Page images
PDF
EPUB

Massachusetts democracy and founded the Providence Plantation in 1636, now known as Rhode Island. The Connecticut colony was established about the same time at Hartford and New Haven.

Capt. John Mason obtained a grant of land between the colony of Massachusetts and the Province of Maine, which latter was conferred on Sir Ferdinand Gorges. Mason's land was known as New Hampshire and was a royal colony. Maine was under the proprietorship of Gorges, until 1690, when it was ceded to Massachusetts. Massachusetts then may be seen to have been not only the leading colony of the north, but the parent of three others. Indeed, her population flowed over into them all. Plymouth and the Province of Maine were incorporated with Massachusetts in 1690. Before this the governors had been elected by the people, after 1690 they were appointed by the Crown, together with the Lieutenant-Governor and Secretary of the Province and the councillors. The governor, under the last charter, appointed also, the Judges, Sheriffs, Marshals, Provosts and military officers. The people of the colony elected their deputies to the General Court as formerly, and any man was qualified to vote and serve in any office, if elected or appointed, if he possessed land in the province to the value of 40 shillings per annum or to the worth of £50 sterling. It was impossible after 1690 for the Puritan malignants of the colony to burn witches, persecute Quakers, drive off Episcopalians and disfranchise those who differed from them in opinions political and religious, as they had done before because the chief magistrate was now appointed by the Crown.

PART IV.-CHAPTER I. Union Era—Parliament Usurps Crown Functions in the

Provinces.

Since the Revolution of 1688, in England, during which parliament usurped all the functions of the crown, set aside the rightful dynasty and invited to the throne William of Orange, its pretentions knew no bounds; the constitution was not regarded since had it been, the acts of parliament would have been null. The leader of this movement against the trust imposed in them by the late King James II. were a set of the most dispicable scoundrels that had ever attempted a government by revolutionary means and for the sole purpose of the booty of office. Chief of these was Marlborough the deserter, so well described by Macaulay (Hist. of England.) The set of people who flocked about them as followers were of the same quality, but of a minor degree of rascality-like those in most so-called “Liberal” parties.

Green's Hist. of the English People," Vol. IV., p. 1523, relates: “Parliament became corrupt, jealous of power, fickle in its resolves and factious in spirit. . . It grumbled at the ill-success of the war, at the suffering of the merchants, at the discontent of the churchmen, and it blamed the crown and its ministers for all at which it grumbled... Its mood changed, as William bitterly complained with every hour.” It seems that before this date, in 1672, the late king, James II., had formed a cabinet of five members, chosen by himself, as advisers on different functions of the administration. Parliament had no right to expect a share in these functions of the crown at that time. But after the Revolution of 1688– after it had put on the throne a king of its own, it felt that it ought to be the guardian of that king, by shaping the administration through a cabinet indicated by itself. William of Orange had continued the practice of forming his cabinet without consulting parliament, and what parliament was aiming to do was to control the king's choice. But not one of its members knew how to accom

plish it, as it had never been done before. The credit of solving the difficulty, of further betraying his country and bringing disaster on it in the subsequent loss of the American empire, belongs to Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland. He had been a minister in the reign of Charles II. and part of that of James II., whom he had betrayed by the basest treachery to William of Orange. “Since the Revolution (1688) Sunderland had striven to escape public observation in country retirement, but he came forward now with his plan for William”—who felt that something must be done to appease the appetite of parliament, because parliament that had made him, contrary to the constitution, could unmake him in the said manner. “His plan was to place all the power of the crown in parliament by choosing the ministers from the strongest faction in parliament.” From that date the government became not the government of the empire, of the king, but of a faction; from that date (1697) the power of the crown became the jack-pot for the play of political parties; from that date, by the plan of a renegade, the loyalty of the ministry is pledged not to the crown and empire, but to the faction from whom they are chosen, while their oath of office to crown and constitution remains a constant perjury on their lips. Green's “Hist. of the English People” shows that this class in power in England carried corruption on by excesses throughout the entire administration. Now while the Anglo-Amrican provinces made no great trouble over the change of dynasty, they refused to recognize in the slightest degree this participation of parliament in the government of the colonies, even the best features of that government. And the worst features the provinces would not endure. In Ryerson’s “Loyalists of America,” Vol. I., p. 473, it reads: “The Southern colonies with those of New England shared the same fate of misrepresentation, abuse and invasion of their rights as British subjects. The flames of discontent were spread through all the colonies by a set of incompetent and reckless governors, the favorites and tools of perhaps the worst administration and the most corrupt that ever ruled in Great Britain.” It is true the American colonies, especially the four

