Documents on the Revenue and Stamp Acts
DOCUMENTS ON THE REVENUE AND STAMP ACTS 1764-1767
- Petition from the Massachusetts House of Representatives to the House of Commons November 3, 1764
- Petition of the Virginia House of Burgesses to the House of Commons December 18 1764
- Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions May 30, 1765
- The Declarations of the Stamp Act Congress, 1765
- Non-importation Agreement of New York Merchants October 31, 1765
- Connecticut Resolutions on the Stamp Act December 10, 1765
- Lt.-Gov. William Bull to the Board of Trade November 3, 1765
- Letter of Henry Cruger, Jr. to Henry Cruger, Sr. February 14, 1766 and [To Aaron Lopez, Bristol, 1 March 1766]
The petition of the Council and House of Representatives of his Majesty's Province of Massachusetts Bay, Most humbly showeth:
That the Act passed in the last session of Parliament, entitled " An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America," etc., must necessarily bring many burdens upon the inhabitants of these colonies and plantations, which your petitioners conceive would not have been imposed if a full representation of the state of the colonies had been made to your honourable House. That the duties laid upon foreign sugars and molasses by a former Act of Parliament entitled " an Act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in America," if the Act had been executed with rigour, must have had the effect of an absolute prohibition.
That the duties laid on those articles by the present Act still remain so great that, however otherwise intended, they must undoubtedly have the same effect. That the importation of foreign molasses into this province in particular is of the greatest importance, and a prohibition will be prejudicial to many branches of its trade and will lessen the consumption of the manufactures of Great Britain. That this importance does not arise merely, nor principally, from the necessity of foreign molasses in order to its being consumed or distilled within the province. That if the trade for many years carried on for foreign molasses can be no longer continued, a vent cannot be found for more than one half the fish of inferior quality which are caught and cured by the inhabitants of the province, the French not per-netting fish to be carried by foreigners to any of their islands, unless it be bartered or exchanged for molasses.
That if there be no sale of fish of inferior quality it will be impossible to continue the fishery, the fish usually sent to Europe will then cost so dear that the French will be able to undersell the English at all the European markets; and by this means one of the most valuable returns to Great Britain will be utterly lost, and that great nursery of seamen destroyed.
That the restraints laid upon the exportation of timber, boards, staves, and other lumber from the colonies to Ireland and other parts of Europe, except Great Britain, must greatly affect the trade of this province and discourage the clearing and improving of the lands which are yet uncultivated.
That the powers given by the late Act to the court of vice-admiralty, instituted over all America, are so expressed as to leave it doubtful, whether goods seized for illicit importation in any one of the colonies may not be removed, in order to trial, to any other colony where the judge may reside, although at many hundred miles distance from the place of seizure.
That if this construction should be admitted, many persons, however legally they goods may have been imported, must lose their property, merely from an inability of following after it, and making that defence which they might do if the trial had been in the colony where the goods were seized.
That this construction would be so much the more grievous, seeing that in America the officers by this Act are indemnified in case of seizure whenever the judge of admiralty shall certify y that there was probable camise; and the claimant can neither have costs nor maintain an action against the person seizing, how much soever he may have expended in defence of his property.
That the extension of the powers of courts of vice-admiralty has, so far as the jurisdiction of the said courts hath been extended, deprived the colonies of one of the' most valuable of English liberties, trials by juries.
That every Act of Parliament, which in this respect distinguishes his Majesty's subjects in the colonies from their fellow subjects in Great Britain, must create a very sensible concern and grief.
That there have been communicated to your petitioners sundry resolutions of the House of Commons in their last session for imposing stamp duties or taxes upon the inhabitants of the colonies, the consideration whereof was referred to the next session. That your petitioners acknowledge with all gratitude the tendencies [tenderness of the legislature of Great Britain of the liberties of the subjects in the colonies, who have always judged by their representatives both of the way and manner in which internal taxes should bc raised within their respective governments, and of the ability of the inhabitants to pay them.
That they humbly hope the colonies in general have so demeaned themselves, more especially during the late war, as still to deserve the continuance of all those liberties which they have hitherto enjoyed.
That although during the war the taxes upon the colonies were greater than they have been since the conclusion of it, yet the sources by which the inhabitants were enabled to pay their taxes having ceased, and their trade being decayed, they are not so able to pay the taxes they are subjected to in time of peace as they were the greater taxes in time of war.
That one principal difficulty which has ever attended the trade of the colonies, proceeds from the scarcity of money, which scarcity is caused by the balance of trade with Great Britain, which has been continually against the colonies. That the drawing sums of money from the colonies from time to time must distress the trade to that degree that eventually Great Britain may lose more by the diminution of the consumption of her manufactures than all the sums which it is possible for the colonies thus to pay can countervail.
