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It is the honor of England that she had deposited in the virgin soil of her Colonies the germ of freedom. Nearly all at their foundation, or shortly after, received charters which conferred the franchises of the mother country on the Colonists. These charters were neither a vain show nor a dead letter, but really did establish and allow powerful institutions which impelled the Colonists to defend their liberty, and to control the power by participating in it as constituted in the grant of supplies, the election of public councils, trial by jury, and the right of assembling to discuss the general affairs.

To us of today these appear as common-sense or logically necessary rights; but we must remember that in those early days of colonization they were distinct privileges accorded in power to the Colonists. And it is in these very privileges that we behold the germinating principle which was ultimately to bring to life the new republic then as yet unborn. For as Thomas Jefferson afterward wrote, "where every man is a sharer in the direction of his town-republic, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; when there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than allow his power to be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte. How powerfully did we feel the energy of this organization in the case of the embargo!"

Notwithstanding the widely different origin of the various Colonists, the circumstances in which they were placed were so similar, that the same general form of personal character must inevitably have developed itself, and produced a growing consciousness of power and impatience of foreign imposition. The proximate independence of America need not have been a certainty, however, had the eyes of English statesmen not been blinded to the truth of the principles urged by such men as Otis in America and Burke in England. The causes which were to produce a final rupture were, to be sure, already at work (their full operation being delayed by the lack of union among the different provinces), but there was at the same time a warm hereditary attachment to the parent country, under whose wings the provinces had grown up, by whose arms they had been shielded, and by whose commerce, in spite of jealous restrictions, they had been enriched.

Indeed life in the Colonies was so closely related to that in the mother country that in a very marked degree, the history of the Colonies is only the more practical and laborious development of the spirit of liberty flourishing amid the conditions of life in the new country under the standard of the laws and traditions of the old country. As the eminent philosophical historian, M. Guizat, has said, "It might be considered the history of England herself." The resemblance is the more striking when we remember that the majority of the American Colonies and the more important of them were founded or increased the most rapidly at the very epoch when England was preparing to sustain, and in part already sustaining, those fierce conflicts against the pretensions of absolute power which were to obtain for her the honor of giving to the world the first example of a great nation free and well governed.

How similarly the state of affairs appeared, in the eyes of those who were not blinded by self-interest, on both sides of the Atlantic, is shown by the following extracts from Burke and Otis.

In 1770 Burke thus described the social and political conditions both at home and in the Colonies: "That the government is at once dreaded and contemned; that the laws are despoiled of all their respected and salutary terrors; that their inaction is a subject of ridicule and their enforcement of abhorrence; that rank, and office, and title, and all the solemn plausibilities of the world, have lost their reverence and effect; that our foreign politics are as much deranged as our domestic economy; that our dependencies are slackened in their affection and loosened from their obedience; that we know neither how to yield nor how to enforce; that hardly anything above or below, abroad or at home, is sound and entire; but that disconnection and confusion, in office, in parties, in families, in parliament, in the nation, prevail beyond the disorders of any former time, these are facts universally admitted and lamented."

When in 1768 troops were sent to Boston to prevent a repetition of the disturbances which had resulted from the arbitrary and insulting manner in which the commissioners of customs exercised their office, Otis was chosen moderator of the town meeting held in protest, and is reported to have declared "That in case Great Britain was not disposed to redress their grievances after proper applications, the inhabitants had nothing more to do, but to gird the sword to the thigh, and shoulder the musket." Another account presents a somewhat more temperate tone, representing Otis as "strongly recommending peace and good order, and the grievances the people labored under might in time be removed; if not, and we were called on to defend our liberties and privileges, he hoped and believed we should, one and all, resist even unto blood; but at the same time, he prayed Almighty God it might never so happen."

The change from favorable conditions both in England and in the Colonies to the state of unrest depicted by these passages from Burke and Otis, had been brought about by the attempt to use strong measures, enforced with no just regard for the welfare of the whole people. The English Ministry failed to realize that it is of the utmost importance not to make mistakes in the use of strong measures; that firmness is a virtue only when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. Their course of political conduct, combined with the establishment of a system of favoritism both at home and abroad like that adopted by Henry the Third of France, produced results of the same kind as the latter.

Members of parliament for the most part were practically convinced that they did not depend on the affection or opinion of the people for their political being, and gave themselves over, with scarcely the appearance of reserve, to the influence of the court. There was thus developed both a ministry and parliament unconnected with the people, and we have the deplorable picture of the executive and legislative parts of a government attempting to exist apart from their true foundation--the opinion of the people. How signally such attempts have always failed is a matter of historical record. And the steadfast belief that they always will so fail constitutes the great force of public opinion to-day.

Had the English Ministry and the Colonial Governors, in particular Governor Bernard of Massachusetts, recognized certain cardinal principles of individual and national liberty, which were so strongly advocated by Burke and Otis, the course of events in their dealing with the colonists would in all probability have been greatly different from that actually developed. Burke declared that as long as reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as long as opinion, the great support of the state, depend entirely upon the voice of the people, the latter can never be considered as a thing of little consequence either to individuals or to governments. He pointed out that nations are governed by the same methods, and on the same principles, by which an individual without authority is often able to govern those who are his equals or even his superiors, namely, by a knowledge of their temper, and by a judicious management of it; that is, when public affairs are steadily and quietly conducted, not when government descends to a continued scuffle between the magistrate and the multitude, in which sometimes the one and sometimes the other is uppermost; each alternately yielding and prevailing in a series of contemptible victories and scandalous submissions. "The temper of the people amongst whom he presides ought, therefore, to be the first study of a statesman. And the knowledge of this temper it is by no means impossible for him to attain, if he has not an interest in being ignorant of what it is his duty to learn."

