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for smuggling, - with a view to sending them to England for trial, under the alleged authority of a statute passed in the reign of Henry VIII, for the trial of treasons committed out of the kingdom. Nothing yet done or threatened so alarmed the colonies as this monstrous proposition. The Virginia House of Burgesses protested strongly against the proposed action as a flagrant violation of the right of Englishmen to be tried by a jury of the vicinage and according to the established course of the common law. For passing these resolutions the House was dissolved, but the members met and adopted a non-importation agreement.
It was evident that the second attempt to tax America had failed. In April, 1769, Thomas Pownall, formerly governor of Massachusetts and now a member of Parliament, showed that the receipts from the Revenue Act, which Townshend had estimated at £40,000, had been for the first year less than £16,000, of which all but £295 had been absorbed by the expenses of the new system of customs administration ; while the extraordinary military expenses in America for the same period amounted to £170,000. In January, 1770, the Grafton ministry fell, and Lord North, who was to pilot the affairs of England through the next twelve years of storm and stress, took the helm. In March the duties imposed by the Townshend Revenue Act, except that on tea, were repealed, the duty on tea being retained as an assertion of the right of Parliament to tax the colonies a right,”
,” said North, “ he would contend for to the last hour of his life.”
BURKE ON CONCILIATION - 2
The alarm and resentment of the colonies at the arbitrary course of Parliament were greatly increased by the high-handed proceedings in the Wilkes case. John Wilkes,
worthless demagogue,” though a member of the House of Commons, had published in No. 45 of the North Briton a severe criticism of the royal address transmitting to Parliament the treaty of Paris, in 1763. A general warrant was issued for the apprehension of all persons concerned in the publication of the offensive newspaper. Wilkes, pleading his privilege as a member of Parliament, was released, and the court shortly declared general warrants illegal; but the House voted No. 45 a libel, and Wilkes was expelled. A coarse poem written by Wilkes was also voted a libel and a breach of privilege by the House of Lords. Wilkes fled to the Continent, and in February, 1764, was outlawed. In 1768, however, he returned, and in the general election of that year came forward as a champion of parliamentary reform. Though still an outlaw, the voters of Middlesex returned him to Parliament. The old sentence of outlawry was set aside by Lord Mansfield as illegal, but Wilkes was immediately arrested under the old charge of libel, and sentenced to imprisonment for twenty-two months and a fine of £1000. Further, the House of Commons again expelled him. The voters of Middlesex immediately reëlected him, but the House set the election aside as invalid. A third election gave Wilkes an overwhelming majority of the votes, but the Commons seated his opponent. A grave constitutional question, involving the right of the House
of Commons to ride roughshod over the electors, was thus raised. Petitions poured into the House, and Wilkes, now a popular hero, was chosen an alderman of London. These events, clearly indicative of the arbitrary temper of Parliament and king, were closely followed in America, where they coincided with the opposition to the Townshend acts; and the sympathy of the colonists was shown by the addresses and presents which they sent to Wilkes in prison.
The two or three years following the repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act saw a general subsidence of the excitement in Anierica. The Boston massacre, in March, 1770, greatly imbittered popular feeling for a time in Massachusetts, and made that colony more than ever the leader of the colonial resistance; but with reasonable moderation on the part of the colonies and the exercise of common sense on the part of the king and his ministers, the outlook was unquestionably favorable to peace. In 1773, however, all the slumbering ill-feeling and irritation between Massachusetts and the mother country was suddenly fanned into flame by the publication of the Hutchinson letters. Some letters written by Hutchinson, before he became governor of Massachusetts, but while he was occupying other important political offices, to a private correspondent in England, fell into the hands of Franklin. The letters," written with the perfect freedom of confidential intercourse," 1 contained passages reflecting on the motives and aims of the popular leaders in
1 Lecky, vol. iv, p. 413.
Massachusetts, and expressing the hope that the connection between the colonies and Great Britain might not be broken. Franklin, who at once saw the political importance of the letters, sent them to Massachusetts with the stipulation that they should not be printed and should be eventually returned. Notwithstanding the stipulation, however, the letters were published. The Massachusetts House of Representatives shortly petitioned for Hutchinson's recall. In England, where the tide was now setting strongly against America, Franklin, who had taken pains to defend his part in the transaction, was dismissed from his office of postmaster-general for North America.
The climax of colonial opposition, short of open war, was reached in the resistance, during the fall of 1773, to the importation of tea through the agency of the East India Company. Here, as before, resistance was based, not on the amount of the tax, but on the principle which the payment of any tax levied on the colonies by authority of Parliament involved. English public opinion, imperfectly aware of the merits of the dispute, but tired of colonial disorder on the one hand and ministerial vacillation on the other, was in favor of compelling the turbulent colonies to submit. Naturally Massachusetts, as the chief offender, was now selected as the chief victim. Between the last of March and the end of June, 1774, three drastic coercive acts were passed. The Boston Port Act closed the port of Boston to commerce, save in foods, and transferred the customs business to Salem. The Massachusetts Government Act so altered the charter of the colony as
to provide for the appointment of councillors and judicial officers by the governor, and the choice of jurors by the sheriffs, while town meetings, save for the election of officers and sheriffs, were interdicted. The Administration of Justice Act provided for the trial in England or in another colony of any person indicted in Massachusetts for murder or other capital crime because of some act committed by him in the enforcement of law, in case a fair trial could not be had in Massachusetts. A new Quartering Act was also passed “to facilitate the establishment of a temporary military government in America."
The Boston Port Act went into effect on the first day of June. On the seventeenth, the Massachusetts House of Representatives issued a call for a congress of the colonies, to meet in Philadelphia on the first of September. Delegates from twelve colonies appeared in response to the summons. Petitions to the king and the people of Great Britain, and a declaration of the rights and grievances of the colonies were drawn up, and an agreement, known as the “Association," pledging the signers to nearly complete commercial non-intercourse with Great Britain, was adopted. In Massachusetts, events moved rapidly toward the inevitable crisis. The General Court having been dissolved, a provincial congress was formed in its stead, and by common consent assumed direction of affairs. Arms and military supplies were collected and the militia organized. Similar preparations for forcible resistance, should that prove necessary, were made in