« PreviousContinue »
living could expect to see it;' and he adds that the rapid growth of colonial power had as yet produced no plan or even desire of independency,' and that the greatest hope from the reduction of Canada, as far as could be judged from the public prayers of the clergy as well as from the conversation of people in general, was 'to sit quiet under their own vines and fig-trees, and to have none to make them afraid.'1 The great career of Pitt, which had intensified patriotic feelings throughout the Empire, was nowhere more appreciated than in America, and the Peace of Paris, however distasteful to Englishmen, might at least have been expected to strengthen the loyalty of the colonies. It had been made by men who were wholly beyond the range of their influence, yet they had gained incomparably more by it than any other portion of the Empire.
The patriotism of the colonies indeed attracted them far more to England than to each other. Small groups of colonies were no doubt drawn together by a natural affinity, but there was no common colonial government, and they were in general, at least as jealous of each other as of England. One of the chief excuses for imposing by parliamentary authority imperial taxation on the colonies was the extreme difficulty of inducing them to co-operate cordially for military purposes. Soon after the Revolution William had proposed a plan for general defence against the French forces in Canada by which each colony was to contribute a contingent proportionate to its numbers, but all the colonial Assemblies rejected it, and the States which were most remote from the danger absolutely refused to participate in the expense. In 1754, when another great war was impending, a Congress of Commissioners from the different colonies assembled at Albany, at the summons of the Lords of Trade, for the purpose of concerting together and with the friendly Indians upon measures of defence. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Commissioners for Pennsylvania, and he brought forward a plan for uniting the colonies for defence and for some other purposes of general utility into a single Federal State, administered by a President-General appointed by the Crown, and by a general council elected by the colonial Assemblies; but the plan was equally repudiated by the colonial Legislatures as likely to abridge their authority, and by the Board of Trade as likely to foster colonial independence. In the war that ensued it was therefore left to the colonial legislatures to act independently in raising troops and money, and while the Northern colonies which lay nearest Canada more than fulfilled their part, some of the Southern ones refused to take any considerable share of the burden. The management of Indian affairs gradually passed with general approval from the different colonial legislatures to the Crown, as it was found impossible to induce the former to act together on any settled plan. The history of the colonies during the twenty or thirty years preceding the Declaration of Independence is full of intestine or inter-colonial disputes. There were angry discussions about boundaries between Massachusetts on the one hand, and Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut on the other. Albany was long accused of trafficking largely with the Indians for the spoils they had obtained in their raids upon New England. New York quarrelled fiercely with Virginia about the responsibility for the failure of a military expedition, and with New Hampshire about the government of the territory which was subsequently known as Vermont. In Pennsylvania and Maryland the Assemblies were in continual hostility with their proprietaries, and the mother-country was compelled to decide a violent dispute about salaries between the Virginian laity and clergy. Great bodies of Dutch, Germans, French, Swedes, Scotch, and Irish, scattered among the descendants of the English, contributed to the heterogeneous character of the colonies, and they comprised so many varieties of government, religious belief, commercial interest, and social type, that their union appeared to many inoredible on the very eve of the Revolution.' The movement which at last arrayed them in a united front against England was not a blind instinctive patriotism or community of sentiment, like that which animates old countries. It was the deliberate calculation of intelligent men, who perceived that by such union alone could they attain the objects of their desire.
| Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay, 84, 85.
2 The Swedish traveller Kalm, who visited North America in 1749 and 1750, was much struck with this dislike to co-operation. He says, 'Each English colony in North America is independent of the other. . . . From hence it happens that in time of war things go on very slowly and irregularly here; for not only the sense of one province is sometimes directly opposite to that of another, but frequently the views of the governor and those of the Assembly of the same province are quite different. . . . It has commonly happened that while
some provinces have been suffering from their enemies, the neighbouring ones were quiet and inactive and as if it did not in the least concern them. They have frequently taken up two or three years in considering whether they should give assistance to an oppressed sister colony, and sometimes they have expressly declared themselves against it. There are instances of provinces who were not only neuter in these circumstances, but who even carried on a great trade with the Power which at that very time was attack. ing and laying waste some other provinces.'-Pinkerton's Voyages, xiii 460, 461.
