Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

seat."

resentation.

roughly to adjust it to population. The franchise was ordinarily exercised by all adult male whites possessing a moderate amount of property. Plural voting was seldom permitted and representatives were paid for their services. The representatives chosen were ordinarily men living in the district in which they were elected. A colonist in using the phrase "no taxation without representation" meant "no taxation except by vote of a legislative body in which a person known to me and in whose election I have taken part has a

An Englishman, using the same phrase, had in his mind an idea which can be expressed in the sentence: "no taxation except by vote of the House of Commons." The vast majority of Englishmen did not vote for a

member of Parliament, but all Englishmen were Virtual Rep

held to be virtually represented. It was easy to

extend the theory and to argue that the colonists were virtually represented as well; and in a measure they were, because merchants interested in the American trade sat in the House of Commons or voted for members of that body. Lord Mansfield stated the theory in a clear manner in his learned speech against the repeal of the Stamp Act. He said: “There can be no doubt but that the inhabitants of the colonies are as much represented in Parliament as the greatest part of the people of England are, among nine millions of whom, there are eight who have no vote in electing members to Parliament. A member of Parliament chosen for any borough, represents not only the constituents and inhabitants of that particular place, but he represents the City of London, and all the Commons of the land, and the inhabitants of all the colonies and dominions of Great Britain." American writers contended, that, granting the soundness of the general theory of virtual representation, there was still a difference in the position of Englishmen having no vote and that of the colonists. Members of Parliament, they argued, were singly and collec

1.]

The Imperial Protection Policy.

31

tion Acts.

tively responsible both physically and morally to the English people and to English public opinion, while it was impossible for the colonists to appeal either to their fears or to their interests. There can be no doubt of the legal soundness of Lord Mansfield's argument. Parliament was the supreme legislative body of the Empire under the existing constitution. As it refused to part with any portion of its power, the only remedy was revolution.

Before the middle of the eighteenth century, Parliament exercised little authority over the colonies ex

The Navigacept in the matter of trade regulations. This system was designed to promote the interests of all parts of the Empire, those of some in one way, those of others in other ways. The leading acts establishing this Imperial protection policy were mainly those of Charles II and the 7 and 8 William III, cap. 22. These provided that no goods should be imported into or exported out of the colonies except in vessels built within the British dominions and owned and navigated by subjects of the British Crown. It is especially important to observe that this system was intended to confine the trade of the British Empire to British subjects. The colonists shared in this monopoly; and under its stimulus, the colonial ship-building and ship-owning interests flourished greatly. It was further intended to give the profits which should arise from the handling of the staple products of the Empire to British merchants. This was accomplished by providing that certain commodities, which were enumerated in several acts, should be carried to Great Britain alone. These "enumerated goods" included, among others, tobacco, cotton, indigo, copper ore, and furs, all of them products of the “English Colonies” on the continent of North America. To partly compensate the colonists for the loss of the direct trade of continental Europe, the tobacco growers of Virginia and Maryland were substantially given a monopoly of the tobacco

com

trade of the Empire. On such of these "enumerated modities as were liable to duty on importation into Great Britain, a drawback was allowed at the time of exportation. When it was found that the cost of re-handling in England by increasing the price prevented the sale, as in the case of rice destined for Mediterranean ports, such commodity was excluded from the general operation of the acts. In this way, South Carolina rice destined for ports north of Cape Finisterre had to be first landed in Great Britain, but rice destined for ports south of Cape Finisterre might be carried direct from South Carolina. Frequently bounties and premiums were provided, as in the case of naval stores, hemp, masts, and spars. Among the acts designed to protect and stimulate the industries of the English West India Islands was one laying a prohibitory duty on sugar and molasses imported into the continental colonies from any foreign port. This act, had it been enforced, would have inflicted great hardships on the people of New England. But it was systematically evaded by the colonial merchants in collusion with the customs authorities. It is impossible to state whether the net result of this system, taken as a whole, was in favour of Great Britain or of the colonies. As a matter of fact, the colonies were very prosperous under it. This may have been due to the fact that the laws which might have borne heavily on the colonists were practically obsolete. As to the restrictions on manufacturing, there can be no doubt that they inflicted damage on colonial interests. The idea of the English authors of this part of the system

seems to have been to keep the British iron mills busy and at the same time to stimulate the produc

tion of crude iron in the colonies. To carry out ing.

this policy, pig and bar iron were admitted free of duty to British ports, and the manufacture of iron in the colonies beyond the stage of bar-iron was absolutely prohibited. The attempt was also made to restrict the colonial manufacture of

Restrictions on Colonial manufactur

1.]

The Supremacy of Parliament.

33

Limitations on Colonial Governments.

hats to the actual needs of the colonists and thus prevent competition with the English hat-makers. In conclusion, it should be stated that a careful examination of the whole subject does not bear out the assertion, which has often been made, that Parliament was actuated by a selfish desire to promote thę interests of subjects of the Crown living in Britain at the cost of other subjects living outside of the realm. On the contrary, Parliament, at least in the earlier time, attempted to legislate in the general interest of all. It would be an interesting inquiry whether the present colonial system of Great Britain, in which many of the colonies hedge themselves about with protective tariffs, is really productive of greater proportional benefit to the people of the whole Empire than was the colonial system of a century and a quarter ago.

Parliament exercised authority which, constitutionally speaking, was unlimited. No man or body of men reviewed its acts. It was supreme in the State. The colonial assemblies exercised limited functions, and their acts were subject to review. The powers of the colonial legislatures were restrained by written documents

the charters of the chartered and proprietary colonies, and the commissions and instructions of the governors of the royal provinces. All these instruments emanated from the Crown. Furthermore, an appeal lay from the decision of the highest court of every colony to the king in Council. The laws of all the colonies were liable to be reviewed and annulled by the same authority, whenever contrary to act of Parliament. Moreover, they must be conformable to the general customs and laws of England “so far as the circumstances of the place will admit.” The issue in each case was determined by the king in Council. In the majority of cases, the laws passed by the colonial legislatures were regularly sent to England and might be disallowed at any time within three years. The king frequently exercised his power of veto as to colonial legislation C. A.

3

The

Governor.

after the royal veto had become obsolete in Great Britain. In this way the colonists became accustomed to government resting immediately on written constitutions, to the exercise of the veto power, and to the interpretation of their laws and the overruling of the decisions of their courts by a judicial body in England from whose judgments there was no appeal.

In these facts can be discerned the sources of several of the most important features of the American system of government, as elaborated in the constitutions of the United States and of the several States. The governor of a royal province was the personal repre

sentative of the king, and as such he exercised Provincial such portions of the king's prerogative as he was

authorized to exercise by his instructions. For example, he summoned, prorogued, and dissolved assemblies at his pleasure. Although the laws of England, which were in force at the time of the founding of a colony, were held to be in force there, subsequent statutes of Parliament did not extend to the colonies unless it was so stated in the act. It thus happened that in many ways the prerogative was more extensive as to the colonies than it was with regard to England. For instance, the Septennial Act did not extend to America, and all attempts on the part of the legislatures of the royal provinces to regulate the holding of elections and the duration of assemblies and the frequency of sessions had been defeated by the use of the veto power. In the chartered colonies, on the contrary, annual elections were the rule. The royal governor exercised all executive power, except

as he was limited in his instructions or by The Colonial

colonial acts which had not been disallowed by Legislatures.

the king. He was the head of the colonial judiciary, appointing the judges and himself acting as Chief Justice of the highest colonial court. He was also commanderin-chief of the colonial forces and appointed the more important

« AnteriorContinuar »