1902 Encyclopedia > United States > The Struggle for Union: 1763-75

United States
(Part 3)




SECTION I: HISTORY AND CONSTITUTION (cont.)

Part 3. The Struggle for Union: 1763-75


36. It is generally believed that the abandonment of North America by France was the result of profound policy,- that she foresaw that her retirement would be followed by the independence of the English colonies, and that Great Britain’s temporary aggrandizement would result in a more profound abasement. Vergennes and Choiseul both stated the case in just this way in 1763; and yet it may be doubted whether this was not rather an excuse for yielding to necessity than a political motive. At all events, it is certain that the peace, even with its release of the colonies from French pressure, was not enough to secure colonial union. For this it was necessary that the home Government should go on and release the colonists from their controlling feeling that they were rather Englishment than Americans.

37. This feeling was not an easy one to eradicate, for it was based in blood, training, and sympathies of every nature. It would not have been easy to distinguish the American from the Englishman; it would, indeed, have been less easy than now, when the full effects of a great stream of immigration have begun to appear. American portraits of the time show typical English faces. Wherever life was relieved of the privations involved in colonial struggle, the person at once reverted to the type which was then the result of corresponding conditions in England. The traditions of America officers were English; their methods were English; even the attitude which they took towards the private soldiers of their armies was that which was characteristic of the English officer of the time. In the South the men who ed and formed public opinion had almost all been trained in England and were ingrained with English sympathies and even prejudices. In the North the acute general intellect had long ago settled upon the "common rights of Englishmen" as the bulwark behind which they could best resist any attempt on their liberties. The pride of the colonists in their position as Englishmen found a medium of expression in enthusiasm for "the young king," and it would be hard to imagine a more loyal appendage of the crown than its English colonies in North America in 1760.

38. Unfortunately, the peace of Paris did not result merely in freeing the colonies from dependence on the mother country; it had the more important effect of freeing the mother country from fear of France, and of thus encouraging it to open a controversy with the colonies which had not been ventured on before. Quebec had hardly fallen and given the home Government promise of success when the work was begun (1761). The Board of Trade began to revive those regulations of colonial trade which had been practically obsolete in New England; and its customs officers applied to the Massachusetts courts for "writs of assistance" to enable them to enforce the regulations. Instant resistance was offered to the attempt to burden the colonies with these writs, which governed all men, were returnable nowhere, gave the officers absolute power, and opened every man’s house and property to their entrance. The argument of the crown advocates based the power of issuing such writs on parliament’s extension of the English revenue system to the colonies, backed by a statute of Charles II permitting writs of assistance; to refuse to grant the writs was therefore to impeach the power of parliament to legislate for the colonies. The counter-argument of James Otis was the key-note of the revolution. It declared in terms that no Act of Parliament could establish such a writ, that it would be a nullity even if it were expressed in the very terms which the customs officers claimed, and that "an Act of Parliament against the constitution was void."

40. Perhaps Otis meant by "the constitution" merely the fundamental relations between the mother country and the colonies, for this claim was the first step on the way to the final irreconcilable difference as to these relations. The English theory of the connection had been completely put into shape by 1760, with very little objection from the colonists, whose attention had not yet been strongly drawn to the subject. It held that even the two charter colonies, and a fortiori still more such a royal province as New York, were merely corporations, erected by the king, but subject to all the English laws relating to such corporations. The king was their visitor, to inquire into and correct their misbehaviors; his courts, on quo warranto, could dissolve them; and parliament had the same omnipotent power over them which it had over any other civil corporation, - to check, amend, punish, or dissolve them. These propositions must have seemed unquestionable to the English legal mind in 1763. Their weak point, the assumption that parliament had power to control a corporation extra quatuor maria, had been covered by a new development of the English theory during the century. Parliamentary, originally a merely English body, had grown in its powers and claims until now the common use of the phrase "imperial parliament" connoted claims to which the "four seas" were no longer a limitation, in law or fact. Parliament was to give the law to the whole empire. Hitherto this had been developed as a purely legal theory; it was now first attempted to be put into practice when the enforcement of the Navigation Acts was begun in 1761. The first objections offered by the colonists were easily shown to be illogical and inconsistent with this legal theory of the relations between the home country and the colonies, but this only drove the colonists higher, step by step, in their objections, - from objections to taxation by parliament into objections to legislation by parliament,- until they had developed, about 1775, a theory of their own, logical enough in itself, but so inconsistent with the English theory that war was the consequence of their collision.

