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Along the frontier of these states, and often within it, ranged far and wide divers tribes of the Red Men, the native Indians. The character of these tribes has been most variously portrayed; sometimes invested with imaginary virtues from a vague admiration of savage life, sometimes, to justify oppression, loaded with as imaginary crimes. It will be found that in general they are painted all bright in poetry, and all black in state-papers. In truth they might often be admired for generous and lofty feelings, but were ever liable to be swayed to and fro by any sudden impulse, by their passions or their wants. They would endure bodily torment with the most heroic courage, and inflict it with the most unrelenting cruelty. Whenever they had neither warfare nor the chase in view they seemed indolent, dissolute, and listless, yet always with an inborn dignity of demeanour and a peculiar picturesqueness of language. In hostilities, on the contrary, they were found most formidable from their skilful and stealthy marches, their unforeseen attacks, and their ferocity in slaying and scalping their opponents. It is to be feared that nearly all the Europeans who came in contact with them, whether French or English, Republicans or Royalists, have been, when at peace among themselves, too ready to neglect or oppress these Indians, and when at war with each other too ready to employ them.
At the foundation, however, of the several Colonies, the rights of the native Indians to the soil had been in general to some extent acknowledged. Contracts had been concluded with them; and many of the proprietors in New England and the other states held their land by this tenure. But it was scarcely an exaggeration of one of the early Governors (Andros) to declare that any deed executed by an Indian was no better than “the scratch of a bear's paw.” Such contracts, indeed, have little moral weight when framed between the civilized man and the untutored savage, who knows not the value either of what he gives away or of what he accepts in return.
Attempts to bring over the North American Indians to the
1765. . THE NATIVE INDIAN TRIBES. 83
truths of Christianity were not unfrequently made, and sometimes with much earnestness and zeal, but seldom with any lasting effect. They displayed on some occasions a strange degree of perverted ingenuity in their doubts or objections. Thus, when the leading events of the Gospel were explained to them, several asked how Judas could deserve blame for promoting the accomplishment of the purpose of God? — On another occasion one of the chiefs sent for an Indian convert, and desired to know how many Gods the English had? When he heard they had but one, he replied scornfully “Is that all? I have thirty-seven. Do they sup“pose I would exchange so many for one?”*
It is the just though painful remark of an ecclesiastical historian, how seldom in the first instance the intercourse with a civilized people has been a blessing to barbarians.” While the Indians were thus heedless or untaught on the most important of all subjects, there was unhappily one practice of the educated Christian stranger — the use of ardent spirits — into which they rushed with the most frantic eagerness. It seemed a temptation which they were wholly unable to resist. So long as rum was supplied to them they would drink on, regardless of every other consideration, until in a state either of stupefaction or of fury. Franklin, in a striking passage of his Memoirs, has described a scene of the kind which he witnessed in 1750, and pointed out the baleful effects of this taste, or rather passion, amongst them, - how, worse than any other scourge, as pestilence, famine, or the sword, it had unpeopled whole districts and extinguished whole nations. “Rum,” he adds, “has al“ready annihilated all the tribes which formerly inhabited “the sea-coast.”
At various periods there had arisen between the North American Colonies and the mother country differences touching the restrictions of trade which the latter had imposed. These differences were, no doubt, of considerable extent and bitterness; but, in my opinion, had no other and stronger cause of quarrel broken forth, they might have been to this day quietly debated before the Board of Trade at Whitehall. * Nor can it be denied that the view of these differences taken after the event by the later American writers is in many respects overcharged and one-sided. While they allege the commercial restrictions on America, they overlook her commercial privileges. Yet surely the one may in fairness be admitted as some counterpoise to the other. If the English were to be debarred from smoking any but Virginiangrown tobacco, there seems the less hardship in debarring the Virginians from wearing any but English-made cloth. The cause of the first real estrangement and of the final separation was not in the main commercial hindrance, or the result of the British Navigation laws, but rather the attempt to tax America without her own consent. That ill-omened idea had been once suggested to Sir Robert Walpole, when the Excise Scheme had failed in England, and as some compensation for that failure. It had been laid before the Prime Minister by Sir William Keith, who had been lately Governor of Pennsylvania. But Sir Robert being asked soon after by Lord Chesterfield what he thought of Keith's project, replied with his usual good humour and good sense, “I have Old England set against me, and do you think I will “have New England likewise?”** Unhappily the decision on this subject was now to rest with a statesman of far less either good sense or good humour than Sir Robert Walpole. It used to be said some sixty years since by one of the Under Secretaries of State, that “Mr. Grenville lost America “because he read the American despatches, which none of “his predecessors ever did.” “* As in many other pithy 1765. GRENVILLE's FINANCIAL RESOLUTIONs. 85
* See Grahame's History of the United States, vol. i. p. 373, and 441.
* Gieseler, Kirchen-Geschichte, vol. i. part ii. p. 449. ed. 1845.
* The opposite opinion, however, was asserted by Mr. Huskisson in 1826, and also by Mr. Labouchere in his able speech on the Navigation Laws twenty-two years afterwards (May 15, 1848). * Coxe's Life of Walpole, vol. i. p. 753. *** See a note by Sir Denis Le Marchant to Lord Orford's Memoirs (vol. ii. p. 69.).
sayings this jest contains a leaven of truth. So long as the American Colonies were let alone they flourished. But mo sooner were they pried into with the view of exacting money from them, than they became a darkening scene of anger and complaints, of tumults and alarms. The leading idea of Grenville, and his favourite taunt against Pitt, was the large expense, or, as he termed it, the profusion, with which the last war had been carried on. He anxiously looked round for some new sources of supply to his Exchequer, and then in an evil hour the thought arose in his mind that as the late war had been undertaken in some measure for the defence of North America, it was just that North America should bear a portion of the burthens which that war had imposed. It never occurred to him to doubt that the right of the House of Commons to tax these Colonies without their own consent by the voice of their own representatives could be called in question. It never occurred to him to consider the spirit of the Statute-Book as well as its letter. It never occurred to him to weigh the danger of widespread and increasing alienation against the profit of a petty impost. In justice to Grenville, it must, however, be acknowledged, that he did not proceed with headlong haste. In the Session of 1764 he, without finding any resistance, imposed duties on several articles of American trade. At the same time with these he proposed a Resolution, drawn in vague and general terms, that “it may be proper to charge certain “Stamp Duties,” in America”, - such as were already payable in England. But he did not take any further step towards them at that time. He desired the measure to be postponed for a year, that the sentiments of the Americans might be clearly ascertained. He called together the agents of the several North American Colonies in London, explained to them his project in detail, and bid them write to their respective Assemblies, that if any other duty equally productive would be more agreeable to them he would readily comply with their wish in that respect. The news of this intended impost reached America at a most unfavourable juncture. The colonists had only just gained breathing-time from a fierce war with the bordering Indians. Hostilities had been commenced by these savage tribes, especially along the frontiers of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, at about the very period when the peace with France was signed. Not only had they plundered and murdered many itinerant dealers and fired many single houses, but they had succeeded in reducing several outposts, and without mercy put the garrisons to death. They had repulsed a party of our troops at Detroit, and had invested Fort Pitt; but a larger detachment from our army afterwards coming up under Colonel Bouquet, they were themselves defeated at Bushy-Run. Next year they were brought to terms of peace, and withdrew to their own wastes, but still they had left behind them no light expenses to defray, no small havoc to repair. Thus, as was remarked at the time, the Americans first heard of the British Resolutions for imposing Stamp Duties upon them while the yell of Indian carnage was yet in their ears, and the smoke of their ruined habitations yet before their eyes. Another cause of irritation which unhappily combined with the former was the severity with which illicit traffic had been of late restrained. It had been found requisite soon after the conclusion of the Peace to put a check on the prevalence of smuggling both in the old Continent and in the new. With this object there were stationed at various points of the coast several armed cutters and other King's ships of war, whose officers were sworn and directed to act as revenue officers. Even on the shores of England such a system was not free from objection, but on America it pressed far more heavily. There, as in all newly-settled countries, the distinction between the fair merchant and the smuggler was not so strongly marked in their characters nor so clearly felt by the public. There the great practical grievance was the
* Commons Journals, March 10, 1764,