Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

ence arose from the different circumstances which attended the settlement of different colonies, and the diversified views of the early emigrants. The charter governments were confined to New-England. The proprietary governments were those of Maryland, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and the Jersies. The two former remained such, until the American revolution; the two latter became royal governments long before that period. In the charter governments, the people enjoyed the privileges and powers of self government; in the proprietary governments these privileges and powers were vested in the proprietor, but he was required to have the advice, assent, and as probation of the greater part of the freemen, or their deputies; in the royal governments, the governor and council were a pointed by the crown, and the people elected representatives to serve in the colonial legislatures." Under these respective forms of government, the colonists might have enjoyed eace, and a good share of liberty, had human nature b. cn of a different character. But all the colonies were soon in ore or less involve I in troubles of various kinds, arising, in part, from the indefinite tenor of the charter and proi rietary grants : but more than all, from the early jealousy with prevailed in the mother country with respect to the colonies, and the fixed determination of the crown to keep them in humble subjection to its authority. The colonies, with the exception of Georgia, had all been established, and had attained to considerable strength, without even the slightest aid from the parent country. Whatever was extended in the acquisition of territory from the Indians, proceeded srom the private resources of the European adventu ers. Neither the crown, nor the parliament of England, ma e any compensation to the original masters of the soil; nor did they in any way contribute to those improvements which so soon bore testimony to the industry and intelligence of the planters. The settlement of the province of Massachusetts Bay alone cost 200,000l. ;—an enormous sum at that period. Lord Baltimore expended 40,000l., for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

his contingent, in the establishment of his colony in Mary-
land. On that of Virginia, immense wealth was lavished;
and we are told by Trumbull, that the first planters of Con-
necticut consumed great estates in purchasing lands from the
Indians, and making their settlements in that province, in ad-
dition to large sums previously expended in the procuring of
their patents, and of the rights of pre-emption."
It is conceded by historians of every party, that from the
earliest settlements in America, to the period of the revolu-
tion, the parent country, so far as her own unsettled state
would permit, pursued towards those settlements a course
of direct oppression. Without the enterprise to establish co-
lonies herself, she was ready, in the very dawn of their exist-
ence, to claim them as her legitimate possessions, and to pre-
scribe, in almost every minute particular, the policy they
should pursue. Her jealousies, coeval with the foundation
of the colonies, increased with every succeeding year; and
led to a course of arbitrary exactions, and lordly oppressions,
which resulted in the rupture of those ties that bound the
colonies to the parent country.
No sooner did the colonies, emerging from the feebleness
and poverty of their incipient state, begin to direct their at-
tention to commerce and manufactures, than they were sub-
jected by the parent country to many vexatious regulations,
which seemed to indicate, that with regard to those subjects,
they were expected to follow that line of policy, which she
in her wisdom should mark out for them. At every indica-
tion of colonial prosperity, the complaints of the commercial
and the manufacturing interests in Great Britain were loud
and clamourous, and repeated demands were made upon the
British government, to correct the growing evil, and to keep
the colonies in due subjection. “The colonists,” said the
complainants, “are beginning to carry on trade;—they will
soon be our formidable rivals: they are already setting up
manufactures;–they will soon set up for independence.”
To the increase of this severish excitement in the parent

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

country, the English writers of those days contributed not a
little. As early as 167t), in a work, entitled, “Discourse on
Trade,” published by Sir Josiah Child, is the following lan-
guage, which expresses the prevailing opinion of the day;
* New England is the most prejudicial plantation to this king-
dom”—“of all the American plantations, his majesty has
none so apt for the building of shipping, as New-England,
nor any comparably so qualified for the breeding of seamen,
not only by reason of the natural industry of that people,
but principally by reason of their cod and mackerel fishe-
ries; and, in my poor opinion, there is nothing more prejudi-
cial, and in prospect, more dangerous to any mother kingdom,
than the increase of shipping in her colonies, plantations, and
provinces.”
By another writer of still more influence and celebrity,
Dr. Davenant, the idea of colonial dependence, at which Sir
Josiah Child had hinted, was broadly asserted. “Colonies,”
he writes, “are a strength to their mother country, while they
are under good discipline; while they are strictly made to
observe the fundamental laws of the original country; and
while they are kept dependant on it. But, otherwise, they
are worse than members lopped from the body politic; be:
ing, indeed, like offensive arms wrested from a nation, to be
turned against it, as occasion shall serve.”
To the colonists, however, the subject presented itself in
a very different light. They had spontaneously planted them.
selves on these shores, which were then desolate. They had
asked no assistance from the government of Great Britain;
nor had they drawn from her exchequer a single pound, duo
ring all the feebleness and imbecility of their infancy. And
now, when they were beginning to emerge from a state of
poverty and depression, which for years they had sustained
without complaint, they very naturally supposed that they
had a right to provide for their own interests.
It was not easy for them to see by what principle their re-
moval to America should deprive them of the rights of En,
glishmen. It was disficult for them to comprehend the justics
of restrictions so materially different from those at “home,”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