40. Passing over the intermediate steps, the form which the colonial theory finally took amounted to this. The introduction of the idea of an "imperial parliament" was itself a revolution, which could not bind the colonists, or change the conditions under which they had settled the new country. Their relations, originally and properly, had been with the crown alone, an they had had nothing to do with parliament. The crown had seen fit to constitute new dominions for itself beyond the seas, with forms of government which were irreparable compacts between it and the people whom it had thus induced to settle the new territory, and not mere civil corporations. It would follow, then, that the king was no longer king merely of Great Britain and Ireland; he had at least thirteen kingdoms beyond seas, and a parliament in each of them. For the British parliament to interfere with the special concerns of Massachusetts was as flagrant a wrong as it would have been for the parliament of Massachusetts to intefere with the affairs of Great Britain; and Massacuetss had a right to expect her king to protect her from such a wrong. The subject of Massachusetts knew the king only as king of Massachusetts, and the parliament of Great Britain not at all. It needed many years of successful but suicidal logic on the part of their opponents to force the Americans to this point; they even continued to petition parliament until 1774; but after that time they were no further inconsistent, and held that the king was the only bond of union between the parts of the empire. When he wanted money from his American dominions, he was to get it, as he had always got it, by applying to the assembly of the colony, through the governor, for a grant. In the new seats of the race, as in the old, an Englishman was to be taxed only by his own representative. In other words, each of the English colonies claimed, in its own field and for its own citizens, the exact principles of "English liberty" which had been established in England as the relations of he English subject to the crown. Each colony was to governed by its own laws, just as in Jersey and Guernsey, in Scotland before the Union, or in Hanover in 1763, with appeal to the king in council, not to English courts or to the House of Lords. For the British parliament, or still more the British citizen, to talk of "our sovereignty" over the colonies was a derogation from the king’s sovereignty, the only sovereignty which the colonies knew. "I am quite sick of ‘our sovereignty,’" wrote Franklin in 1769. The case of the colonies was evidently that of Ireland also; and Franklin notes the fact that several members of colonial assemblies had been admitted to the privileges of the Irish parliament, on the ground that they were members of "American parliaments." To this statement of their case the Americans adhered with progressive closeness from 1763 until the end. In their final Declaration of Independence it will be found that it is a declaration of their independence of the king only; they do not then admit that the British parliament had ever had any authority over them; and that body is only mentioned in one place, in one of the counts of the indictment of the king, for having given his assent to certain "acts of pretended legislation," passed by "a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws," that is to say, by the British parliament.

41. Two irreconcilable theories were thus presented. Between them were two courses, either of which the colonies were willing to accept. Under their theory there was no "imperial parliament." They were willing to have one constituted, even if I were only a development of the British parliament through admission of colonial representatives; but the time for this passed before the parties could debate it. On the other hand, the colonies were willing to abandon to the wealthier British parliament, which sustained so much larger a proportion of the cost of the standing army and navy, the privilege of regulating external trade for the general good. so late as 1174 the Continental Congress, while maintaining the sole right of the colonial assemblies to levy internal taxation and make local laws, declared their willingness to yield to the British parliament the power to make such regulations of external trade as were bona fide meant to benefit trade, and not to raise a revenue from Americans without their own consent. This solution could have been only temporary at best, and war cut off any discussion of it.

42. The work of quiet revolution was begun in March 1763, in the closing hours of the Bute ministry, Charles Townshend being first lord of trade and administrator of the colonies. It was decided to make a point of having all the American judges and other officials hold office during the king’s pleasure, and to make their salaries independent of the colonial assemblies. The army estimates were increased by a American standing force of twenty regiments, to be paid for by Great Britain for the first year, and thereafter out of a revenue to be raised in America by Act of Parliament. Bute’s purposes were political, - that diminution of democracy in America. The Wilkes uproar drove him out of power before he could develop his plans; but his successor, Grenville, followed them out for financial reasons, and in February 1765 the Stamp Act "was passed through both Houses with less opposition than a turnpike bill."

