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IV"Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES." -- Motion made in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts. THE REVOLUTION • THE CONSTITUTION1
THE COLONISTS RESIST TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, 1764-1775 •
THEY MAKE WAR AGAINST ENGLAND IN DEFENSE OF THEIR RIGHTS
AS ENGLISH SUBJECTS, 1775-JULY 4,1776 • THEY DECLARE THEM-
SELVES INDEPENDENT, JULY 4, 1776 • THE PEOPLE OF THE
UNITED STATES ADOPT THE CONSTITUTION, 1787-1788
154. American Commerce; the New King, George III; how he interfered with Trade. Up to the close of the war by which England had compelled the French to give up their hold on America (1763) the people of this country had prospered. During that war (§ 143), and for a long time before it, the laws which forbade the colonists to trade with any country except Great Britain (§§ 54, 146) had not been enforced. The New Englanders had made a great deal of money by trading with the French and the
1 Reference Books. (The Revolution.) A. B. Hart's "Formation of the Union," ch. 3-4; G. E. Howard's "Preliminaries of the Revolution," ch. 3-18; C. H. Van Tyne's "The American Revolution," ch. 1-17; A. B. Hart's "American History by Contemporaries," II, ch. 21-35; A. B. Hart's "Source Book," ch. 9; J. Fiske's "War of Independence," ch. 4-8; 11. C. Lodge's "The Story of the Revolution," 2 vols.; W. C. Bryant and Gay's "United States" (revised edition), III, ch. 13-24; IV, ch. 1-4.
(The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.) A. B. Hart's "Formation of the Union," ch- 5-7; A. B. Hart's "American History by Contemporaries," III, ch. 6-12; A. B. Hart's "Source Book," ch. 10; A. C. McLaughlin's "The Confederation and the Constitution," ch. 3-18; J. Fiske's "The Critical Period of American History," ch. 3-7; W. C. Bryant and Gay's "United States (revised edition), IV, ch- 5; J. B. McMaster's "United States," I, pp. 436-502; J. Schouler's United States," I, ch. i. See also the classified List of Books in the Appendix.
THE KING PROPOSES TO TAX THE COLONIES
Spanish West Indies -- sending them lumber and fish, and bringing back molasses and sugar from the French islanders, and kegs of silver dollars from the Spaniards.
The new king, George III (1760), resolved to enforce the English laws and so break up this profitable commerce. He was conscientious but narrow-minded, obstinate, and at times crazy.1 He stationed ships of war along the American coast to stop trade with the French and the Spaniards with whom England was at war. Moreover, in Boston and other large towns, the King's officers, armed with general warrants called "Writs of Assistance," began to break into men's houses and shops and search them for smuggled goods.2 They did not ask for proof of guilt; they entered and searched when and where they pleased. New England saw her trade broken up. It began to look as though the King meant to ruin every merchant and shipbuilder in the country. James Otis,3 of Boston, made a powerful speech against these "Writs of Assistance," but his appeal was in vain.
155. The King proposes to tax the Colonies; Object of the Tax; Protest of the Americans. This, however, was only the beginning of evil. The cost of the late war with France (§ 143) had been enormous, and English taxpayers protested against paying out more money. But the King determined to send at least ten thousand troops to America, to protect, as he said, the colonies against the Indians and the French.
In order to raise money to pay these soldiers, whom the Americans did not want, George III proposed an entirely new measure that was to levy a direct tax on the people of this country.
1 The King had his first attack of insanity -- a mild one -- in 1765, while the Stamp Act was under discussion. In 1788 he felt that his mind was seriously affected; bursting into tears, he exclaimed that "he wished to God he might die, for he was going mad." He soon became so.
2 In an ordinary search warrant the person applying to the magistrate for it must swear that he has good reason for suspecting the person be accuses, and must have the name of the accused person, and no other, inserted in the warrant. In the case of the "Writs of Assistance" the officers wrote any name they pleased in the warrants, and then entered and rummaged the man's house from attic to cellar. Sometimes this was done purely out of spite.
3 Otis held the office of advocate general under the King, but he resigned that office in order to attack the King's "Writs of Assistance,"
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
The colonists believed that according to the. principles of English law the King had no right to demand his people's money except by consent of the men whom they should elect to represent them in Parliament.1 The Americans had no such representatives, and, what is more, they were not permitted to send any. For this reason they protested against the tax. The best men in Parliament -- such men as William Pitt (§ 141) and Edmund Burke -- took the side of the colonists.2 Burke said that if the King undertook to tax the Americans against their will, he would find it as hard a job as the farmer did who tried to shear a wolf instead of a sheep.
156. The Stamp Act proposed. But the King thought that the Americans were like lambs and that they would stand any amount of shearing without once showing their teeth. Accordingly Parliament made ready to pass the Stamp Act.
The proposed act required that the colonists should use stamps --- resembling our postage stamps -- on all important law and business papers, and also on pamphlets and newspapers. The stamps cost all the way from a half-penny (one cent) up to ten pounds (fifty dollars). Such a law, if enforced, would tax everybody in spite of himself; for every one would have to pay that tax when he bought a newspaper or an almanac, took out a policy of insurance on his house, or made his will.
