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The Governor sent the letter, with a message, to the Assembly, on the 20th, and on the 18th of February the House returned for answer, that “they humbly conceive their complying with the requisition, would be a violation of the trust reposed in them by their constituents, and founding a precedent they by no means think themselves justifiable in introducing ;” and the Governor, finding them inflexible, and that nothing was or could be done with the terms of the “ mutiny act,” had only the mortification to transmit their proceedings to His Majesty's ministers.
This act of Parliament, for quartering troops upon the Americans, and making them responsible for the means of subsistence and transportation, was but another phasis of the plan of taxation, and under whatever form such a principle was avowed, it could never be countenanced or sustained. The British Constitution solemnly guaranteed to every man the property which he had honestly acquired, and left the disposal of it to his own election, with which, neither corporations or government could at all interfere, without his consent, expressed by himself or his accredited representative. If the Americans could be taxed without their agreement, by any laws of whatever name, or if soldiers could be quartered in their houses without their consent, it was a palpable violation of the “indefeasible birthright of a British subject,” and justified the language of the Massachusetts Assembly to their Agent, that if they were taxed without representation they were slaves. It was in truth, making the Americans “tenants at will of liberty,” a tenure from which they were liable to be ejected at any moment, and which reduced them from the condition of free subjects, to the ignominious vassalage of bondmen. Nor would the condition of things have been altered had the King and Ministry been of a lenient temper. It was the principle which the Colonists contended for, and they justly reasoned with Cicero, that though the sovereign did not oppress and tyrannize, the condition of his subjects was still miserable ; that he had the power, if he but exercised his will.
This repudiation of the mutiny act, was followed by a refusal to comply with a clause suggested by the Governor and Council, to be appended to two bills granting ferries, providing for the free carriage of postmen, according to the
statute of 9th Anne, chapter 10, section 29, “because they would not seem to adopt or submit to an act of Parliament.”
On the displacing of Mr. Knox as Agent of the Colony by the Assembly, the Governor desired them to appoint Mr. Cumberland, but they refused, and gave the place to Mr. Samuel Garth, Agent for the Province of South Carolina. But the Governor and Council declined to recognise him as such, and used their private and corporate influence, to prevent his being accredited as Agent by any of the Boards in London. In this, the Governor and Council were right, and the lower House wrong; for, certainly, it was impolitic to appoint the same Agent for contiguous provinces, between which causes of altercation were frequently occurring, and in the present instance were actually pending, who could not be impartial to either, without meeting opposition from both. But such was the zeal of the commons for the sustainance of their prerogative, that no consideration weighed, when a compromise of that was required. Having thus thwarted the Governor, and in a variety of ways evinced their contempt of the authority of Parliament, they presented a petition to the Governor, desiring “ that he would dissolve them,” the object of which appears to be, that by the new election which would ensue, a still larger majority of liberal delegates would be returned : the political strength of the existing House, being seven Royalists, and eighteen Liberty Boys.
These proceedings were immediately represented to the King, and the Earl of Shelburne, His Majesty's principal secretary for the southern colonies, wrote to Governor Wright, that “it is scarce possible to conceive to what motives to attribute a conduct so infatuated, in a province lately erected, and which has been so singularly favored and protected by the mother country.” “ And I have it," says the Earl, “in command from His Majesty, to inform you that he expects and requires, that the Commons House of Assembly of Georgia, will render an exact and complete obedience in all respects whatever, to the terms of the mutiny act.” To punish the Assembly for their refusal to comply with its requisitions, General Gage withdrew all the troops from the Province, thus leaving the forts unmanned and the settlements without defence. This was a chastisement as arbitrary as it was severe; but it was a two
edged sword; for, while the people complained of it as exposing them to the mercy of their slave population, and the attacks of Indians, whose hostile intentions had already been strongly evinced, the Governor, also, lamented the measure, as cutting him off from the only means whereby to enforce his Majesty's authority ; and the matter, at the next session, was mutually and happily adjusted.
While however Georgia experienced, in common with the other colonies, the usurpations of Parliament, she had grievances peculiar to herself which greatly increased her opposition to the mother country. To facilitate the operations of trade, provincial paper, to the amount of seven thousand four hundred and ten pounds, had been issued by act of the assembly, in 1761, which bills were current at par both in Georgia and Florida. The merchants and traders, finding this sum insufficient, for mercantile purposes, now petitioned both houses of assembly for relief
from the want of a sufficient currency, in a province where, by the peculiar situation of its commerce, and produce, they are precluded from the advantage of receiving any quantity of bullion, or retaining what little they may receive."