That they humbly conceive if the taxes which the inhabitants of this province are obliged annually to pay towards the support of the internal government, the restraint they are under in their trade for the benefit of Great Britain, and the consumption thereby occasioned of British manufactures, be all considered and have their due weight it must appear that the subjects of this province arc as fully burdened as their fellow subjects in Britain, and that they are, whilst in America, more beneficial to the nation than they would be if they should be removed to Britain and there held to a full proportion of the national taxes and duties of every kind.
Your petitioners, therefore, most humbly pray that they may be relieved from the burdens which, they have humbly represented to have been brought upon them by the late Act of Parliament, as to the wisdom of the honourable House shall seem meet, that the privileges of the colonies relative to their internal taxes which they have so
To the Honourable the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of Great Britain in Parliament assembled:
The Remonstrance of the Council and Burgesses of Virginia. It appearing by the printed votes of the House of Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled that in a committee of the whole House, the 17th day of March last, it was resolved that towards defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America, it may be proper to charge certain stamp duties in the said colonies and plantations; and it being apprehended that the same subject, which was then declined, may be resumed and further pursued in a succeeding session, the Council and Burgesses of Virginia, met in General Assembly, judge it their indispensable duty, in a respectful manner but with decent firmness, to remonstrate against such a measure, that at least a cession of those rights, which in their opinion must be infringed by that procedure, may not be inferred from their silence, at so important a crisis.
They conceive it is essential to British liberty that laws imposing taxes on the people ought not to be made without the consent of representatives chosen by themselves; who, at the same time that they are acquainted with the circumstances of their constituents, sustain a proportion of the burden laid on them. This privilege, inherent in the persons who discovered and settled these regions, could not be renounced or forfeited by their removal hither, not as vagabonds or fugitives, but licensed and encouraged by their prince and animated with a laudable desire of enlarging the British dominion, and extending its commerce. On the contrary, it was secured to them and their descendants, with all other rights and immunities of British subjects, by a royal charter, which hath been invariably recognized and confirmed by his Majesty and his predecessors in their commissions to the several governors, granting a power, and prescribing a forum of legislation; according to which, laws for the administration of justice, and for the welfare and good government of the colony, have been hitherto enacted by the Governor, Council, and General Assembly, and to them requisitions and applications for supplies have been directed by the Crown. As an instance of the opinion which former sovereigns entertained of these rights and privileges, we beg leave to refer to three acts of the General Assembly passed in the 32d year of the reign of King Charles II (one of which is entitled An Act for raising a Public Revenue for the better Support of the Government of his Majesty's Colony of Virginia, imposing several duties for that purpose) which they thought absolutely necessary, were prepared in England, and sent over by their then governor, the Lord Culpepper, to be passed by the General Assembly, with a full power to give the royal assent thereto; and which were accordingly passed, after several amendments were made to them here. Thus tender was his Majesty of the rights of his American subjects; and the remonstrants do not discern by what distinction they can be deprived of that sacred birthright and most valuable inheritance by their fellow subjects, nor with what propriety they can be taxed or affected in their estates by the Parliament, wherein they are not, and indeed cannot, constitutionally be represented. and if it were proper for the Parliament to impose taxes on the colonies at all, which the remonstrants take leave to think would be inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the constitution, the exercise of that power at this time would be ruinous to Virginia, who exerted herself in the late war, it is feared, beyond her strength, insomuch that to redeem the money granted for that exigence her people are taxed for several years to come; this with the large expenses incurred for defending the frontiers against the restless Indians, who have infested her as much since the peace as before, is so grievous that an increase of the burden will be intolerable; especially as the people are very greatly distressed already from the scarcity of circulating cash amongst them, and from the little value of their staple at the British markets.
And it is presumed that adding to that load which the colony now labours under will not be more oppressive to her people than destructive of the interests of Great Britain; for the plantation trade, confined as it is to the mother country, hath been a principal means of multiplying and enriching her inhabitants; and if not too much discouraged, may prove an inexhaustible source of treasure to the nation. For satisfaction in this point, let the present state of the British fleets and trade be compared with what they were before the settlement of the colonies; and let it be considered that whilst property in land may be acquired on very easy terms, in the vast uncultivated territory of North America, the colonists will be mostly, if not wholly, employed in agriculture; whereby the exportation of their commodities of Great Britain, and the consumption of their manufactures supplied from thence, will be daily increasing. But this most desirable connection between Great Britain and her colonies, supported by such a happy intercourse of reciprocal benefits as is continually advancing the prosperity of both, must be interrupted, if the people of the latter, reduced to extreme poverty, should be compelled to manufacture those articles they have been hitherto furnished with from the former.