or why they might not equally with their elder brethren in England, seek the best markets for their products, and, like them, manufacture such articles as were within their power, and essential to their comfort. But the selfish politicians of England, and her still more selfish merchants and manufacturers, thought not so. A disserent doctrine was accordingly advanced, and a different policy pursued. Acts were, therefore, early passed, restricting the trade with the plantations, as well as with other parts of the world, to English-built ships, belonging to the subjects of England, or to her plantations. Not contented with thus confining the colonial erport trade to the parent country, parliament, in 1663, limited the import trade in the same jūanner. These acts, indeed, left free the trade and intercourse between the colonies. But even this privilege remained to them only ashort period. In 1672, certain colonial products, transported from one colony to another, were subjected to duties. White sugars were to pay five shillings, and brown sugars one shilling and sixpence, per hundred; tobacco and indige one penny, and cotton wool a half-penny, per pound. The colonists deemed these acts highly injurious to their interest. They were deprived of the privilege of seeking the best market for their products, and of receiving, in ex

thange, the articles they wanted, without being charged the

additional expense of a circuitous route through England.

The acts themselves were considered by some as a violation

of their charter rights; and in Massachusetts, they were, for a long time, totally disregarded. The other colonies viewed them in the same light. Virgihis presented a petition for their repeal; Rhode Island dedared them unconstitutional, and contrary to their charter. The Carolinas, also, declared them not less grievous and illegal. The disregard of these enactments on the part of the colonies—a disregard which sprung from a firm conviction of their illegal and oppressive character—occasioned loud and *amorous complaints in England. The revenue, it was urged, Q

would be injured; and the dependance of the colonies on the parent country would, in time, be totally destroyed. A stronger language was, therefore, held towards the colonies, and stronger measures adopted, to enforce the existing acts of navigation. The captains of his majesty's frigates were instructed to seize, and bring in, offenders who

avoided making entrics in England. The naval officers were

required to give bonds for the faithful performance of their duties; the custom house officers in America were clothed with extraordinary powers; and the governors, for neglect of watchfulness on these points, were not only to be removed from office, and rendered incapable of the government of any colony, but also to forfeit one thousand pounds. A similar sensibility prevailed, on the subject of manufactures. For many years after their settlement, the colonists were too much occupied in subduing their lands to engage in manufactures. When, at length, they turned their attention to them, the varieties were few, and of a coarse and imperfect texture. But even these were viewed with a jealous eye. In 1699, commenced a systematic course of restrictions on colonial manufactures, by an enactment of parliament, “that no wool, yarn, or woollen manufactures of their American plantations, should be shipped there, or even laden, in order to be transported thence to any place whatever.” Other acts followed, in subsequent years, having for their object the suppression of manufactures in America, and the continued dependance of the colonies on the parent country. In 1719, the house of commons declared, “that the erecting of manufactories in the colonies, tended to lessen their dependance upon Great Britain." In 1731, the board of trade reported to the house of commons, “that there are more trades carried on, and manufactures set up, in the province" on the continent of America, to the northward of Virginia, prejudicial to the trade and manufactures of Great Britain. particularly in New-England, than in any other of the British colonies;" and hence they suggested, “whether it might not be expedient,” in order to keep the colonies properly dependant upon the parent country, and to render her

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »