, but over both colonies reigned the same lord proprietary, who was a member of the Penn family. These colonies were thus like little hereditary monarchies, and they had but few direct dealings with the British government. For them the lords proprietary stood in the place of the king, and appointed the governors. In Maryland this system ran smoothly. In Pennsylvania there was a good deal of dissatisfaction, but it generally assumed the form of a wish to get rid of the lords proprietary and have the governors appointed by the king; for as this was something they had not tried they were not prepared to appreciate its evils.
[Sidenote: The crown colonies and their royal governors]
In the other eight colonies—New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia—the governors were appointed by the king, and were commonly known as "royal governors." They were sometimes natives of the colonies over which they were appointed, as Dudley and Hutchinson of Massachusetts, and others; but were more often sent over from England. Some of them, as Pownall of Massachusetts and Spotswood of Virginia, were men of marked ability. Some were honest gentlemen, who felt a real interest in the welfare of the people they came to help govern; some were unprincipled adventurers, who came to make money by fair means or foul. Their position was one of much dignity, and they behaved themselves like lesser kings. What with their crimson velvets and fine laces and stately coaches, they made much more of a show than any president of the United States would think of making to-day. They had no fixed terms of office, but remained at their posts as long as the king, or the king's colonial secretary, saw fit to keep them there.
[Sidenote: The question as to salaries]
Now it was generally true of the royal governors that, whether they were natives of America or sent over from England, and whether they were good men or bad, they were very apt to make themselves disliked by the people, and they were almost always quarrelling with their legislative assemblies. Questions were always coming up about which the governor and the legislature could not agree, because the legislature represented the views of the people who had chosen it, while the governor represented his own views or the views which prevailed three thousand miles away among the king's ministers, who very often knew little about America and cared less. One of these disputed questions related to the governor's salary. It was natural that the governor should wish to have a salary of fixed amount, so that he might know from year to year what he was going to receive. But the people were afraid that if this were to be done the governor might become too independent. They preferred that the legislature should each year make a grant of money such as it should deem suitable for the governor's expenses, and this sum it might increase or diminish according to its own good pleasure. This would keep the governor properly subservient to the legislature. Before 1750 there had been much bitter wrangling over this question in several of the colonies, and the governors had one after another been obliged to submit, though with very ill grace.
Sometimes the thoughts of the royal governors and their friends went beyond this immediate question. Since the legislatures were so froward and so niggardly, what an admirable plan it would be to have the governors paid out of the royal treasury and thus made comparatively independent of the legislatures! The judges, too, who were quite poorly paid, might fare much better if remunerated by the crown, and the same might be said of some other public officers. But if the British government were to undertake to pay the salaries of its officials in America, it must raise a revenue for the purpose; and it would naturally raise such a revenue by levying taxes in America rather than in England. People in England felt that they were already taxed as heavily as they could bear, in order to pay the expenses of their own government. They could not be expected to submit to further taxation for the sake of paying the expenses of governing the American colonies. If further taxes were to be laid for such a purpose, they must in fairness be laid upon Americans, not upon Englishmen in the old country.
Such was the view which people in England would naturally be expected to take, and such was the view which they generally did take. But there was another side to the question which was very clearly seen by most people in America. If the royal governors were to be paid by the crown and thus made independent of their legislatures, there would be danger of their becoming petty tyrants and interfering in many ways with the liberties of the people. Still greater would be the danger if the judges were to be paid by the crown, for then they would feel themselves responsible to the king or to the royal governor, rather than to their fellow-citizens; and it would be easy for the governors, by appointing corrupt men as judges, to prevent the proper administration of justice by the courts, and thus to make men's lives and property insecure. Most Americans in 1750 felt this danger very keenly. They had not forgotten how, in the times of their grandfathers, two of the noblest of Englishmen, Lord William Russell and Colonel Algernon Sidney, had been murdered by the iniquitous sentence of time-serving judges. They had not forgotten the ruffian George Jeffreys and his "bloody assizes" of 1685. They well remembered how their kinsmen in England had driven into exile the Stuart family of kings, who were even yet, in 1745, making efforts to recover their lost throne. They remembered how the beginnings of New England had been made by stout-hearted men who could not endure the tyranny of these same Stuarts; and they knew well that one of the worst of the evils upon which Stuart tyranny had fattened had been the corruption of the courts of justice. The Americans believed with some reason, that even now, in the middle of the eighteenth century, the administration of justice in their own commonwealths was decidedly better than in Great Britain; and they had no mind to have it disturbed.
[Sidenote: "No taxation without representation."]
But worse than all, if the expenses of governing America were to be paid by taxes levied upon Americans and collected from them by king or parliament or any power whatsoever residing in Great Britain, then the inhabitants of the thirteen American colonies would at once cease to be free people. A free country is one in which the government cannot take away people's money, in the shape of taxes, except for strictly public purposes and with the consent of the people themselves, as expressed by some body of representatives whom the people have chosen. If people's money can be taken from them without their consent, no matter how small the amount, even if it be less than one dollar out of every thousand, then they are not politically free. They do not govern, but the power that thus takes their money without their consent is the power that governs; and there is nothing to prevent such a power from using the money thus obtained to strengthen itself until it can trample upon people's rights in every direction, and rob them of their homes and lives as well as of their money. If the British government could tax the Americans without their consent, it might use the money for supporting a British army in America, and such an army might be employed in intimidating the legislatures, in dispersing town-meetings, in destroying newspaper-offices, or in other acts of tyranny.
[Sidenote: It was the fundamental principle of English liberty.]
The Americans in the middle of the eighteenth century well understood that the principle of "no taxation without representation" is the fundamental principle of free government. It was the principle for which their forefathers had contended again and again in England, and upon which the noble edifice of English liberty had been raised and consolidated since the grand struggle between king and barons in the thirteenth century. It had passed into a tradition, both in England and in America, that in order to prevent the crown from becoming despotic, it was necessary that it should only wield such revenues as the representatives of the people might be pleased to grant it. In England the body which represented the people was the House of Commons, in each of the American colonies it was the colonial legislature; and in dealing with the royal governors, the legislatures acted upon the same general principles as the House of Commons in dealing with the king.
[Sidenote: Sometimes the royal governors were in the right, as to the particular question.]
It was not until some time after 1750 that any grand assault was made upon the principle of "no taxation without representation," but the frequent disputes with the royal governors were such as to keep people from losing sight of this principle, and to make them sensitive about acts that might lead to violations of it. In the particular disputes the governors were sometimes clearly right and the people wrong. One of the principal objects, as we shall presently see, for which the governors wanted money, was to maintain troops for defence against the French and the Indians; and the legislatures were apt to be short-sighted and unreasonably stingy about such matters. Again, the people were sometimes seized with a silly craze for "paper money" and "wild-cat banks"—devices for making money out of nothing—and sometimes the governors were sensible enough to oppose such delusions but not altogether sensible in their manner of doing it. Thus in 1740 there was fierce excitement in Massachusetts over a quarrel between the governor and the legislature about the famous "silver bank" and "land bank." These institutions were a public nuisance and deserved to be suppressed, but the governor was obliged to appeal to parliament in order to succeed in doing it. This led many people to ask, "What business has a parliament sitting the other side of the ocean to be making laws for us?" and the grumbling was loud and bitter enough to show that this was a very dangerous question to raise.
[Sidenote: Bitter memories; in Virginia.]
It was in the eight colonies which had royal governors that troubles of a revolutionary character were more likely to arise than in the other five, but there were special reasons, besides those already mentioned, why Massachusetts and Virginia should prove more refractory than any of the others. Both these great commonwealths had bitter memories. Things had happened in both which might serve as a warning, and which some of the old men still living in 1750 could distinctly remember. In Virginia the misgovernment of the royal governor Sir William Berkeley had led in 1675 to the famous rebellion headed by Nathaniel Bacon, and this rebellion had been suppressed with much harshness. Many leading citizens had been sent to the gallows and their estates had been confiscated. In Massachusetts, though there were no such scenes of cruelty to remember, the grievance was much more deep-seated and enduring.
[Sidenote: And in Massachusetts.]
Massachusetts had not been originally a royal province, with its governors appointed by the king. At first it had been a republic, such as Connecticut and Rhode Island now were, with governors chosen by the people. From its foundation in 1629 down to 1684 the commonwealth of Massachusetts had managed its own affairs at its own good pleasure. Practically it had been not only self-governing but almost independent. That was because affairs in England were in such confusion that until after 1660 comparatively little attention was paid to what was going on in America, and the liberties of Massachusetts prospered through the neglect of what was then called the "home government." After Charles II. came to the throne in 1660 he began to interfere with the affairs of Massachusetts, and so the very first generation of men that had been born on the soil of that commonwealth were engaged in a long struggle against the British king for the right of managing their own affairs. After more than twenty years of this struggle, which by 1675 had come to be quite bitter, the charter of Massachusetts was annulled in 1684 and its free government was for the moment destroyed. Presently a viceroy was sent over from England, to govern Massachusetts (as well as several other northern colonies) despotically. This viceroy, Sir Edmund Andros, seems to have been a fairly well meaning man. He was not especially harsh or cruel, but his rule was a despotism, because he was not responsible to the people for what he did, but only to the king. In point of fact the two-and-a-half years of his administration were characterized by arbitrary arrests and by interference with private property and with the freedom of the press. It was so vexatious that early in 1689, taking advantage of the Revolution then going on in England, the people of Boston rose in rebellion, seized Andros and threw him into jail, and set up for themselves a provisional government. When the affairs of New England were settled after the accession of William and Mary to the throne, Connecticut and Rhode Island were allowed to keep their old governments; but Massachusetts in 1693 was obliged to take a new charter instead of her old one, and although this new charter revived the election of legislatures by the people, it left the governors henceforth to be appointed by the king.
In the political controversies of Massachusetts, therefore, in the eighteenth century, the people were animated by the recollection of what they had lost. They were somewhat less free and independent than their grandfathers had been, and they had learned what it was to have an irresponsible ruler sitting at his desk in Boston and signing warrants for the arrest of loved and respected citizens who dared criticise his sayings and doings. "Taxation without representation" was not for them a mere abstract theory; they knew what it meant. It was as near to them as the presidency of Andrew Jackson is to us; there had not been time enough to forget it. In every contest between the popular legislature and the royal governor there was some broad principle involved which there were plenty of well-remembered facts to illustrate.
[Sidenote: Grounds of sympathy between Massachusetts and Virginia.]
These contests also helped to arouse a strong sympathy between the popular leaders in Massachusetts and in Virginia. Between the people of the two colonies there was not much real sympathy, because there was a good deal of difference between their ways of life and their opinions about things; and people, unless they are unusually wise and generous of nature, are apt to dislike and despise those who differ from them in opinions and habits. So there was little cordiality of feeling between the people of Massachusetts and the people of Virginia, but in spite of this there was a great and growing political sympathy. This was because, ever since 1693, they had been obliged to deal with the same kind of political questions. It became intensely interesting to a Virginian to watch the progress of a dispute between the governor and legislature of Massachusetts, because whatever principle might be victorious in the course of such a dispute, it was sure soon to find a practical application in Virginia. Hence by the middle of the eighteenth century the two colonies were keenly observant of each other, and either one was exceedingly prompt in taking its cue from the other. It is worth while to remember this fact, for without it there would doubtless have been rebellions or revolutions of American colonies, but there would hardly have been one American Revolution, ending in a grand American Union.
THE FRENCH WARS, AND THE FIRST PLAN OF UNION.
[Sidenote: Disputed frontier between French and English colonies.]
It was said a moment ago that one of the chief objects for which the governors wanted money was to maintain troops for defence against the French and the Indians. This was a very serious matter indeed. To any one who looked at a map of North America in 1750 it might well have seemed as if the French had secured for themselves the greater part of the continent. The western frontier of the English settlements was generally within two hundred miles of the sea-coast. In New York it was at Johnson Hall, not far from Schenectady; in Pennsylvania it was about at Carlisle; in Virginia it was near Winchester, and the first explorers were just making their way across the Alleghany mountains. Westward of these frontier settlements lay endless stretches of forest inhabited by warlike tribes of red men who, everywhere except in New York, were hostile to the English and friendly to the French. Since the beginning of the seventeenth century French towns and villages had been growing up along the St. Lawrence, and French explorers had been pushing across the Great Lakes and down the valley of the Mississippi river, near the mouth of which the French town of New Orleans had been standing since 1718. It was the French doctrine that discovery and possession of a river gave a claim to all the territory drained by that river. According to this doctrine every acre of American soil from which water flowed into the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi belonged to France. The claims of the French thus came up to the very crest of the Alleghanies, and they made no secret of their intention to shut up the English forever between that chain of mountains and the sea-coast. There were times when their aims were still more aggressive and dangerous, when they looked with longing eyes upon the valley of the Hudson, and would fain have broken through that military centre of the line of English commonwealths and seized the keys of empire over the continent.
[Sidenote: The Indian tribes.]
From this height of their ambition the French were kept aloof by the deadly enmity of the most fierce and powerful savages in the New World. The Indians of those days who came into contact with the white settlers were divided into many tribes with different names, but they all belonged to one or another of three great stocks or families. First, there were the Mobilians, far down south; to this stock belonged the Creeks, Cherokees, and others. Secondly, there were the Algonquins, comprising the Delawares to the south of the Susquehanna; the Miamis, Shawnees, and others in the western wilderness; the Ottawas in Canada; and all the tribes still left to the northeast of New England. Thirdly, there were the Iroquois, of whom the most famous were the Five Nations of what is now central New York. These five great tribes—the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas—had for several generations been united in a confederacy which they likened to a long wigwam with its eastern door looking out upon the valley of the Hudson and its western toward the falls of Niagara. It was known far and wide over the continent as the Long House, and wherever it was known it was dreaded. When Frenchmen and Englishmen first settled in America, this Iroquois league was engaged in a long career of conquest. Algonquin tribes all the way from the Connecticut to the Mississippi were treated as its vassals and forced to pay tribute in weapons and wampum. This conquering career extended through the seventeenth century, until it was brought to an end by the French. When the latter began making settlements in Canada, they courted the friendship of their Algonquin neighbours, and thus, without dreaming what deadly seed they were sowing, they were led to attack the terrible Long House. It was easy enough for Champlain in 1609 to win a victory over savages who had never before seen a white man or heard the report of a musket; but the victory was a fatal one for the French, for it made the Iroquois their eternal enemies. The Long House allied itself first with the Dutch and afterwards with the English, and thus checked the progress of the French toward the lower Hudson. We too seldom think how much we owe to those formidable savages.