From these considerations it is hoped that the honourable House of Commons will not prosecute a measure which those who may suffer under it cannot but look upon as fitter for exiles driven from their native country, After ignominiously forfeiting her favours and protection, than for the prosperity of Britons who have at all times been forward to demonstrate all due reverence to the mother kingdom, and are so instrumental in promoting her glory and felicity; and that British patriots will never consent to the exercise of anticonstitutional power, which even in this remote corner may be dangerous in its example to the interior parts of the British Empire, and will certainly be detrimental to its commerce.
Whereas, the honourable House of Commons in England, have of late draw[n] into question how far the General Assembly of this colony hath power to enact laws for laying of taxes and imposing duties payable by the people of this, his Majesty's most ancient colony; for settling and ascertaining the same to all future times, the House of Burgesses of this present General Assembly have come to the following resolves.
 Resolved, that the first adventurers, settlers of this his Majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia, brought with them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other his Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this his Majesty's colony, all the privileges and immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.
 Resolved, that by two royal charters granted by King James the first, the colonists aforesaid are declared and entitled to all privileges and immunities of natural born subject, to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England.
 Resolved, that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burdensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.
 Resolved, that his Majesty's liege people of this ancient colony have enjoyed the right of being thus governed by their own Assembly in the article of taxes and internal police, and that the same have never been forfeited, or any other way yielded up, but have been constantly recognized by the king and people of Great Britain.
* Resolved, therefore, that the General Assembly of this colony, together with his Majesty or his substitutes, have in their representatives capacity, the only exclusive right and power to lay taxes and imposts upon the inhabitants of this colony; and that every attempt to vest such power in any other person or persons whatever than the General Assembly aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust, and has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American liberty.
* Resolved, that his Majesty's liege people, the inhabitants of this colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatsoever upon them, other than the laws or ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid.
* Resolved, that any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or persons other than the General Assembly of this colony, have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to his Majesty's colony. _________________
* The last two resolutions were rejected by the House of Burgesses and the fifth was later rescinded the following day.
The members of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to his Majesty's person and government; inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the Protestant succession, and with minds deeply impressed by a sense of the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent; having considered as maturely as time would permit, the circumstances of the said colones, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations, of our humble opinion, respecting the most essential rights and liberties of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labour, by reason of several late acts of Parliament.
I. That his Majesty's subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain, that is owing from hs subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the Parliament of Great Britain.
II. That his Majesty's liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.
III. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes should be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.
IV. That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the House of Commons in Great Britain.
V. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies, are persons chosen therein by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislature.
VI. That all supplies to the Crown, being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant to his majesty the property of the colonists
VII. That trial by jury is the inherent an invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.
VIII. That the late Act of Parliament, entitled, An Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, etc., by imposing taxes on the inhabitants of these colonies, and the said Act, and several other Acts, by extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty beyond its ancient limits, have a manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.
IX. That the duties imposed by several late Acts of Parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burdensome and grievous, and from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable.
X. That as the profits of the trade of these colonies ultimately centre in Great Britain, to pay for the manufactures which they are obliged to take from thence, they eventually contribute very largely to all supplies granted there to the Crown.
XI. That the restrictions imposed by several late Acts of Parliament, on the trade of these colonies, will render them unable to purchase the manufactures of Great Britain.
XII. That the increase, prosperity and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an intercourse with Great Britain, mutually affectionate and advantageous.
XIII. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies, to petition the king or either house of Parliament.
Lastly, that it is the indispensable duty of these colonies to the best of sovereigns, to the mother country, and to themselves, to endeavour by a loyal and dutiful address to his Majesty, and humble applications to both houses of Parliament, to procure the repeal of the Act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, of all clauses of any other Acts of Parliament, whereby the jurisdiction of the admiralty is extended as aforesaid, and of the other late Acts for the restriction of American commerce.
[New York Mercury, 7 November 1765]
At a general meeting of the merchants of the city of New York, trading to GreatBritain, at the house of Mr. George Burns, of the said city, innholder, to consider what was necessary to be done in the present situation of affairs with respect to the Stamp Act, and the melancholy state of the North American commerce, so greatly restricted by the impositions and duties established by the late acts of trade, they came to the following resolutions, viz.
First. That in all orders they send out to Great Britain for goods or merchandise of any nature, kind, or quality whatsoever, usually imported from Great Britain, they will direct their correspondents not to ship them unless the Stamp Act be repealed. It is nevertheless agreed that all such merchants as are owners of and have vessels already gone, and now cleared out for Great Britain, shall be at liberty to bring back in them, on their own accounts, crates and casks of earthen ware, grindstones, pipes, and such other bulky articles as owners usually fill up their vessels with.