43. For the past two years the colonists had had other things to think of. Under Grenville the Acts in restraint of colonial trade (§§ 20, 21), which had been allowed to become practically obsolete, were but into force with unsparing rigor. The numbers of the customs officers were increased; their duties were more plainly declared; naval officers were encouraged to take the oaths of customs officers and share in the plunder of the commerce which had grown up between America and the West Indian islands and other parts of the world. Search was constant; confiscation usually followed search; and appeal was even more costly than confiscation. In the confusion arising from the efforts of American commerce to escape its new enemies, it was not wonderful that other questions were allowed to go by default. But the mutterings of resistance were heard. The Massachusetts assembly protested against any schemes to create a standing army in America, to make officers independent of the assemblies, or to raise a revenue without consent of the assemblies, and appointed a committee to secure the united action of all the colonies. This was the first movement in the struggle for union. Its importance was hidden from the ministry by the official class in the colonies, whose members – the governors, judges, and other crown officials – continued to urge a persistence in the new policy, and to represent the Adamses, Otis, and the other colonial leaders as animated by a perverse desire to destroy the unity of the empire.

44. The revenue to be raised by the Stamp Act was to come from the sale of stamps and stamped paper for marriage licences, commercial transactions, suits at law, transfers of real estate, inheritances, publications, and some minor sources of revenue. With it was another startling provision, - a command to the colonial assemblies to furnish the royal troops in America with fuel, candles, vinegar, bedding, cooking utensils, and potables, and permission to billet the troops in inns, alehouses, barns, and vacant houses. The colonies were thus to be taxed with out their consent; the revenue derived therefrom was to be devoted to the support of standing army; and that army was in turn to be used for the maintenance of the scheme of taxation. Yet no one in England seems to have dreamed of American resistance to it; and Grenville was able to say in 1770 that he "did not foresee the opposition to the measure, and would have staked his life for obedience."

45. The news of the passage of the Stamp Act caused all America to hum with the signs of resistance, but forcible resistance was at first repudiated everywhere. It took the shape, really more significant, of declarations by the colonial assemblies, the lower or popular houses of the legislatures. The Virginia assembly, under the lead of Patrick Henry and the younger members, took the first step (May 1865), by a declaration of colonial rights covering the right of each colony to make its own laws and impose and expend its own taxation. The Massachusetts assembly followed with the formal proposal of an American Congress, to be composed of representatives of all the colonies. South Carolina seconded the call; and the first step on the road to union was taken.

46. Outside of these formal steps there were signs of a less formal popular resistance. Even peaceable resistance was pro tanto a suspension of royal and parliamentary authority in the colonies; and it was probably inevitable that the colonial assemblies should succeeded to he power during the interregnum before the organization of a real national power. But a temporary chaos was an inevitable; and the form it took was the formation, particularly in the North, of popular organizations known as "Sons of Liberty," the name being taken from a chance allusion in one of Barre’s speeches in the House of Commons. These, backed frequently by the town organizations, forced the stamp officers to resign, and destroyed the stamps wherever they could be found. The Connecticut stamp-officer, as he rode into Hartford on his white horse to deposit his resignation, with a thousand armed farmers riding after him, said that he felt "like death on the pale horse, with all heel following him." Newspapers and pamphlet rang every possible change on Coke’s dictum that "an Act of Parliament contrary to Magna Charta was void," and with warnings to stamp-officers that they would be considered enemies to the liberties of America if they attempted to carry out their duties. When they day broke on which the Act was to go into operation (November 1, 1765), America had neither stamps nor stamp-officers with which to fulfill its provisions.

47. The proposed Congress, commonly called the "Stamp Act Congress," met at New York (October 7, 1765),- New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia being acquiescent but not represented. It petitioned the king, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords to recognize fully "the several governments formed in the said colonies, with full powers of legislation, agreeably to the principles of the English constitutions." It also put forth a declaration of colonial rights, acknowledging allegiance to the crown, and claiming "all the inherent rights and privileges of natural-born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain," including the right of petition, of trial of jury, of taxation by representatives, and of granting supplies to the crown, and protesting against the Stamp Act and the various Acts in restraint of trade. The action of this congress was thus purely declaratory; there was no attempt to legislate; and the importance of the meeting was in its demonstration of the possibility of union and on one road to it.