[Sidenote: The French and the Iroquois.]
The Iroquois pressed the French with so much vigour that in 1689 they even laid siege to Montreal. But by 1696 the French, assisted by all the Algonquin tribes within reach, and led by their warlike viceroy, Count Frontenac, one of the most picturesque figures in American history, at length succeeded in getting the upperhand and dealing the Long House a terrible blow, from the effects of which it never recovered. The league remained formidable, however, until the time of the revolutionary war. In 1715 its fighting strength was partially repaired by the adoption of the kindred Iroquois tribe of Tuscaroras, who had just been expelled from North Carolina by the English settlers, and migrated to New York. After this accession the league, henceforth known as the Six Nations, formed a power by no means to be despised, though much less bold and aggressive than in the previous century.
After administering a check to the Iroquois, the French and Algonquins kept up for more than sixty years a desultory warfare against the English colonies. Whenever war broke out between England and France, it meant war in America as well as in Europe. Indeed, one of the chief objects of war, on the part of each of these two nations, was to extend its colonial dominions at the expense of the other. France and England were at war from 1689 to 1697; from 1702 to 1713; and from 1743 to 1748. The men in New York or Boston in 1750, who could remember the past sixty years, could thus look back over at least four-and-twenty years of open war; and even in the intervals of professed peace there was a good deal of disturbance on the frontiers. A most frightful sort of warfare it was, ghastly with torture of prisoners and the ruthless murder of women and children. The expense of raising and arming troops for defence was great enough to subject several of the colonies to a heavy burden of debt. In 1750 Massachusetts was just throwing off the load of debt under which she had staggered since 1693; and most of this debt was incurred for expeditions against the French and Algonquins.
[Sidenote: Difficulty of getting the English colonies to act in concert.]
Under these circumstances it was natural that the colonial governments should find it hard to raise enough money for war expenses, and that the governors should think the legislatures too slow in acting. They were slow; for, as is apt to be the case when money is to be borrowed without the best security, there were a good many things to be considered. All this was made worse by the fact that there were so many separate governments, so that each one was inclined to hold back and wait for the others. On the other hand, the French viceroy in Canada had despotic power; the colony which he governed never pretended to be self-supporting; and so, if he could not squeeze money enough out of the people in Canada, he just sent to France for it and got it; for the government of Louis XV. regarded Canada as one of the brightest jewels in its crown, and was always ready to spend money for damaging the English. Accordingly the Frenchman could plan his campaign, call his red men together, and set the whole frontier in a blaze, while the legislatures in Boston or New York were talking about what had better be done in case of invasion. No wonder the royal governors fretted and fumed, and sent home to England dismal accounts of the perverseness of these Americans! Many people in England thought that the colonies were allowed to govern themselves altogether too much, and that for their own good the British government ought to tax them. Once while Sir Robert Walpole was prime minister (1721-1742) some one is said to have advised him to lay a direct tax upon the Americans; but that wise old statesman shook his head. It was bad enough, he said, to be scolded and abused by half the people in the old country; he did not wish to make enemies of every man, woman, and child in the new.
[Sidenote: Need of a union between the English colonies.]
But if the power to raise American armies for the common defence, and to collect money in America for this purpose, was not to be assumed by the British government, was there any way in which unity and promptness of action in time of war could be secured? There was another way, if people could be persuaded to adopt it. The thirteen colonies might be joined together in a federal union; and the federal government, without interfering in the local affairs of any single colony, might be clothed with the power of levying taxes all over the country for purposes of common defence. The royal governors were inclined to favour a union of the colonies, no matter how it might be brought about. They thought it necessary that some decisive step should be taken quickly, for it was evident that the peace of 1748 was only an armed truce. Evidently a great and decisive struggle was at hand. In 1750 the Ohio Company, formed for the purpose of colonizing the valley drained by that river, had surveyed the country as far as the present site of Louisville. In 1753 the French, taking the alarm, crossed Lake Erie, and began to fortify themselves at Presque Isle, and at Venango on the Alleghany river. They seized persons trading within the limits of the Ohio Company, which lay within the territory of Virginia; and accordingly Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, selected George Washington—a venturous and hardy young land-surveyor, only twenty-one years old, but gifted with a sagacity beyond his years—and sent him to Venango to warn off the trespassers. It was an exceedingly delicate and dangerous mission, and Washington showed rare skill and courage in this first act of his public career, but the French commander made polite excuses and remained. Next spring the French and English tried each to forestall the other in fortifying the all-important place where the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers unite to form the Ohio, the place long afterward commonly known as the "Gateway of the West," the place where the city of Pittsburgh now stands. In the course of these preliminary manoeuvres Washington was besieged in Fort Necessity by overwhelming numbers, and on July 4, 1754, was obliged to surrender the whole of his force, but obtained leave to march away. So the French got possession of the much-coveted situation, and erected there Fort Duquesne as a menace to all future English intruders. As yet war had not been declared between France and England, but these skirmishings indicated that war in earnest was not far off.
