« AnteriorContinuar »
7 sharply reproved by the House of Assembly, in an address 7 containing the following spirited passages.
“Justice to ourselves and our constituents oblige us to I remonstrate against the method of making or increasing
establishments, by the governor and council. It is, in effect, ċ taking from the House their most darling privilege, the right i of originating all taxes.” É “No necessity can be sufficient to justify a House of
Representatives in giving up such a privilege; for it would be of little consequence to the people, whether they were
subject to George or Louis, the king of Great Britain or the - French king, if both were arbitrary, as both would be, if both could levy taxes without parliament."
It is worthy of mention, as an evidence of the kind of i paternal affection entertained by England towards her
children in the Colonies, when her interests were crossed by them, that when Massachusetts refused to receive the
royal collector, in 1661-2, it was determined by the king ein council, that "no Mediterranean passes should be granted
+ to New England, to protect its vessels against the Turks, till it - is seen what dependence it will acknowledge in his majesty,
and whether his custom-house officers are received as in other e colonies."
The acquiescence of Massachusetts, even in the navigation acts, was thus never cordial or perfect. From the beginning she suspected the taxing power, which was concealed in them, and resolutely protested against it.
Other provinces were not less firm and strenuous in up holding the same privileges, in the most disheartening times. Virginia, in the seventeenth year of her settlement, adopted a set of laws, the oldest in colonial history, defining her rights and claiming the privilege of raising her own taxes by her own representation, as the birthright of Englishmen. Again, in 1651, when she surrendered to the fleet of Cromwell, one of the express stipulations in the articles of surrender was, that “Virginia shall be free from all taxes, customs, and impositions whatsoever; and none shall be imposed on them,
without consent of the general assembly; and neither forts ī nor castles be erected, or garrisons maintained without their
own consent." Again, in 1676, she instructed her agents in England to maintain, as an admitted right belonging to all the Colonies, and an 'acknowledged historical fact, that
neither his majesty nor any of his ancestors or predecessors
had ever offered to impose any tax upon this plantation, without the consent of their subjects; nor upon any other plantation, however so much less deserving or considerable to his crown.”
In 1663, Rhode Island formally claimed it as one of her chartered privileges, that no tax should be imposed upon the colony but by the general assembly.
In 1687 the revenue officer in South Carolina informed the Commissioners of the Customs, in England, that “he despaired of succeeding in enforcing the revenue acts, as the people denied the power of parliament to pass laws incon. sistent with their charter.”
In the session of 1691-2, New York passed her celebrated act of assembly, defining the right of representation, and numerous other rights and privileges, in the nature of a Declaration of Rights. It expressly enacted that no “aid, tax, or talliage, whatsoever,” should be laid upon the inhabitants of the province, upon “any manner or pretence whatsoever," but "by the act and consent of the governor in council and representatives of the people in general assembly."
Connecticut, on numerous occasions, especially in her resolutions in 1754, dissenting from the Albany plan of Union, contended for the exclusive power of levying her own taxes by her representatives, as a privilege by charter, and as a natural right.
The original charter of Maryland vested expressly the whole taxing power in “the freemen of the province, or a majority of them,”—and a law enacted in 1650, declared that “no subsidies, aids, customs, taxes, or impositions shall be laid, assessed, levied, or imposed upon the freemen of this province, their merchandize, goods, or chattels, without the consent of the freemen thereof, or a majority of them in general assembly.”
These are a few of the early assertions, by the Colonies, of the law, the practice under it, and the constitution, in virtue of which they claimed exemption from taxation, except in bodies wherein they were represented. Sometimes these assertions ascended to lofty vindications of natural rights, antecedent to all sanctions of human institution. No formal denial of them was ever made before the declaratory stamp. resolutions and sugar act of 1764. Some of the laws and declarations which we have quoted, were annulled in England, but not upon the exclusive ground of their
repugnance in this respect to British rights. A general act of parliament was passed in 1696, annulling all acts, laws, and usages of "the plantations," "repugnant to any law of the kingdom.” But contemporary with it
, the right of taxing America was peremptorily denied; and we have the high authority of Lord Camden, in his speech, in April, 1766, in the British House of Lords, for the fact, that this doctrine was not then considered new, illegal, or derogatory to the rights of parliament. The colonial laws were annulled, not on a claim of unlimited supremacy, but because they were believed to interfere with commercial regulations. Sometimes, as remarked before, the two objects—revenue and taxation-were in fact combined in one; but in all cases, before 1764, the primary object, to which the other was a subordinate incident, was trade. Burke, in his speech on American taxation, in 1774, after an elaborate analysis of the acts of parliament, stated confidently, and he was sustained by Lords Chatham and Camden, in the assertion, that before 1764 "no act avowedly for the purpose of revenue, and with the ordinary title and recital, taken together, is to be found upon the statute book. All before stood on commercial regulations and restraints."