48. In the meantime the Grenville ministry had fallen (July 1865), and the Rockingham ministry (march 1766) repealed the Stamp Act. The repeal was supported by Pitt, and Whigs who agreed with him, on the distinction that taxation by parliament without colonial representation was in violation of the essential principles of the British constitutions, but that the power of parliament to legislate in every other point for all parts of the empire must be maintained (S 21). Nevertheless, the repeal was preceded by a declaration of the power "of the king in parliament to bind the colonies people of America in all cases whatsoever."

49. The colonists received the repeal with an outburst of rejoicing loyalty. They cared little for Pitt’s distinction of powers, or even for the declaratory Act: it seemed to them merely the honors of war with which the ministry was to be allowed to retire. It really meant much more. The ruling interest in the home Government, disordered for the moment by its sudden discovery of the strength and union of the colonies, had drawn back, but not for ever. All through the year an undercurrent of irritation against the colonies is evident; and, when (June 1767) Townshend, the chancellor of the exchequer, had wrested the lead from the other members of the Grafton ministry, he passed through both House the bill for taxing imports into the colonies, to go into effect on 20th November following. It laid duties on glass, paper, painters’ colors, lead, and tea. As the proceeds were for the exchequer, they were to be distributed by the crown; and there was no secret that the design was to provide salaries for the crown servants in North America. About the same time other Acts established a board of customs at Boston, legalized the "writs of assistance," and suspended the New York assembly until it should obey the Billeting Act. Townshend died soon after, leaving his system as a legacy to his successor, Lord North.

50. The New York assembly granted the necessary money, said nothing as to its use, and escaped further molestation. Beyond this the Acts accomplished nothing. Their advocates had urged that the colonies admitted the power to parliament to control external commerce, and that the new taxes were an exercise of such control. If they desired a purely technical triumph they had it, for their logic was sound, and the taxes remained on the statute-book. But, as the colonies ceased to import the taxed articles, by popular agreement and enforcement, the taxes amounted to little. The irritations caused by the enforcement of the Navigation Acts only increased in bitterness; and the official class in the colonies, on whom must for ever rest the responsibility for nine-tenths of the difficulties which followed, lost no chance of representing every pamphlet, newspaper letter, or public meeting as incipient rebellion. A popular outburst in Boston (June 1768), following the seizure of John Hancock’s sloop "Liberty," was thus used to give that town an unenviable reputation for disorder and violence. Colonial officials everywhere openly or secretly urged the strongest measures; and all the while the colonists, with the cautions tenacity of their race, were acting so guardedly that the British attorney-general was compelled to say, "Look into the papers and see how well these Americans are versed in the crown law; I doubt whether they have been guilty of an overt act of treason, but I am sure they have come within a hair’s- breath of it."





51. The colonial officials, hoping for salaries independent of the assemblies, began to show a disposition to govern without those bodies. When the Massachusetts assembly refused by a large vote to withdraw its circular letter to the other assemblies urging united petition to the king alone, as an umpire between themselves and the British parliament, for redress of grievances, the assembly was prorogued, and did not reassemble for a year. As a gentle hint of a possible mode of re-establishing popular government, delegates from the towns met in convention at Boston (September 1768), renewed the protests against the Acts of the ministry, and provided for the maintenance of public order. In the following December and January parliament passed a vote of censure on his proceeding, and advised that those who had taken part in it should be sent to England for trial on the charge of treason. This was a new grievance for the assemblies. They passed remonstrances against any attempt to send Americans beyond seas for trial, as a violation of the citizen’s right to trial by a jury from the vicinage; and their governors at once prorogued them. civil government in the colonies, under its original constitution, was evidently in sore straits.

52. In September 1768 two British regiments which the colonial officials had succeeded in obtaining arrived at Boston. Instead of a rebellious population they found their most formidable opponents in minute law points, which were made to beset them at every turn. The Billeting Act required the ordinary barracks to be filled first: the council would assign no quarters in town until the barracks outside were filled. The assembly was not in session to authorize anything further, ad the governor did not dare to summon it. The troops, who had marched into the town as into a captured place, with sixteen rounds of ammunition per man, were presently without a place in which to cook their dinners, until their commander hired houses out of the army chest. It was natural that he should denounce "this country, where every man studies law." Exasperating and exasperated, the troops lived on in Boston until (March 1770) a street brawl between soldiers and citizens resulted in the death of five of the latter and the injury of six more. Still the town kept its temper. The captain who had given the order to fire was seized by the civil authorities, subjected to the ordinary trial for murder, defended by John Adams and Quincy, two Massachusetts leaders, at the hazard of their own popularity, and acquitted for lack of evidence. But, while according a fair trial to the soldiers, the colonial leaders at last represented so plainly to the crown officials the imminence of an outbreak that the troops were removed from the town to a fort in the harbor.