Of course it will not do to think that the people are never in the wrong. They have frequently been so, both in other countries and in England; but in all disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favor of the people. History justifies us in going even further, for when popular discontents have been very prevalent something has generally been found amiss in the constitution, or in the conduct of the government. As Burke declares, "the people have no interest in disorder. When they do wrong, it is their error, and not their crime. But with the governing part of the state it is far otherwise. They certainly may act ill by design, as well as by mistake. If this presumption in favor of the subjects against the trustees of power be not the more probable, I am sure it is the more comfortable speculation; because it is more easy to change an administration than to reform a people."

Very much the same ideas are presented by Otis in his article on the "Rights of the Colonists," and the passage bearing on this present topic will be given for comparison with Burke's treatment. The pamphlet is divided into four parts, treating respectively of the origin of government, of colonies in general, of the natural rights of colonists, and of the political and civil rights of the British Colonists. The writer maintains, that government is founded not as some had supposed on compact, but as Paley afterwards affirmed, on the will of God. By the divine will, the supreme power is placed "originally and ultimately in the people; and they never did, in fact, freely, nor can they rightfully, make an absolute, unlimited renunciation of this divine right. It is ever in the nature of a thing given in trust; and on a condition the performance of which no mortal can dispense with, namely, that the person or persons, on whom the sovereignty is conferred by the people, shall incessantly consult their good. Tyranny of all kinds is to be abhorred, whether it be in the hands of one, or of the few, or of the many.

The Colonies were not at all unwilling to pay revenue to the home government, if the manner of payment was just and right. They were so far from refusing to grant money that the Assembly of Pennsylvania resolved to the following effect: "That they always had, so they always should think it their duty to grant aid to the crown, according to their abilities, whenever required of them in the usual constitutional manner." This resolution was presented by Franklin, who was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, to the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Grenville, before the latter introduced the Stamp Act into Parliament. Other Colonies made similar resolutions, and had Grenville instead of the Stamp Act, applied to the King for proper requisitional letters to be circulated among the Colonies by the Secretary of State, it is highly probable that he would have obtained more money from the colonies by their voluntary grants than he himself expected from the stamps. Such at any rate is the claim of Franklin, who was surely in a position to feel the pulse of the colonies better than any other one man. "But he (Grenville) chose compulsion rather than persuasion, and would not receive from their good-will what he thought he could obtain without it. Thus the golden bridge which the Americans were charged with unwisely and unbecomingly refusing to hold out to the minister and parliament, was actually held out to them, but they refused to walk over it."

The action of the English Ministry in the matter of the tea tax in particular, and of the whole question of American taxation in general, is thus spoken of by Burke in his famous address in the House of Commons:

"There is nothing simple, nothing manly, nothing ingenious, open, decisive, or steady, in the proceeding, with regard either to the continuance or the repeal of the taxes. The whole has an air of littleness and fraud. There is no fair dealing in any part of the transaction." "No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition of three-pence. But no commodity will bear three-pence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated, and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the colonists were formerly the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune? No, but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have made him a slave. It is then upon the principle of this measure, and nothing else, that we are at issue." "I select the obnoxious colony of Massachusetts Bay, which at this time (but without hearing her) is so heavily a culprit before parliament--I will select their proceedings even under circumstances of no small irritation. For, a little imprudently, I must say, Governor Bernard mixed in the administration of the lenitive of the repeal no small acrimony arising from matters of a separate nature. Yet see, Sir, the effect of that lenitive, though mixed with these bitter ingredients; and how this rugged people can express themselves on a measure of concession.

"'If it is not in our power,' (say they in their address to Governor Bernard), "in so full a manner as will be expected, to show our respectful gratitude to the mother country, or to make a dutiful and affectionate return to the indulgence of the king and parliament, it shall be no fault of ours; for this we intend, and hope we shall be able fully to effect.'

"Would to God that this tender had been cultivated, managed, and set in action; other effects than those which we have since felt would have resulted from it. On the requisition for compensation to those who had suffered from the violence of the populace, in the same address they say, 'The recommendation enjoined by Mr. Secretary Conway's letter, and in consequence thereof made to us, we will embrace the first convenient opportunity to consider and act upon.' They did consider; they did act upon, it. They obeyed the requisition. I know the mode has been chicaned upon, but it was substantially obeyed, and much better obeyed than I fear the parliamentary requisition of this session will be, though enforced by all your rigour, and backed with all your power. In a word, the damages of popular fury were compensated by legislative gravity. Almost every other part of America in various ways demonstrated their gratitude. I am bold to say, that so sudden a calm recovered after so violent a storm is without parallel in history. To say that no other disturbance should happen from any other cause, is folly. But as far as appearances went, by the judicious sacrifice of one law, you procured an acquiescence in all that remained. After this experience, nobody shall persuade me, when a whole people are concerned, that acts of lenity are not means of conciliation."