Sir Robert Walpole entertained a similar view of the science of government, and the interests of commerce, in the connexion between England and America, when he refused, in 1739, during the Spanish war, to try the experiment of taxing the Colonies. "I will leave that,” said he, "to some one of my successors, who shall have more courage and less regard for commerce than I have. I have always, during my administration, thought it my duty to encourage the commerce of the American Colonies. I have chosen to wink at some irregularities in their traffic with Europe ; for in my opinion, if by trade with foreign nations they gain £500,000 sterling, at the end of two years £250,000 of it will have entered the royal coffers; and that by the industry and productions of England, who sells them an immense quantity of manufactures. This is a mode of taxing them, more conformable to their constitution, and to our own." And Lord Chatham, in referring to the efforts to get up this taxing question, at an earlier day, when he was minister to George II., during the French wars, uses the following pithy expression: “There were not wanting some, when I had the honour
to serve his majesty, to propose to me to burn my fingers with an American stamp-act."
The theory of political connexion with Great Britain, insisted on by the Colonies, as according with constitutional principles, was that they were integral governments, dependent upon a common executive head of the empire, the king of Great Britain, precisely as England itself; that their colonial legislatures held the same relation to the king as the English House of Commons, and were as absolute in all matters of revenue, within the provinces, as the Commons were for Great Britain. These rights were placed, first, on the general birthright of Englishmen, not to be taxed but by their representatives; and secondly, on their chartered rights which confirmed these privileges to them. A third, and in fact the most powerful defence of this right, and which was working in every man's mind, though few spoke it out until oppression drove them from all faith in charters and constitutions, was that which James Otis employed with such boldness in his celebrated pamphlet, on the rights of the Colonies, published in 1764, against the daring attempt at usurpation in the declaratory act preliminary: to the stamp act; à defence which went back to the original rights of the settlers as men, independent of any grant from human power. “Two or three innocent colony charters,” said he, "have been threatened with destruction a hundred and forty years past. A set of men in America, without honor ont love to their country, have been long grasping at powers which they think unattainable, while these charters stand in their way. But they will meet with insurmountable pbstacles to their project for enslaving the British Colonies, should these, arising from provincial charters, be removed. *. * Should this ever be the case, there are, thank God, natural, inherent, and inseparable rights, as men and citizens, that would remain, after the so much wished-for catastrophe, and which, whatever become of charters, can never be abolished, de jure, if de facto, until the general conflagration.". One of these “natural, inherent, and inseparable” rights, was that of disa posing of their own property, and assenting, personally or by their representatives, to all taxes levied upon them. "If;" said the New Jersey, colonists, about the year 1687, to the Commissioners of the Duke of York, " we are excluded from one English right of common assent le taxes, what security have we for any thing we posegas? We can call nothing our
own, but are tenants at will, not only for the soil, but for all
The practice had also been invariably in accordance with this theory. All sums applied by the Colonies to their own political maintainance or the general service of the empire, had been voluntary grants, levied in the colonial assemblies. The king, through the governors, made his requisitions for money or troops, and the Colonies granted or withheld at pleasure. Their grants, however, were exceedingly liberal, so as to leave no ground of complaint with the ancient system. The change was not made because there was any reason to believe that the Colonies would be deficient in zeal or ability to vote sufficient supplies. Their contributions to the common cause of the empire, had been acknowledged by repeated acts of parliament, returning them thanks and voting them remu. neration for the excess of their generous efforts. Mr. Burke, in his speech, before quoted, on American taxation, cited from the Journals of the House of Commons, thirteen different votes, acknowledging the merits of the Colonies in that particular-four of them within the year 1763, the very year in which the taxing scheme of Mr. Grenville was devised. It was, therefore, a naked assertion of power, without any pretence of necessity, and meant to establish a principle repugnant to the conscientious convictions of the Colonists, hostile to their rights, and destructive of their chartered privileges,-a principle which they affirmed would strip them of every privilege of freemen, and reduce them to the condition of a conquered and enslaved country.
The most specious argument on the side of Great Britain