It was proposed, therefore, to recall the old emission, and issue new paper to the amount of twenty thousand pounds. In support of this measure, the growth of the colony, and the increased demand for an augmentation of its circulating medium were urged, with much zeal and cogency. Within the previous seven years the Province had doubled its inhabitants. From forty-four vessels loaded in 1760, there were 173 cleared in 1766. Property had risen, and everything bore a proportionable value. But the Governor, though he thought the present bills of credit too limited, conceived that the sum of twenty thousand pounds was too large, and supposed that twelve thousand would meet the emergency. In this the Governor was doubtless correct, for, as he justly observed, every hundred pounds more paper currency than is really necessary for the daily or common occurrences will prove injurious,” by depreciating its value, increasing the rate of exchange, preventing the circulation of sterling money, and producing a fictitious wealth which the intrinsic condition of the colony could not by any means support. His counsel, however, was unheeded; the question was made tributary to the absorbing theme of parliamentary wrongs, and joined by the upper house, they presented a petition to the king for the relief they desired, who, however, refused their prayer.
On the 25th of March, 1765, the assembly passed an act “ for the better ordering and governing of negroes,” &c. and on the 6th of March, 1766, “ an act for encouraging settlers to come into the province.” Both of these laws were founded in strong necessity. The very existence of the colony depended on the former, and its prosperity and increase on the latter. Judge, then, of the dismay both of the governor and assembly, when the Royal disallowance to them arrived. They were astounded at the interference of the prerogative to such wholesome and equitable measures, and the Governor, who declared that “without the negro law no man's life or property would be safe a moment,” was compelled to disobey his instructions, and frame a new bill, with a different title, but of the same provisions. Operating upon minds already excited, these refusals irritated the people to an intense degree, who felt with peculiar poignancy such kingly vetoes. No wonder, then, that the Governor said of the assembly, that “ though he had hitherto kept them within tolerably decent bounds, yet that he had lately discovered more than ever, a strong propensity to be as considerable an independent, as they term it, of the British Parliament or of the sovereignty of Great Britain, as any of the northern colonies.”
On the 11th of April, 1768, Benjamin Franklin was appointed Agent, to solicit the affairs of this Province in England, and a committee of both houses selected to correspond with him. This appointment was as honorable to those who conferred, as to him who received it. The fame of Franklin had extended over Europe. His dignified manners, his profound knowledge, his grand discoveries in physical science, and his uncompromising support of colonial rights, conspired to render him the noblest representative which Georgia could select for that critical period; and he was pronounced by Lord Chatham, in the House of Lords, “an honor not only to Europe but to the age in which he lived.” When he appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, every gallery and avenue was crowded with anxious listeners; at the Privy Council, his earnest eloquence gained him respect and
admiration, and he, “who with the thunder talked as friend to friend” and made the lightnings the garland of his fame, could listen unmoved, to the philippics of his enemies, and fearlessly assert the claims of America amidst the lowering frowns of nobles and princes. Despising every preferment which royalty could offer, he devoted himself to the melioration of his country's wrongs, saying to the distressed colonist
, even in the midst of a popularity, such as no American bad ever before possessed, thy people shall be my people, and thy cause my cause. Such was Georgia's Agent, who for five years represented her at the offices in England, and who ever stood forth her undaunted champion, in every hour of danger and of trial. The onerous enactments of Parliament called forth, from nearly every province, petitions, remonstrances and addresses. On the 11th of February, 1768, the Massachusetts House of Representatives addressed a letter to the various colonial assemblies, setting forth the condition of American grievances and soliciting a union of petitions to the King and the two Houses of Parliament. The Georgia Assembly had adjourned when the circular arrived, but Mr. Alexander Wylly, the speaker, replied to it “as a private person," and stated, that “the Assembly had instructed Doctor Franklin to join with the other agents in soliciting a repeal of these acts and in remonstrating against any of like nature for the future.” When the Assembly met, this letter, and the Virginia Resolves, were taken into consideration, and, though Governor Wright used every means to prevent their countenancing “the Boston Letter," as he termed it, though he expostulated with the leading members, and harangued the whole body in the council chamber, and though, as he said, “he clearly convinced them of the absurdity of it,” yet the House, almost unanimously, passed similar resolves, and so effectually did they steal a march upon the wary Governor, that he himself says “every thing. was prepared and done before I could prevent it.” În consequence of this, the Governor immediately dissolved the Assembly, not however before warning them that if America was to become independent of the mother country, from that day you may date the foundation of your ruin and misery.” Had he possessed the true spirit of vaticination, instead of predicting misery and ruin as the consequences of that independence, he would have foreseen peace and pros