« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. II. act itself: in addition to which, political parties 1766. had been formed, and had assumed a bitterness
in some of the colonies entirely unknown in others, and the first measures of Massachussetts and New York demonstrated, that the recon. ciliation with the mother country was not yet cordial.
The letter of secretary Conway, already mentioned, enclosed also a resolution of parliament, declaring that those persons who had suffered any injury or damage in consequence of their assisting to execute the late act, ought to be compensated by the colonies in which such injuries were sustained.
The injuries complained of, had been principally sustained in Massachussetts, and the resolution of parliament 'was laid before the general court of that province by governor Bernard, in a speech, rather in the spirit of the late, than of the present administration....rather calculated to irritate, than assuage the angry passions which had lately been excited, The house of representatives resented his manner of addressing them, and appeared more dis posed to inquire into the riots, and to com. pel those concerned in them to make indemnities, than to compensate the sufferers out of the public purse. But after a second session, and some intimation that parliament would enforce its requisition, the desire of avoiding further controversies with the government,
especially on a point which would unite the CHAP. II. prejudices of all thinking men against them, 1766. and the real detestation in which those disgraceful tumults were held, got the better of their resentment against the governor, and an act of pardon to the offenders, and of indemnity to the sufferers, was passed; but it was rejected by the king, because the colonial assembly had December. no power under their charter to pass an act of general pardon but at the instance of the crown.
In New York, where general Gage was expected with a considerable body of troops, a message was transmitted by the governor to the legislature, desiring their compliance with an act of parliament called the mutiny act, which required that the colony, in which any of his majesty's forces might be stationed, should provide for them barracks, and certain necessaries in their quarters. The legislature postponed the consideration of this message until the troops had actually arrived, and then, after a second message from the governor, reluctantly and partially complied with the requisitions of the act.
At a subsequent session, the governor brought opposition the subject again before them, when they deter- mutiny mined that the act of parliament could only be construed to require that they should provide necessaries for troops on a march, and not while permanently stationed in their country, because, on a contrary construction, the colony
CHAP. II. might be grievously burdened by marching 1766. into it several regiments.
The reason assigned for not complying with this act of parliament, seems to evidence the opinion that it was rightfully obligatory : and yet the requisitions of the mutiny act were unquestionably a tax, and between the power of parliament to levy a tax by its own authority, and to levy a tax through the medium of the colonial legislatures, they having no right to refuse obedience to the act, no essential distinction can easily be drawn. It is strange that such inaccurate ideas should then have pre. vailed, in any part of the continent, concerning the control which might rightfully be exercised by the British parliament over the colo. nies.
It was considered in England, as evidencing a strong disposition on the part of ministers to avoid all harsh measures, that this instance of disobedience was punished with no positive penalties; but, resisting all the violent propositions of those who contended that America was in a state of absolute disorder and open rebellion, they contented themselves with a law prohibiting the governor, council, and assembly of the province, from passing any act until the requisition of parliament had been in every respect complied with.
The persevering temper of Massachussetts had not yet found its way to New York, and
this measure produced the desired effect. T'he CHAP. II. mutiny act was literally complied with.
1766. Two companies of artillery, driven into the October. harbour of Boston by stress of weather, ap. plied to the governor for the necessary and usual supplies. He laid the application before his council who advised that, “ in pursuance of the act of parliament,” the supplies required should be furnished. They were furnished, and the money, amounting to about sixty pounds sterling, drawn from the treasury by the authority of the executive. The general court met soon after, and the 1767.
Junuary. house of representatives, very early in the ses. sion, sent a message to the governor, request. ing to know whether any provision had been made for his majesty's troops lately arrived in their harbour, and by whom? and whether he had reason to expect the arrival of any more troops to be quartered on that province ?
The governor in reply transmitted them the journals of the council, with an account of the expense incurred, and also informed them that he had no reason to expect the arrival of any additional body of troops.
The house expressed, in very pointed terms, their disapprobation of the conduct of the governor. “He had no right,” they said, “on the advice of council, to issue money out of the treasury, but in conformity with such acts as may, at the time, be in force within the
CHAP. II. province; and in the case of his exceeding his 1767. authority under the pressure of urgent necessity,
it was his duty to seize the first occasion for laying the matter before that house. But particular umbrage was excited by the declaration, that these steps had been taken in pursuance of an act of parliament. After the repeal of the stamp act, they were surprised to find that this act, equally odious and unconstitutional, should remain in force. They lamented the entry of this reason for the advice of council the more, as it was an unwarrantable and unconstitutional step, which totally disabled them from testifying the same cheerfulness they had always shown in granting to his majesty of their free accord, such aids as his
service has, from time to time, required.” February. Copies of these messages were transmitted
by governor Bernard to the ministry, in a manner not calculated to render the communi. cation less unpleasant.
The idea of raising a revenue in America was highly favoured in England, especially by the landed interest; and not even the weight of administration could have obtained a repeal of the stamp act, on the naked principle of right. Few were hardy enough to question the supremacy of parliament, and their having receded from the practical assertion of their power to tax the colonists, deeply wounded the pride, and grated harshly on the feelings, not