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which assumes that every detail of the British Government was absurdly stupid, even from its own point of view, and that the loyalists were few in numbers and their arguments not worth considering. I cannot see any advantage in not describing in their full meaning and force the smuggling, the buying of laws from the governors, and other irregular conduct in the Colonies which led England to try to remodel them as soon as the fear of the French in Canada was removed.
And again :
The Revolution was a much more ugly and unpleasant affair than most of us
imagine. I know of many people who talk a great deal about their ancestors, but who, I am quite sure, would not take the side their ancestors chose. Nor was it a great, spontaneous, unanimous uprising, all righteousness, perfection and infallibility, a marvel of success at every step, and incapable of failure, as many of us very naturally believe from what we have read.
Mr. Fisher's whole conception of the Revolution differs from that of Sir George Trevelyan, and agrees in the main with that so ably and so moderately set forth by the late Mr. Lecky, of whom the Times,” in an appreciation which did not err in the direction of warmth, said : “The future historian of the eighteenth century in England will begin where Lecky left off, and will have the advantage of using the results of his acumen, judgment and research.” This is exactly what Sir George Trevelyan has not done. For him, so far as appears in the present work, Lecky might never have penned a line, Lecky's learning, industry and research, his human sympathy and calm judgment might never have existed.
Sir George Trevelyan makes a strong point of repeated assertions that till 1775 no one really wished for independence; that the desire of it came—in Mr. Fisher's words—“as a sudden thought”; and he supports these by the evidence of Franklin, who informed Lord Chatham “that in the course of his life he had traversed from end to end of the American Continent, had conversed with all descriptions of people, and had never heard a hint from any individual, whether drunk or sober, that independence was desirable or even imaginable.” But Franklin's statement referred to the years antecedent—long antecedent, in part—to 1765, when he left America, and at that time it may have been literally correct. Otis's celebrated speech on the Writs of Assistance was, indeed, delivered in 1760 ; and “then and there"—according to John Adams—“American independence was born "; but the word “independence” was not mentioned, nor yet in the still more positive denunciation of English authority in his pamphlet on The Rights of the British Colonies, published in 1763. Even in March 1769, when Samuel Adams wrote—
* November 20, 1903. WOL. XLIII 5
When I consider the corruption of Great Britain, their load of debt, their intestine divisions, tumults and riots, their scarcity of provisions, and the contempt in which they are held by the nations about them ; and when I consider, on the other hand, the state of the American Colonies with regard to the various climates, soils, produce, rapid population, joined to the virtue of the inhabitants, I cannot but think that the conduct of Old England towards us may be permitted by Divine wisdom, and ordained by the unsearchable providence of the Almighty for hastening a period dreadful to Great Britain *— the actual word was not used, though its letters are flaming between the lines. But, says Sir George Trevelyan, “Testimony to the same effect—as Franklin's—was given by Jay and Madison, by Jefferson and John Adams.” No reference is given ; and, above all, no date, though the date is a matter of the first importance, and what John Adams really did say in later years has been quoted. The crowning piece of the evidence cited by Sir George Trevelyan is that of Tom Paine, whom he describes as “a patriot.” I would commend the designation to the notice of the Editors of the New English Dictionary as a quotation for the word in its sense of “an enemy of his native country; one who goes about the world seeking for the enemies of his country (whether in America or France) with whom he can cooperate in their hostility to his native land.” But it is difficult to suppose that, when Paine wrote that in and after December 1774—“The attachment of the American people to Britain was obstinate, and it was a kind of treason to speak against it." —he was not trying to emphasise his charges of a tyranny and misrule, which in a very few months could overcome this obstinacy. For the fact is perfectly well established, that for some years before Paine's date, independence had been freely mooted both in New England and in Virginia as well as in Philadelphia. But, indeed, the assumption which underlies all these statements and Sir George Trevelyan's use of them is that the one sole cause of colonial discontent and the quarrel with England was the question of taxation, which was only started by Grenville's unlucky Stamp Act. This assumption is indubitably erroneous ; for though the claim to tax did excite much indignation, the internal independence of the New England colonies had been practically established for nearly a hundred years ; and the attempt to tax would have been met by a “passive resistance,” in face of which the law would have been powerless, had it not been for the long-felt grievance caused by the restrictions on trade and the Navigation Act. These, in their own, rude way, the colonists had remedied by smuggling, not unmixed with piracy; an evil so great that Grenville, as soon as the occasion seemed fitting, determined to put an end to it. * Hosmer's Life of Samuel Adams, p. 134.