[Sidenote: The Congress at Albany, 1754.]
In view of the approaching war a meeting was arranged at Albany between the principal chiefs of the Six Nations and commissioners from several of the colonies, that the alliance between English and Iroquois might be freshly cemented; and some of the royal governors improved the occasion to call for a Congress of all the colonies, in order to prepare some plan of confederation such as all the colonies might be willing to adopt. At the time of Washington's surrender such a Congress was in session at Albany, but Maryland was the most southerly colony represented in it. The people nowhere showed any interest in it. No public meetings were held in its favour. The only newspaper which warmly approved it was the "Pennsylvania Gazette," which appeared with a union device, a snake divided into thirteen segments, with the motto "Unite or Die!"
[Sidenote: Franklin's plan for a Federal Union.]
The editor of this paper was Benjamin Franklin, then eight-and-forty years of age and already one of the most famous men in America. In the preceding year he had been appointed by the crown postmaster-general for the American colonies, and he had received from the Royal Society the Copley medal for his brilliant discovery that lightning is a discharge of electricity. Franklin was very anxious to see the colonies united in a federal body, and he was now a delegate to the Congress. He drew up a plan of union which the Congress adopted, after a very long debate; and it has ever since been known as the Albany Plan. The federal government was to consist, first, of a President or Governor-general, appointed and paid by the crown, and holding office during its pleasure; and secondly, of a Grand Council composed of representatives elected every third year by the legislatures of the several colonies. This federal government was not to meddle with the internal affairs of any colony, but on questions of war and such other questions as concerned all the colonies alike, it was to be supreme; and to this end it was to have the power of levying taxes for federal purposes directly upon the people of the several colonies. Philadelphia, as the most centrally situated of the larger towns, was mentioned as a proper seat for the federal government.
The end of our story will show the wonderful foresightedness of Franklin's scheme. If the Revolution had never occurred, we might very likely have sooner or later come to live under a constitution resembling the Albany Plan. On the other hand, if the Albany Plan had been put into operation, it might perhaps have so adjusted the relations of the colonies to the British government that the Revolution would not have occurred. Perhaps, however, it would only have reproduced, on a larger scale, the irrepressible conflict between royal governor and popular assembly. The scheme failed for want of support. The Congress recommended it to the colonial legislatures, but not one of them voted to adopt it. The difficulty was the same in 1754 that it was thirty years later,—only much stronger. The people of one colony saw but little of the people in another, had but few dealings with them, and cared not much about them. They knew and trusted their own local assemblies which sat and voted almost under their eyes; they were not inclined to grant strange powers of taxation to a new assembly distant by a week's journey. This was a point to which people could never have been brought except as the alternative to something confessedly worse.
[Sidenote: Its failure.]
The failure of the Albany Plan left the question of providing for military defence just where it was before, and the great Seven Years' War came on while governors and assemblies were wrangling to no purpose. In 1755 Braddock's army was unable to get support except from the steadfast personal exertions of Franklin, who used his great influence with the farmers of Pennsylvania to obtain horses, wagons, and provisions, pledging his own property for their payment. Nevertheless, as the war went on and the people of the colonies became fully alive to its importance, they did contribute liberally both in men and in money, and at last it appeared that in proportion to their wealth and population they had done even more than the regular army and the royal exchequer toward overthrowing the common enemy.
[Sidenote: Overthrow of the French power in America.]
When the war came to an end in 1763 the whole face of things in America was changed. Seldom, if ever, had the world seen so complete a victory. France no longer possessed so much as an acre of ground in all North America. The unknown regions beyond the Mississippi river were handed over to Spain in payment for bootless assistance rendered to France toward the close of the war. Spain also received New Orleans, while Florida, which then reached westward nearly to New Orleans, passed from Spanish into British hands. The whole country north of Florida and east of the Mississippi river, including Canada, was now English. A strong combination of Indian tribes, chiefly Algonquin, under the lead of the Ottawa sachem Pontiac, made a last desperate attempt, after the loss of their French allies, to cripple the English; but by 1765, after many harrowing scenes of bloodshed, these red men were crushed. There was no power left that could threaten the peace of the thirteen colonies unless it were the mother-country herself. "Well," said the French minister, the Duke de Choiseul, as he signed the treaty that shut France out of North America, "so we are gone; it will be England's turn next!" And like a prudent seeker after knowledge, as he was, the Duke presently bethought him of an able and high-minded man, the Baron de Kalb, and sent him in 1767 to America, to look about and see if there were not good grounds for his bold prophecy.