157. The Colonists resist the Stamp Act; the Stamp Act Congress, 1765. Benjamin Franklin (§ 151), who was in London as agent for the colonies when the Stamp Act was under discussion, fought against it with all his might, but he said he might as well have tried to stop the sun from setting. In Boston,
1 The British Parliament, which sits in London, is to England what Congress is to the United States. It is a law that no tax shall be levied on the British people except by members of Parliament elected by the people as their representatives.
2 Pitt thought it was not right to tax America; Burke thought it was not wise to do so.
THE STAMP ACT
Samuel Adams, the "Father of the Revolution,"1 denounced the proposed act at a town meeting held in Fanueil Hall -- the Cradle of Liberty," as it was called. But Parliament passed the law in 1765.
Then the indignation of the American colonists blazed out in an unmistakable manner. In the Virginia Assembly Patrick Henry2 made a speech which fired all hearts, and moved that body to take decisive action. The Assembly boldly resolved that it would not obey any act of Parliament which forced the people to give money to the English government without their consent (§ 155). In his speech against the "Writs of Assistance" James Otis (§ 154) had declared, "Taxation without representation (§ 155) is tyranny." Finally, delegates from nine of the colonies met in New York in the "Stamp Act Congress" (1765).
That Congress drew up a Declaration of Rights which said:
1. The American colonists possess the same rights as all other British subjects in England (§ 44).
2. But they are not represented in the English Parliament, therefore Parliament has no power to tax them. When the hated stamps came the people destroyed them, and even the boys shouted, "Liberty, property, and no stamps!" Many leading citizens now pledged themselves not to buy any more English goods until the hated Stamp Act was repealed.
1 Samuel Adams, one of the great leaders of the Revolution, was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It was said that he had the most "radical love" of liberty of any member of that House; he declared (1769), "Independent we are, and independent we will be."
2 Patrick Henry was a prominent member of the Virginia Legislature. He was an orator of marvelous power and he always spoke on the side of liberty.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
158. Repeal of the Stamp Act; the Declaratory Act; the "Boston Massacre"; Destruction of the Gaspee. When news of these vigorous proceedings reached London, William Pitt (§ 155) said in Parliament: "In my opinion, this kingdom has no right to lay a tax on the colonies. . . . I rejoice that America has resisted." The Stamp Act was speedily repealed (1766). Parliament, however, put a sting in its repeal, for it passed a Declaratory Act, maintaining that the British government had the right to bind the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." The Americans did not then see just what that declaration meant.
They saw it, however, when the King sent troops to be quartered here at the expense of the people. New York promptly refused to pay the bill. Later, General Gage, the British commander at New York, came to Boston with two regiments (1768). He quartered his troops in the very center of the town, and they had frequent quarrels with the citizens.
Finally (1770), a fight occurred in which the soldiers fired, in self-defense, and killed several of the people. This was called the "Boston Massacre";1 the citizens never forgot or forgave the blood stains then made on the snow of King Street. Later, that feeling showed itself in the destruction by the Rhode Islanders of the Gaspee, an armed British vessel stationed off the coast to prevent smuggling.
159. The New Taxes; the "Boston Tea Party." The repeal of the Stamp Act (§ 158) was followed by the passage of the Townshend Acts (1767). These acts imposed import duties on window glass, paper, paints, and tea, -- all articles which Parliament believed the colonists could not do without.
The two main objects of these new taxes were:
1. To pay the soldiers sent here by the King.
2. To pay the governors, judges, and other officers of the crown in the colonies and so make them entirely dependent on the King and ready to do his will.
1 The "Boston Massacre" (mas'sa-ker), in King Street, now State Street. The soldiers were tried for murder; John Adams and Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Boston, defended them. All but two were acquitted. They were convicted of manslaughter and branded in the hand.
THE "BOSTON TEA PARTY"
The Americans generally looked upon the Townshend Acts as a trap to get their money. Many merchants throughout the colonies refused to import any of the taxed articles. Others, like Samuel Adams (§ 157), bound themselves "to eat nothing, drink nothing, wear nothing" imported from England until all the duties on goods should be taken off.
Finally, Parliament decided to take off all the Townshend duties or taxes except one of a few cents a pound on tea. This duty was retained to show that England meant to tax the colonies without their consent. The price of the tea was put so low that the Americans could buy it, even with the tax on it, cheaper than they could smuggle it from Holland.
But the colonists declared that they would not take the tea, even as a gift, if any tax whatever was demanded. None the less cargoes of tea were dispatched (1773) from London to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Annapolis, and Charleston.
In only one instance -- that of Charleston -- were the vessels allowed to land the tea, and then it was left to spoil. At Philadelphia a committee told the captains of the tea ships that they would tar and feather them if they did not turn back. At New York the "Sons of Liberty" took action just as decided. At Annapolis the Maryland people actually compelled the owner of the tea ship Peggy Stewart to burn his vessel, tea and all.
Meanwhile, the case which caused the greatest excitement occurred at Boston. Three tea ships came into the harbor, but the people refused to let them unload their cargoes. The Governor would not let them go back until they were unloaded, and the people, under the lead of Samuel Adams (§ 157), made up their minds to do the unloading in their own way. An immense meeting was held in the Old South Meeting House in regard to the matter, but nothing could be done. That night a band of citizens disguised as Indians rushed down to the wharf and emptied every chest of tea -- nearly $100,000 worth -- into the harbor. A Bostonian had jokingly asked, "Will tea mix with salt water?" The patriots settled that question and the tax at the same time.