53. The most significant point in the history of the four year 1770-73 is the manner in which the ordinary colonial governments continued to go to pieces. When he assemblies met they would do nothing but denounce the Acts of the ministry; when they were prorogued the colony was left without any government for which there was popular respect. This was about the state of affairs which the crown officials had desired; but, now that it had come, they were not at all prompt in their use of it, Divorced from regular government, the people put out still stronger efforts to enforce the non-importation agreement s which had kept down the revenues from the tax laws of 1767. About 1773 a further development appeared. As soon as the assemblies met for their annual sessions, and before the governors could find excuse for proroguing them, they appointed "committees of correspondence," to maintain unity of action with the other colonies. Thus, even after prorogation, there was still in existence for the rest of the year a semi-official representation of the colony. This was nearly the last step on the way to colonial union.

54. The whites had already crossed the Alleghanies. In 1768 parties from North Carolina entered Tennessee; and in 1769 Boone (p. 788) and a party of Virginians entered Kentucky. The settlements of Tennessee was hastened by difficulties with Tryon, the governor of North Carolina. Tryon was one of the worst of the crown officials; and his government had been a scandal, even for those times. The people, denied justice and defrauded of legislative power, rose in hasty insurrection and were defeated. Tryon used his victory so savagely as to drive an increasing stream of settlers over the mountains into Tennessee. The centers of western settlement, however, were but few. There was one at Pittsburgh, another at Detroit, another near the Illinois-Indiana boundary, another in Kentucky, another near the present city of Nashville, Tennessee; but none of these, except, perhaps, Detroit, was more than a hunting or trading camp. Some efforts had been made to erect crown colonies, or to settle grants to companies, in the western territory, but they came to nothing. The settlements still clung to the coast.

55. In April 1770, encouraged by some symptoms of a failure of the non-importation agreements, the ministry had taken off all the taxes of 1767, retaining only that upon tea-threepence per pound. The general popular agreement was still strong enough to prevent the importation of this single luxury; and it was found in 1772 that the tax produced but about 80 pounds a year, at an expense of two or three hundred thousand for collection. Besides, the east India Company had been accumulating a stock of teas, in anticipation of an American markets, of which the tea-tax had deprived it. In May 1773 the ministry took a fresh step: the tax was to be retained but the Company was to be allowed a drawback of the entire duty, - so that the colonists, while really paying the tax and yielding the underlying principle, would get their tea cheaper than any other people. The first cargoes of tea under the new regulations were ordered home again by popular meetings in the American ports, and their captains generally obeyed. At Boston the governor refused to clear the vessels for Europe; and, after prolonged discussion, some fifty persons, disguised as Indians, went on board the vessels and threw the tea into the harbor in the presence of a great crowd of lookers-on (December 16, 1773).

56. It was not possible that the term American should suddenly supplant that of Englishman; but the successive steps by which the change was accomplished are easily perceptible. Using one of the old English political phrases, the supporters of colonial privileges had begun about 1768 to adopt the name of "American Whigs." Its increasing substitution for that of Englishmen was significant. Within a few years the terms "continental," or "the continent," began to take on a new meaning, referring to a union of the colonies at which men hardly ventured to hint clearly. It meant a good deal, then, when men said very truly that "the whole continent" applauded the "Boston tea-party." It was the first spoken word of the new national spirit. Nothing was less understood in England; the outbreak left America in general, and Boston in particular, hardly a friend there. The burning of the revenue schooner "Gaspee" in Narraganett Bay (June 1772) had seemed to the ministry almost an act of overt rebellion; this was rebellion itself.

57. In March and April 1774, on receipt of full intelligence of the proceedings at Boston, the ministry passed a series of Acts which made open struggle only a question of time. the Boston Port Act shut up the town of Boston against all commerce until the destroyed tea was paid for and the town returned to loyalty. The Massachusetts Act changed the charter of that colony; the crown was now to appoint governor, council, and sheriffs; the sheriffs were to select juries; and town meetings, unless by permission of the governor, were forbidden. Gage, the British commander-in chief in the colonies, was made governor under the Act, and four regiments were given him as a support. Any magistrates, officers, or soldiers indicted under colonial laws were to be sent for trial to Nova Scotia or Great Britain. The billeting of soldiers in the town of Boston was legalized. The Quebec Act extended the boundaries of the province of Canada over the whole territory lying north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi. Here the ministry rested.

58. The news of these Acts of Parliament crystallized every element of union in the colonies. The attack on the charter of Massachusetts Bay was undoubtedly the most effective. The charters of Connecticut and Rhode Island were the frees of the colonies; but that of Massachusetts was certainly next to them. If Massachusetts was not safe against such an attack, no colony was safe. The ministry had forced an issue on the very point on which the colonial and imperial theories were irreconcilable. The Boston Port Act furnished a grievance so concrete as to obviate the necessity of much argument on other points. The Quebec Act, with its attempt to cut off the northern colonies from the western expansion to which they all looked hopefully, was bad enough in itself, but it brought up with it the element of religious suspicion. For years the distinctively Puritan element had dreaded an attempt to establish the Church of England in the colonies; and the inclination of American Episcopalians to look to the home Government for relief against unjust local restrictions had not helped to decrease the feeling. The Puritan element could see little real difference between Episcopacy and Catholicism; and, when it was found that the Quebec Act practically established the Roman Catholic system in the new territory, the old dread revived to give the agitation a hidden but strong motive.

59. The necessity of another Congress was universally felt. On the suggestion of Virginia and the call of Massachusetts, it met at Philadelphia (September 5, 1774). All the colonies but Georgia were represented; and Georgia was so certainly in sympathy with the meeting that this is commonly known as the First Continental Congress, the first really national body in American history. Its action was still mainly deliberative. It adopted addresses to the king, and to the people of the colonies, of Quebec, and of Great Britain, and passed a declaration of colonial rights, summing up the various Acts of parliament which were held to be in violation of these rights. But its tone was changed, though its language was still studiously controlled and dignified. It was significant that, for the first time, the two Houses of parliament were ignored in the matter of petitioning: it was at last seen to be an awkward concession even to memorialize parliament. The tone of a sovereign about to take his seat is perceptible in the letter of Congress to the colonies which had not yet sent delegates. And at least two steps were taken which, if not an assumption of sovereign powers, were evidently on the road to it. The first was the preparation of Articles of Association, to be signed by the people everywhere, and to enforced by committees of safety chosen by the people of cities and towns. These articles bound the signers to stop the importation of all goods from, and the exportation of all goods to, Great Britain and Ireland, the use of such goods, and the slave trade. The manner of the enforcement of the articles was evidently an incipient suspension of all authority proceeding from the mother country and the substitution of a general popular authority for it. The other step was a resolution, adopted October 8, as follows: - "That this Congress approve the opposition of the inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay to the execution of the late Acts of Parliament; and if the same shall be attempted to be carried into execution by force, in such case all America ought to support them in their opposition." This was simply an ultimatum: in the opinion of Congress, the ministry could take no further step except that of attempting to enforce its Acts, and the colonies would resist such an attempt as an act of war. Before the next Congress met the conditions had been fulfilled. The agents of the ministry had applied force; Massachusetts had resisted by force; and the new Congress found itself the representative of a nation at war, still acknowledging the king, but resisting the operations of his armies. Having summoned a new Congress to meet at Philadelphia on the 10th of May following, and having cleared the way for its action, the First Continental Congress adjourned.