THE STAMP ACT, AND THE REVENUE LAWS.
It did not take four years after the peace of 1763 to show how rapidly the new situation of affairs was bearing fruit in America. The war had taught its lessons. Earlier wars had menaced portions of the frontier, and had been fought by single colonies or alliances of two or three. This war had menaced the whole frontier, and the colonies, acting for the first time in general concert, had acquired some dim notion of their united strength. Soldiers and officers by and by to be arrayed against one another had here fought as allies,—John Stark and Israel Putnam by the side of William Howe; Horatio Gates by the side of Thomas Gage,—and it had not always been the regulars that bore off the palm for skill and endurance. One young man, of immense energy and fiery temper, united to rare prudence and fertility of resource, had already become famous enough to be talked about in England; in George Washington the Virginians recognized a tower of strength.
[Sidenote: Consequences of the great French War.]
[Sidenote: Need for a steady revenue.]
The overthrow of their ancient enemy, while further increasing the self-confidence of the Americans, at the same time removed the principal check which had hitherto kept their differences with the British government from coming to an open rupture. Formerly the dread of French attack had tended to make the Americans complaisant toward the king's ministers, while at time it made the king's ministers unwilling to lose the good will of the Americans. Now that the check was removed, the continuance or revival of the old disputes at once foreboded trouble; and the old occasions for dispute were far from having ceased. On the contrary the war itself had given them fresh vitality. If money had been needed before, it was still more needed now. The war had entailed a heavy burden of expense upon the British government as well as upon the colonies. The national debt of Great Britain was much increased, and there were many who thought that, since the Americans shared in the benefits of the war they ought also to share in the burden which it left behind it. People in England who used this argument did not realize that the Americans had really contributed as much as could reasonably be expected to the support of the war, and that it had left behind it debts to be paid in America as well as in England. But there was another argument which made it seem reasonable to many Englishmen that the colonists should be taxed. It seemed right that a small military force should be kept up in America, for defence of the frontiers against the Indians, even if there were no other enemies to be dreaded. The events of Pontiac's war now showed that there was clearly need of such a force; and the experience of the royal governors for half a century had shown that it was very difficult to get the colonial legislatures to vote money for any such purpose. Hence there grew up in England a feeling that taxes ought to be raised in America as a contribution to the war debt and to the military defence of the colonies; and in order that such taxes should be fairly distributed and promptly collected, it was felt that the whole business ought to be placed under the direct supervision and control of parliament. In accordance with this feeling the new prime minister, George Grenville in 1764 announced his intention of passing a Stamp Act for the easier collection of revenue in America. Meanwhile things had happened in America which had greatly irritated the people, especially in Boston, so that they were in the mood for resisting anything that looked like encroachment on the part of the British government. To understand this other source of irritation, we must devote a few words to the laws by which that government had for a long time undertaken to regulate the commerce of the American colonies.
[Sidenote: What European colonies were supposed to be founded for.]
When European nations began to plant colonies in America, they treated them in accordance with a theory which prevailed until it was upset by the American Revolution. According to this ignorant and barbarous theory, a colony was a community which existed only for the purpose of enriching the country which had founded it. At the outset, the Spanish notion of a colony was that of a military station, which might plunder the heathen for the benefit of the hungry treasury of the Most Catholic monarch. But this theory was short-lived, like the enjoyment of the plunder which it succeeded in extorting. According to the principles and practice of France and England—and of Spain also, after the first romantic fury of buccaneering had spent itself—the great object in founding a colony, besides increasing one's general importance in the world and the area of one's dominions on the map, was to create a dependent community for the purpose of trading with it. People's ideas about trade were very absurd. It was not understood that when two parties trade with each other freely, both must be gainers, or else one would soon stop trading. It was supposed that in trade, just as in gambling or betting, what the one party gains the other loses. Accordingly laws were made to regulate trade so that, as far as possible, all the loss might fall upon the colonies and all the gain accrue to the mother-country. In order to attain this object, the colonies were required to confine their trade entirely to England. No American colony could send its tobacco or its rice or its indigo to France or to Holland, or to any other country than England; nor could it buy a yard of French silk or a pound of Chinese tea except from English merchants. In this way English merchants sought to secure for themselves a monopoly of purchases and a monopoly of sales. By a further provision, although American ships might take goods to England, the carrying-trade between the different colonies was strictly confined to British ships. Next, in order to protect British manufacturers from competition, it was thought necessary to prohibit the colonists from manufacturing. They might grow wool, but it must be carried to England to be woven into cloth; they might smelt iron, but it must be carried to England to be made into ploughshares. Finally, in order to protect British farmers and their landlords, corn-laws were enacted, putting a prohibitory tariff on all kinds of grain and other farm produce shipped from the colonies to ports in Great Britain.
Such absurd and tyrannical laws had begun to be made in the reign of Charles II., and by 1750 not less than twenty-nine acts of parliament had been passed in this spirit. If these laws had been strictly enforced, the American Revolution would probably have come sooner than it did. In point of fact they were seldom strictly enforced, because so long as the French were a power in America the British government felt that it could not afford to irritate the colonists. In spite of laws to the contrary, the carrying-trade between the different colonies was almost monopolized by vessels owned, built, and manned in New England; and the smuggling of foreign goods into Boston and New York and other seaport towns was winked at.
[Sidenote: Writs of assistance.]
It was in 1761, immediately after the overthrow of the French in Canada, that attempts were made to enforce the revenue laws more strictly than heretofore; and trouble was at once threatened. Charles Paxton, the principal officer of the custom-house in Boston, applied to the Superior Court to grant him the authority to use "writs of assistance" in searching for smuggled goods. A writ of assistance was a general search-warrant, empowering the officer armed with it to enter, by force if necessary, any dwelling-house or warehouse where contraband goods were supposed to be stored or hidden. A special search-warrant was one in which the name of the suspected person, and the house which it was proposed to search, were accurately specified, and the goods which it was intended to seize were as far as possible described. In the use of such special warrants there was not much danger of gross injustice or oppression, because the court would not be likely to grant one unless strong evidence could be brought against the person whom it named. But the general search-warrant, or "writ of assistance," as it was called because men try to cover up the ugliness of hateful things by giving them innocent names, was quite a different affair. It was a blank form upon which the custom-house officer might fill in the names of persons and descriptions of houses and goods to suit himself. Then he could go and break into the houses and seize the goods, and if need be summon the sheriff and his posse to help him in overcoming and browbeating the owner. The writ of assistance was therefore an abominable instrument of tyranny. Such writs had been allowed by a statute of the evil reign of Charles II.; a statute of William III. had clothed custom-house officers in the colonies with like powers to those which they possessed in England; and neither of these statutes had been repealed. There can therefore be little doubt that the issue of such search-warrants was strictly legal, unless the authority of Parliament to make laws for the colonies was to be denied.
[Sidenote: James Otis.]
James Otis then held the crown office of advocate-general, with an ample salary and prospects of high favour from government. When the revenue officers called upon him, in view of his position, to defend their cause, he resigned his office and at once undertook to act as counsel for the merchants of Boston in their protest against the issue of the writs. A large fee was offered him, but he refused it. "In such a cause," said he, "I despise all fees." The case was tried in the council-chamber at the east end of the old town-hall, or what is now known as the "Old State-House," in Boston. Chief-justice Hutchinson presided, and Jeremiah Gridley, one of the greatest lawyers of that day, argued the case for the writs in a very powerful speech. The reply of Otis, which took five hours in the delivery, was one of the greatest speeches of modern times. It went beyond the particular legal question at issue, and took up the whole question of the constitutional relations between the colonies and the mother-country. At the bottom of this, as of all the disputes that led to the Revolution, lay the ultimate question whether Americans were bound to yield obedience to laws which they had no share in making. This question, and the spirit that answered it flatly and doggedly in the negative, were heard like an undertone pervading all the arguments in Otis's wonderful speech, and it was because of this that the young lawyer John Adams, who was present, afterward declared that on that day "the child Independence was born." Chief-justice Hutchinson was a man of great ability and as sincere a patriot as any American of his time. He could feel the force of Otis's argument, but he believed that Parliament was the supreme legislative body for the whole British empire, and furthermore that it was the duty of a judge to follow the law as it existed. He reserved his decision until advice could be had from the law-officers of the crown in London; and when next term he was instructed by them to grant the writs, this result added fresh impetus to the spirit that Otis's eloquence had aroused. The custom-house officers, armed with their writs, began breaking into warehouses and seizing goods which were said to have been smuggled. In this rough way they confiscated private property to the value of many thousands of pounds; but sometimes the owners of warehouses armed themselves and barricaded their doors and windows, and thus the officers were often successfully defied, for the sheriff was far from prompt in coming to aid them.
[Sidenote: Patrick Henry, and the Parsons' Cause.]
While such things were going on in Boston, the people of Virginia were wrought into fierce excitement by what was known as the "Parsons' Cause." The Church of England was at that time established by law in Virginia, and its clergymen, appointed by English bishops, were unpopular. In 1758 the legislature, under the pressure of the French war, had passed an act which affected all public dues and incidentally diminished the salaries of the clergy. Complaints were made to the Bishop of London, and the act of 1758 was vetoed by the king in council. Several clergymen then brought suits to recover the unpaid portions of their salaries. In the first test case there could be no doubt that the royal veto was legal enough, and the court therefore decided in favour of the plaintiff. But it now remained to settle before a jury the amount of the damages. It was on this occasion, in December, 1763, that the great orator Patrick Henry made his first speech in the court-room and at once became famous. He declared that no power on earth could take away from Virginia the right to make laws for herself, and that in annulling a wholesome law at the request of a favoured class in the community "a king, from being the father of his people, degenerates into a tyrant, and forfeits all right to obedience." This bold talk aroused much excitement and some uproar, but the jury instantly responded by assessing the parson's damages at one penny, and in 1765 Henry was elected a member of the colonial assembly.
Thus almost at the same time in Massachusetts and in Virginia the preliminary scenes of the Revolution occurred in the court-room. In each case the representatives of the crown had the letter of the law on their side, but the principles of the only sound public policy, by which a Revolution could be avoided, were those that were defended by the advocates of the people. At each successive move on the part of the British government which looked like an encroachment upon the rights of Americans, the sympathy between these two leading colonies now grew stronger and stronger.
It was in 1763 that George Grenville became prime minister, a man of whom Macaulay says that he knew of "no national interests except those which are expressed by pounds, shillings, and pence." Grenville proceeded to introduce into Parliament two measures which had consequences of which, he little dreamed. The first of these measures was the Molasses Act, the second was the Stamp Act.
[Sidenote: The Molasses Act.]
Properly speaking, the Molasses Act was an old law which Grenville now made up his mind to revive and enforce. The commercial wealth of the New England colonies depended largely upon their trade with the fish which their fishermen caught along the coast and as far out as the banks of Newfoundland. The finest fish could be sold in Europe, but the poorer sort found their chief market in the French West Indies. The French government, in order to ensure a market for the molasses raised in these islands, would not allow the planters to give anything else in exchange for fish. Great quantities of molasses were therefore carried to New England, and what was not needed there for domestic use was distilled into rum, part of which was consumed at home, and the rest carried chiefly to Africa wherewith to buy slaves to be sold to the southern colonies. All this trade required many ships, and thus kept up a lively demand for New England lumber, besides finding employment for thousands of sailors and shipwrights. Now in 1733 the British government took it into its head to "protect" its sugar planters in the English West Indies by compelling the New England merchants to buy all their molasses from them; and with this end in view it forthwith laid upon all sugar and molasses imported into North America from the French islands a duty so heavy that, if it had been enforced, it would have stopped all such importation. It is very doubtful if this measure would have attained the end which the British government had in view. Probably it would not have made much difference in the export of molasses from the English West Indies to New England, because the islanders happened not to want the fish which their French neighbours coveted. But the New Englanders could see that the immediate result would be to close the market for their cheaper kinds of fish, and thus ruin their trade in lumber and rum, besides shutting up many a busy shipyard and turning more than 5000 sailors out of employment. It was estimated that the yearly loss to New England would exceed L300,000. It was hardly wise in Great Britain to entail such a loss upon some of her best customers; for with their incomes thus cut down, it was not to be expected that the people of New England would be able to buy as many farming tools, dishes, and pieces of furniture, garments of silk or wool, and wines or other luxuries, from British merchants as before. The government in passing its act of 1733 did not think of these consequences; but it proved to be impossible to enforce the act without causing more disturbance than the government felt prepared to encounter. Now in 1764 Grenville announced that the act was to be enforced, and of course the machinery of writs of assistance was to be employed for that purpose. Henceforth all molasses from the French islands must either pay the prohibitory duty or be seized without ceremony.
Loud and fierce was the indignation of New England over this revival of the Molasses Act. Even without the Stamp Act, it might very likely have led that part of the country to make armed resistance, but in such case it is not so sure that the southern and middle colonies would have come to the aid of New England. But in the Stamp Act Grenville provided the colonies with an issue which concerned one as much as another, and upon which they were accordingly sure to unite in resistance. It was also a much better issue for the Americans to take up, for it was not a mere revival of an old act; it was a new departure; it was an imposition of a kind to which the Americans had never before been called upon to submit, and in resisting it they were sure to enlist the sympathies of a good many powerful people in England.
[Sidenote: The Stamp Act.]
The Stamp Act was a direct tax laid upon the whole American people by Parliament, a legislative body in which they were not represented. The British government had no tyrannical purpose in devising this tax. A stamp duty had already been suggested in 1755 by William Shirley, royal governor of Massachusetts, a worthy man and much more of a favourite with the people than most of his class. Shirley recommended it as the least disagreeable kind of tax, and the easiest to collect. It did not call for any hateful searching of people's houses and shops, or any unpleasant questions about their incomes, or about their invested or hoarded wealth. It only required that legal documents and commercial instruments should be written, and newspapers printed, on stamped paper. Of all kinds of direct tax none can be less annoying, except for one reason; it is exceedingly difficult to evade such a tax; it enforces itself. For these reasons Grenville decided to adopt it. He arranged it so that all the officers charged with the business of selling the stamped paper should be Americans; and he gave formal notice of the measure in March, 1764, a year beforehand, in order to give the colonies time to express their opinions about it.