Some writers, with a very imperfeet knowledge of the facts, have roundly blamed his resolution as a piece of “red tape,” at once unnecessary and injudicious. In its working, however, the smuggling was not only illegal, but dangerous; for the colonists, and especially the New Englanders, had shown that, in the pursuit of their illegal trade, all considerations of country were to be put aside. The Seven Years War was only just ended ; it was, in its origin, a purely colonial quarrel ; it was waged altogether in colonial interests, and was one in which the New England colonies had taken an important and effective share ; but Grenville and his colleagues in the Government knew that during all this war the shipowners of New England and New York had continued their trade with the French West Indian settlements, and had supplied the French with naval stores—timber, spars, tar, and such like—in return for the sugar, molasses, and rum which the stress of the war prevented their otherwise disposing of. There was no question but that this contraband trade had very seriously aggravated the conditions of the war, by enabling the enemy, French or Spanish, to fit out cruisers and privateers, to the detriment of English settlements and English commerce. Continual reports of this reached the Government. One of these, from Vice-Admiral Cotes, commanding at Jamaica in 1759—the crucial year of the war—is now before me. It names twenty-eight vessels—most of them from New York, New London Rhode Island, Boston, and Salem—actually at Monte Christi in February ; and it is not a little significant that one of them, the Esther of Rhode Island, belonged to Isaac Hopkins, who may surely be identified with Ezek Hopkins, appointed, in 1775, commander-in-chief of the revolutionary navy. It is very commonly believed that the attempt made in December 1773 on behalf of the East India Company, to import tea into America, and the immediate consequences of that attempt, first roused the Colonists to think of making themselves independent. To most writers the Boston riot has appeared merely a somewhat violent protest against an insidious attempt to introduce the thin end of the wedge of taxation. So it has seemed to Sir George Trevelyan, who chortles over the failure of the Government's design. “Boston,” he says, “gratified the curiosity of an energetic patriot who expressed a wish to see whether tea could be made with salt water.” The affair was so simple, so lucid, that it called for no further explanation. Lecky, on the otier hand, realised the extreme importance of the incident, and with much less space at his disposal, gave a clear account of what took place as seen from the outside, and explained the violence as resulting from a fear entertained by the “Sons of Liberty”—the extreme “patriots” —that if the tea were once landed “it would probably find purchasers; for owing to the drawback of the duty on exportation, it could be sold much cheaper than in England itself, and cheaper than tea imported from any other country.” If it is true, as stated, that Hancock's wealth had been chiefly made by smuggling tea from St. Eustatius, it is at least possible that he and his friends had, at this very time, a large stock of tea on their hands ; and if, as seems highly probable, the East India Company's tea could have been sold at a lower price than they hoped to charge for that which they had surreptitiously imported, we have at once a clear commercial reason for their determination to prevent the Company's tea from being landed. But such a reason could not affect Samuel Adams, who had no stock of tea or anything else, except a desire for independence, courage, and audacity. Mr. Fisher gives another reason, which is worth quoting, as it is, I think, new in this country. He says:
The majority of the patriots were apparently for moderation, and had they had their way this episode would have been tided over. Their plan was quietly to prevent the landing and payment of duty on the tea, send it all back to England, and thus show that the Tea Act, the last remnant of the taxation system begun eight years before, was a failure. The Act would then soon be repealed and taxation never again be attempted. It must be confessed that there were plausible reasons for supposing that this plan might have accomplished peaceful independence. “Our natural increase in wealth and population,” said Cushing, “will, in course of years, settle this dispute in our favour.” On the other hand, Samuel Adams and the Radicals had strong grounds for believing that the course of years would not necessarily bring independence without a war to settle it. England would not finally recognise the absolute independence of the colonies without fighting. No nation had ever done so. The inherent right of a naturally separated people to be independent, according to the rights of man, might be just and sound, but no nation had, as yet, recognised its justice. As there must be a fight, it was better, the Radicals thought, to have it now, at once, while our people were hot and England was so weak. England might settle the taxation question satisfactorily, and in the future settle the smuggling question, and be so conciliatory that the mass of people, no matter how numerous they became, would forget the past and be content to live under an easy yoke or with a sort of semi-independence. . . . The difficulty might have been settled, as in Charleston, by allowing the customs officials to seize the tea at the end of the twenty days. No one would have had the temerity to buy it, and it would then have been stored till it rotted. In fact, the consignees offered to have it stored until they should receive instructions from the East India Company what to do with it. But Adams and his people were too hot to take such chances. They were planning an outbreak, a truly Boston and Massachusetts outbreak, which would be self-restrained, and yet sufficiently violent to force both England and America to an open contest on the one great question which lay beneath all the past eight years of wrangling. . . . From the point of view of Samuel Adams, I suppose there never was a piece of liberty or revolutionary rioting that was so sagaciously and accurately calculated to effect its purpose and not go too far. If it had been very violent disorder or brutality, it might have alienated moderate or doubtful patriots whom it was important to win over. But it was so neat, gentle, pretty and comical, that, to this day, it can be described in school-books without much danger of the children [or Sir George Trevelyan] at once seeing that it was a riotous breach of the peace, a lawless violation of the rights of private property, and an open defiance of governmental authority. In England, however, the violence of it was sufficiently apparent to break up for a time the conciliatory policy, and to bring upon the Massachusetts colonists such punishment as the Radical patriots hoped would arouse the fighting spirit.
If this is to be accepted—and the evidence which Mr. Fisher arrays in support of it appears very strong—it may in truth be said that Samuel Adams was the author of the Revolution ; but in that case what becomes of the stock myth of a noble people rising in their wrath to defend their endangered freedom The question might be awkward ; but though it does not come directly before Sir George Trevelyan, he puts it, in anticipation, on one side as irrelevant. In effect he says: “All this may be valuable history. It may all be worth telling. It is quite in place as an explanation of the sentiments excited in the British Parliament by the transactions in America, but as an argument for or against the wisdom of the British policy it is of no account at all.” That may be granted ; but, on the other hand, it is an argument of some account that if the Colonists, worked on by Samuel Adams and other unscrupulous or interested agitators, were determined on pushing matters to an extreme issue, no policy could have been wise enough to satisfy them. And the British policy was anything but wise. Sir George Trevelyan, however, appears to hold that all the unwisdom and folly were with the King's party—the Tories; all the wisdom and virtue with the Opposition—the Whigs. In reality, each party had its full share of the want of wisdom, want of tact, and of downright ignorance which, on the English side, led up to the first breach ; nearly every public man in the kingdom had a direct part in the quarrel, and indirectly the fault lay with the whole nation which approved and insisted on maintaining the Navigation Laws in their full stringency.
It is most unjust to state or to suggest that the whole blame of the revolt rests on the King and on the Ministers of his choice, and equally so to blame them, exclusively, for not seeing that nothing but full concession could satisfy the Colonists. The Rockingham Ministry had been equally blind; and with all