60. It is an unpleasant task to record the successive steps by which two peoples, so exactly similar to one another in every characteristic, so far removed from one another, and so ignorant of one another’s feelings, advanced alternately to a point where open collision was inevitable. From the standpoint of "no taxation without representation," which Pitt and his school of Whigs had approved, the colonists had now been driven by the suicidal logic of their opponent to the far more consistent position of "no legislation without representation," which the Pit school had never been willing to grant, and which was radically inconsistent with the British "imperial" theory. Either the previous legislation of parliament was to remain a dead letter, or it must be executed by force; and that meant war. Massachusetts was already on the brink of that even. Gage, the new governor, had refused to meet the assembly’ he had fortified himself in Boston, and was sending out spies as if into hostile territory. All regular government was suspended or remanded to the towns’ and the people were organized into "minute men," pledged to move at a minutes notice. The first hostile movement of Gage would be the signal for the struggle. War, in fact, had come to be a possibility in the thoughts of every one. The new governor of //Canada, Carleton, was sent out with instructions to levy the people and Indians that province, inorder that they might be marched against rebels in any province of North America. Governor Tryon’s defeat of the insurgent people of North Carolina at the Alemance (§ 54) furnished a tempting precedent to Governor Gage in Massachusetts. There was strong pressure upon him to induce him to follow it. The king’s speech at the opening of parliament (November 29, 1774) spoke of the prevalent "resistance and disobedience to the law" in Massachusetts; the ministry urged Gage to arrest the colonial leaders, even though hostilities should follow; the two Houses of Parliament presented a joint address to the king, declaring Massachusetts to be in rebellion, and offering all the resources of the empire to suppress the rebellion; and the king, in reply, announced his intention of acting as parliament wished.

61. The inevitable collision was narrowly escaped in February 1775. Gage sent water expedition to Salem to search for powder; but the day was Sunday, and a conflict was prevented by the ministers. Another expedition (April 19) was more momentous. It set out for Concord, a little village some 20 miles from Boston, to seize a stock of powder which was reported to be gathered there. At daybreak the troops marched into the village of Lexington on their road. They found some minute men who had been hastily summoned, fro intelligence had been sent out from Boston that the expedition was coming. There was a hurried order from an officer that the militia should disperse, then a volley from his men and a few answering shots, and the first blood of the American revolution had been shed. The troops went on to Concord and destroyed the stores there. But by this time the whole country was up. Messengers were riding in every direction, arousing the minute men; and their mustering made the return to Boston more dangerous than the advance had been. When the troops began their return march the continuous fire from fences, trees, and barns along the route soon converted the retreat into a rout. The opportune arrival of a rescuing party from Boston saved the whole force from surrender, but the pursuit was kept up until the expedition took refuge under the guns of the war-vessels at the water-side. The next morning the isthmus which connected the town of Boston with the mainland was blockaded; the siege of Boston was formed; and the revolution had begun.

62. The news of Lexington and Concord fights set the continent in a flame, but every feature of he outburst showed the still thoroughly English characteristics of the people. For nine long years they had been schooling themselves to patience; and, as their impatience became more difficult to control; it was shown most strongly in their increasingly scrupulous care to insist upon the letter of the law. Even in the first open conflict he colonists were careful to base their case on their legal right to use "the king’s highway"; and Congress carefully collected and published depositions going to show that the troops had violated this right and had fired first. There was everything in the affairs of Lexington and Concord to arouse an intense popular excitement: the mustering of undisciplined frames against regular troops, the stern sense of duty which moved it, the presence and encouragement of the ministers, the sudden desolation of homes which had never known war before, were things which stirred every pulse in the colonies when they were told. But there was no need of waiting for such stories. When the dam burst, the force which had been stored up for nine years took everything away before it. The news was buried by express along the roads to the southward; men left the plough in the furrow when they heard it, and rode off to Boston; town committees of safety collected money and provisions and sent them to the same point; and before the end of the month the mainland around Boston harbor was occupied by a shifting mass of undisciplined half-armed soldiers, sufficient to keep the British troops cooped up within the peninsula on which the town was built everything away before it. The news was hurried by express along the roads to the southward; men left the plough in the furrow when they heard it, and rode off to Boston; town committees of safety collected money and provisions and sent them to the same point; and before the end of the month the mainland around Boston harbor was occupied by a shifting mass of undisciplined half-armed soldiers, sufficient to keep the British troops cooped up within the peninsula on which the town was built.