New England, which was the centre of the resistance, was then divided into the four States of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and it was, in proportion to its size, by far the most populous portion of British America. It comprised about a third part of its whole population, and Massachusetts alone had, during a great part of the last war, maintained 7,000 men under arms. The descendants of the old Puritans, the New Englanders were still chiefly Congregationalists or Presbyterians, and there might be found among them an austerity of manners and of belief which was hardly exceeded in Scotland. It was, however, gradually declining under many influences. Time, increasing wealth, the intellectual atmosphere of the eighteenth century, the disorders and changes produced by a state of war, contact with large bodies of European soldiers, and also the demoralising influence of a great smuggling trade with the French West Indies, had all in their different ways impaired the old types of character. The Governments of three of the colonies were exceedingly democratic. In Massachusetts the Council or Upper Chamber, instead of being, as in most provinces, appointed by the Sovereign, was elected annually by the Lower Chamber; every town officer was annually chosen; all town affairs were decided in public meetings; the clergy were selected by their congregations, and, with the exception of a few Custom-house officers, the Crown officers were paid by the State. The Governor was appointed by the Crown, and he possessed a right of veto upon laws, and also upon the appointment of Councillors; but as his own salary and that of the whole Executive depended on the popular vote, and as the Council emanated directly from the representative body, his actual power was extremely small. The civil list allowed by the Assembly was precarious and was cut down to the narrowest limits. The Governor usually received 1,0001. English currency a year, but obtained some additional occasional grants. The LieutenantGovernor received no salary as such, except during the absence of the Governor, and the office was therefore usually combined with some other. The judges had each only about 1201. sterling a year, with the addition of some fees, which were said not to have been sufficient to cover their travelling expenses. The Attorney-General received no salary from the Assembly, as the Governor refused to recognise its claim to have a voice in his appointment. Rhode Island and Connecticut were even more democratic than Massachusetts. By the charters conceded to these colonies, the freemen elected all their officers from the highest to the lowest, and they were not obliged to communicate the acts of their local legislatures to the King. Such a system had naturally led to grave abuses, and in Rhode Island especially there were loud complaints of the scandalous partiality of the judges and of the low prevailing tone of honesty and statesmanship.'
The following is the judgment of that usually very acute observer, Burnaby, who travelled through the colonies in 1759 and 1760. 'Fire and water are not more heterogeneous than the different colonies in North America. Nothing can exceed the jealousy and emulation which they possess in regard to each other. The inhabitants of Pennsylvania and New York have an inexhaustible source of ani. mosity in their jealousy for the trade of the Jerseys. Massachusetts Bay and Rhode Island are not less interested in that of Connecticut. The West Indies are a common subject of emulation to them all. Even the limits and boundaries of each colony are a constant source of litigation. In short, such is the difference of character, of manners, of religion, of interest of the different colonies, that I think if I am not wholly ignorant of the human mind, were they left to
themselves, there would soon be a civil war from one end of the con. tinent to the other; while the Indians and negroes would with better reason impatiently watch the opportunity of exterminating them altogether.' Pinkerton, xiii. 752. Otis, one of the earliest and most considerable of the American patriots, wrote in 1765, ‘God forbid these colonies should ever prove undutiful to their mother-country. Whenever such a day shall come it will be the beginning of a terrible
Were these colonies left to themselves to-morrow, America would be a mere shambles of blood and con. fusion before little petty states could be settled.'-Answer to the Halifax Libel, p. 16.
2 According to Grahame (iv. 125) in 1763 it contained upwards of 500,000 persons. The North American Gazetteer (2nd edit. 1778) estimates its population at upwards of 600,000.
| Reports of the Board of Trade on the Establishments in America (1766). American Papers, MSS., Record
Office. See too a letter of Hutchinson in the American Remembrancer, 1776, part i. 159.
One of the most remarkable recent changes in New England manners was the extraordinary increase of litigation and the rapid growth in numbers and importance of the legal class. For a century and a half of colonial days there were but two lay presidents of Harvard College; nearly half the students were intended for some church ministry, and the profession of a lawyer was looked upon as in some degree dishonest and disreputable. It was rapidly rising, however, in New England as elsewhere, and it contributed more than any other profession to the Revolution. Jefferson, Adams, Otis, Dickenson, and many other minor agents in the struggle were lawyers. Another influence which did much to lower the New England character was the abundance of depreciated paper money. In 1750 the British Parliament granted a money to reimburse Massachusetts for what it had expended more than its proportion towards the general expense of the war, and the Legislature of the province determined to redeem their paper, but to do so at a depreciated value, and only an ounce of silver was given for 508. of paper, though the bills themselves promised an ounce for 6s. 8d. In 1751 the mothercountry was obliged to interpose to prevent the New Englanders from cheating their English creditors by making paper legal tender.3
See the very unfavourable picture given by Burnaby ; Pinkerton, xiji. 742,743. Winterbotham's Present Situation of the United States (1796), ii. 236. Burke's European Settlements in America, ii. 300.
? See a curious passage in the Life of Adams prefixed to his Familiar Letters to his Wife, pp. x. xiv. Tucker says of America, 'In no country perhaps in the world are there so many lawsuits.'- Letter to Burke, p. 26. So too Burke, 'In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful, and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to Con. gress were lawyers. ... I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business, after tracts of
popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations.'-Speech on Conciliation with America. See too Burke's Euri. pean Settlements in America, ü. 304. The passion for the law steadily in. creased, and in 1787 Noah Webster wrote, “Never was such a rage for the study of law. From one end of the continent to the other the students of this science are multiplying without number. An infallible proof that the business is lucrative.'-Webster's Es.
says, p. 116.
24 Geo. II. C. 53. Another law to facilitate recovery of debts from America was made in 1732 (5 Geo. II. c. 7). See on this subject Tucker's Letter to Burke, pp. 29-31. Bolles' Financial History of the United States,
pp. 29, 30.