Page images


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

our juries. And they observed that it was unlikely that the act would ever be put in execution, as chey were in hopes that such a seasonable fhew of so much vigour and lenity would operate to bring the colonies. to a sense of their duty, aud make them give over their seditious practices. These are the arguments upon the other side, which as they have little force in themselves, have hithezro, in the execution produced none of those effects which the authors promised.

Administracion seem to have expected more confidence from the public, than their conduct for some years past entitled them to, when they say it was ungenerous to suppose that they would make an improper use of their power in harrassing innocent persons, for their past conduct gave all the reason in the world to suppose that mercy and clemency were none of their characteristic virtues. And as they had refused to admit an enquiry into the original causes of the disorders in the colonies, there was good reason to conclude that impartiality would not be observed in prosecuting those who were the objects of their resentinent. The colonists had for some time been in a state of disorder, and many irregularities had been committed, but there was a jealousy and suspicion that some mismanagement in government had been the cause thereof; it was therefore unreafonable to seek to punish the petty delinquents, without taking notice of those who had been the cause of all these evils. The constitution of the government of the Massachusetts colony, in granting that privilege to the townfhips, the privilege of electing juries, and to the affembly, the liberty of appointing the council, had never produced any ill consequences, till ambitious goverpors wanted to diétate to both councils and assemblies; and then they found that the constitution of the colony was a check upon their power, and restrainBb



ed it within a certain limit. Those who formerly had no other object in view than to rule for the good of the comununity, never considered this part of the con: ftitution of the colony as any hardship: they supported their own legal dignity, and never wanted to encroach upon the rivileges of the people. But some late governors affumed power which their office did not give them, and when they could not rule the colony according to their arbitrary pleasure, because the government of the province did not allow them so to do, they began to complain both of the form of government, and the conduct of the people, who did no more than it allowed them. It would have been no more than fair, to have made an enquiry into the conduct of government, that it might have appeared, whether the disturbances had arisen from maladministration in the officers of the crown, or from the licentiousness and restlessness of the people. Had it appeared that the ministry and governors had done their duty, it would have united all ranks in this kingdom against the colonists, and added a strength to administration which would have enabled them to have pursued their measures with more ease and satisfaction. But when suspicions of the public, that there were fomething done that could not bear a trial. The allusion to the times of the Stewarts, in the reasoning of the majority, and their keeness for the revival of the statute of Henry the eight, encreased the jealousy of the colo: nists, and aggravated the opposition at home." Precedents taken from arbitrary reigns, and tyrannica! princes, ħad but an ill appearance, and were not reckoned suitable to the principles of the revolution, and the government of a prince of the Brunswick line. The colonists irritated already, by what was past,


considered these new measures, as contrivances of state to enslave them; and they began to apprehend that government would proceed from one thing to another, till they reduced them to the state they were in before the revolution. What gave rise to these apprehensions, was the finilarity of proceedings, and the influence that the friends of the ancient family were supposed to have in the Court of Britain ; these ideas were confirmed by the effays of party-writers in England, who, without confining themselves always to truth, had for some years past, in the most positive manner affirmed, that all the springs of government were moved and managed by an invisible agent, whose influence turned the puppets which way he pleased. Though it cannot be reasonably supposed that any one man pofseffed such influence as was supposed, yet the measures of the ministry were frequently so suspicious and inconsistent, that they gave reason for such furmi.. ses. It is not strange that the colonists should have believed what was published with so much confidence in the mother country, especially when we consider that their minds by this time were warped by prejtidices and their imaginations heated with opposition and resentment. They had petitioned without suc. cess, and remonstrated in vain ; they acknowledged the supremacy of the sovereign, and the authority of parliament to direct their trade and navigation, but nothing would please administration but absolute dominion over their all. This they accounted contrary to their natural rights as Englishmen, and a breach of their charters; and the new proceedings of parliament they considered as so many chains to enslave them. Thus like a stream that is fed by constant supplies, their opposition encreased, till, like a torrent, it overilowed all bounds.


« PreviousContinue »