63. The overturning of the royal governments in North America followed rapidly, as the news of the fights at Lexington and Concord spread abroad. In one colony after another the lower houses of the colonial legislatures, taking the name of "provincial congresses," met and assumed the reins of government; the officers of militia and subordinate magistrates accepted commissions from them; and the colonial officials, to whose advice so much of the course of events had been due, fled to England or to the nearest depot to royal troops. On the day (May 10, 1775) when the stronghold of Ticonderoga, the key of the gateway to Canada, was taken by surprise by an American force under Allen (p. 787), giving the besiegers of Boston a welcome supply of weapons and ammunition, the Second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia. It came, under new circumstances, to redeem the pledge which its predecessor had given that all the colonies would support Massachusetts resisting force by force. It was thus the representative of a untied people, or of nothing. The struggle for union had been so far successful.

64. This fact of union has colored the whose subsequent history of the country. The Articles of Association had really preceded it by a substitution of general popular government, however clumsy in form, for the previously recognized governments; in a so far the authority of the various colonies was also suspended, and a general national organization took their place. it was soon found that the colonial organizations had too much innate strength to be got rid of in this summary fashion; they held their own, and as soon as imminent danger had disappeared, they succeeded in tearing so much power from the Continental Congress as to endanger the national existence itself. But, when the Second Continental Congress met, it met (as Von Holst maintains) as a purely revolutionary body, limited by no law, and by nothing else but by its success in war and the support which it was to receive from the people, without regard to colony governments. With the energy and recklessness of a French revolutionary body it might have blotted out the distinctions between colonies, and established a centralized government, to be modified in time by circumstances. In fact, it took no such direction. It began its course by recommendations to the new colonial governments; it relied on them for executive acts; and, as soon as the new colonies were fairly under way, they seized on the power of naming and recalling the delegates to the Congress. From that time the decadence of the Congress was rapid; the national idea became dimmer; and the assertions of complete sovereignty by the political units became more pronounced. This failure of the Second Congress to appropriate the universal national powers which were within its grasp is responsible for two opposite effects. On the one hand, it built up a basis for the future assertion of the notion of State sovereignty, necessarily including the right of secession. On the other, it maintained the peculiar feature of the American Union, its large State liberty, its dislike of centralization, and its feeling that the national power is a valuable but dangerous instrument of development. The effort to find a compromise between the two forces makes up the record of subsequent national politics, ending in the present assertion of the largest possible measure of State rights, but under the guarantee of the national power, not of the State’s own sovereignty.

65. The conversion of the former colonies into "States" followed hard upon the outbreak of war (§ 72). Since that time the States have really been the peculiar feature of the American system. The circumstances just mentioned put them into a position in which they held all real powers of government; and they are still the residuary legates of all such powers as have not been taken from them by the national power or by their State constitutions. In 1775 they differed very materially in their organization, but there has been a constant tendency to approach a general type, as States have adopted innovations which have proved successful in other States. All have now governors legislatures of two houses, and State judiciaries. The governor, except in a few States, has a limited veto on legislation, and had a pardoning power. The State legislature is supreme in all subjects relating to the jurisdiction of the State, with two exceptions: the constitution of the United States imposes certain limitations on them (§ 116), and there is an evident tendency in the later State constitutions to prohibit the legislatures from "special legislation," and to provide that, in specified subjects, they shall pass only "general laws," applicable to the whole State and all citizens alike. With these exceptions, it is difficult to imagine a more complete autonomy than is possessed by the States of the American Union. The main restriction upon their action is in its results upon their welfare. They may even repudiate their debts, and there is no power which can make them pay; but even in respect to this, the results upon the credit of a repudiating State have been enough to check others in any action of the kind. They control the organization of the State into counties, towns, and cities; they touch the life and interests of the citizen in a far larger degree than does the Federal Government; and, in many points, such as that of taxation, their powers are co-ordinate with those of the Federal Government, so that the two departments of the American Governmental system operate on the same subjects. The admission of new States (§ 97) has raised the number of the original thirteen States of thirty-eight (in 1887), and the powers of the new States are exactly those of the old ones.

66. The "force resolution" of the First Congress (§ 59) shows that the national existence of the United States, in a purely political sense, dates from the fulfillment of the conditions of the force resolution-that is, from the first shot fired at Lexington. From that instant the fact of union was consummated in the support given to Massachusetts by the other commonwealths; and George III. was king no longer of thirteen separate kingdoms, but of one. The fact that he did not recognize the union did not alter the fact of union; that was to be decided by events. This success of the struggle for union gave the United States a date for the political, as distinguished from the legal, existence of the nation (April 19, 1775).





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