New England colonies, had been protected by Great Bri. tain during all the past wars with the French in Canada, into which Great Britain had been drawn on their account.

For a period of seventy years the fleets and armies of England had been employed in the service of Massachusetts and her dependant off-shoots to save them from being “Driven into the sea.” The debt of Great Britain, in consequence of these exertions, amounted in 1764 to £140,000,000 or $700,000,000.

Even in the struggle for their own preservation and security, what the colonies had contributed had been subject to the caprice of their legislatures.

Some of the colonies had made exertions “so far beyond their quota” as to be able to demand a reimbursement from the national treasury, which was accorded them; the other colonies had paid only part of the debit long after it was due, and who could compel them, and how was that compulsion to be enforced in the future?

The solution of the problem by parliamentary interference led to disturbance and to the final separation of the American colonies from Great Britain. Even Mr. Pitt, so long the friend of America, told Dr. Franklin that “When the war closed, if he should be in the ministry, he would take measures to prevent the colonies from having a power to refuse or delay the supplies that might be wanted for national purposes.”

The first act of the British parliament to force the colonies to pay their part of the war debt was passed March 10th, 1764. It levied heavy duties on all articles brought into the colonies from the French and other West Indian islands, and ordered that these duties must be paid into the treasury of London in specie. Another bill was brought into parliament in the same session to "Restrain the currency of paper money in the colonies.”

Popular meetings were held in the colonies, when the news of this reached them, to express indignation thereat. Associations resolved to abstain from the use of all articles imported on which duties were assessed, and to use only home-made goods.

But yet, when the colonists were excited to opposi

the American disturbance and in by parliamenta

tion they had no grounds for complaint against the right of the British Parliament to impose these duties, because regulation of affairs between the colonies and for the empire as a whole in commercial and external relations came under the rule of office of the London Parliament. But parliament when it discovered that, through evasion and the non-use of articles of foreign make, very little money was raised, began to devise other means, and these means effected the internal arrangements of the colonies, which the colonists felt were infringements of the rights of their own legislatures and of their own charters of self-government. The chief bill of this description was introduced into parliament by Mr. Grenville, March 10th, 1765, to raise a revenue in the colonies by stamps which should be affixed to all newspapers, law papers, ship papers, property transfers, college diplomas and marriage licenses. A fine of £10 was imposed for non-compliance with the act. Jurisdiction was taken away from the local courts by this act and confined to the Courts of Admiralty without juries, the officers of which were appointed by the London Parliament, and who were paid fees out of fines imposed, the informer receiving one half. Thus, by this act, the colonies felt that, not only were the rights conferred on them bv charter interfered with and their local courts debarred from exercising power, but that the London Parliament, contrary to the constitution, was usurping the prerogative of the crown in America. The legislative assembly of Massachusetts was dissolved by the royal governor Barnard because of its remonstrance, and also on account of a circular letter addressed by it to the other colonial legislatures. The Virginia House of Burgesses was also dismissed by the royal governor, Lord Botetout. The British Parliament, however, in 1769, was brought to repeal 5s 6d of the duties on imported goods. But the next year, 1770, an affray occurred in the streets of Boston between some soldiers on duty and a mob of rioters who were creating a reign of terror. The British Parliament then made the governor and judges independent of all colonial power. These actions on the part of

« PreviousContinue »