Secondly. It is further unanimously agreed that all orders already sent home, shall be countermanded by the very first conveyance; and the goods and merchandise thereby ordered, not to be sent unless upon the condition mentioned in the foregoing resolution.
Thirdly. It is further unanimously agreed that no merchant will vend any goods or merchandise sent upon commission from Great Britain that shall be shipped from thence after the first day of January next unless upon the condition mentioned in the first resolution.
Fourthly. It is further unanimously agreed that the foregoing resolutions shall be binding until the same are abrogated at a general meeting hereafter to be held for that purpose. In witness whereof we have hereunto respectively subscribed our names.
[This was subscribed by upwards of two hundred principal merchants.]
In consequence of the foregoing resolutions the retailers of goods of the city of New York subscribed a paper in the words following, viz.
We, the underwritten, retailers of goods, do hereby promise and oblige ourselves not to buy any goods, wares, or merchandises of any person or persons whatsoever that shall he shipped from Great Britain after the first day of January next unless the Stamp Act shall be repealed-as witness our hands.
[Printed in The Massachusetts Gazette 19 December 1765.]
At a meeting of a large assembly of the respectable populace in New London the 10th of December 1765, the following resolves were unanimously come into.
Resolved, 1st. That every form of government rightfully founded, originates from the consent of the people.
2d. That the boundaries set by the people in all constitutions are the only limits within which any officer can lawfully exercise authority.
3d. That whenever those bounds are exceeded, the people have a right to reassume the exercise of that authority which by nature they had before they delegated it to individuals.
4th. That every tax imposed upon English subjects without consent is against the natural rights and the bounds prescribed by the English constitution.
5th. That the Stamp Act in special, is a tax imposed on the colonies without their consent.
6th. That it is the duty of every person in the colonies to oppose by every lawful means the execution of those acts imposed on them, and if they can in no other way be relieved, to reassume their natural rights and the authority the laws of nature and of God have vested them with.
And in order effectually to prevent the execution thereof, it is recommended:
1st. That every officer in this colony duly execute the trust reposed in him, agreeable to the true spirit of the English constitution and the laws of this colony.
2d. That every officer neglecting the exercise of his office may justly expect the resentment of the people, and those who proceed may depend on their protection.
3d. It is presumed no person will publicly, in the pulpit or otherwise, inculcate the doctrine of passive obedience, or any other doctrine tending to quiet the minds of the people, in a tame submission to any unjust impositions.
4th. We fully concur with the respectable body of the populace in all their Resolves made at Windham the 26th November 1765 and published in the New-London Gazette.
I think it my duty to acquaint your lordships with some very extraordinary and universal commotions which have happened in this town upon the arrival of the stamp papers.
Accounts had been received from Boston of the outrages committed there on the 14h and 26th of August last, and also of those at Rhode Island, to show their determined resolutions to prevent or elude the execution of the Stamp Act in those provinces, and also of the intentions which other provinces at the northward had expressed to the like purpose, though not with so much violence, all which have undoubtedly been transmitted to your lordships and I now presume to mention them only, as the unhappy cause of what has happened here.
New England vaunts its numbers and arrogates glory to itself in taking the lead of North America. For before those accounts came, the people of this province though they conceived it too great a burden, seemed generally disposed to pay a due obedience to the Act, and at the same time in a dutiful and respectful manner to represent to his Majesty the hardships which it would lay them under, and to pray relief therein. I must do them the justice to add that in all other respects the king has no subjects that express and show more loyalty to his majesty than the people of this province.
But by the artifices of some busy spirits the minds of men here were so universally poisoned with the principles which were imbibed and propagated from Boston and Rhode Island (from which towns, at this time of the year vessels very frequently arrive) that after their example, the people of this town resolved to seize and destroy the stamp papers, and to take every means of deterring the stamp officers from executing their duty.
Upon the arrival of the stamp papers on the 20th ultimo a great concourse of men assembled. Application was thereupon made to me for protection of the papers. As the intention of the populace were too well known to be doubted, I thought it my duty to secure them from destruction or even insult and therefore requested Capt. Fanshawe of his Majesty's sloop Speedwell to receive them on board until it should be necessary to remove them on shore for the execution of the Act. His ship was then heaving down at Hobcaw to careen and he thought it not safe to have them on board as he lay at a wharf; I then desired he would send his boats armed to take the packages of stamp papers out of the ship which brought them before night, at which time the populace vowed to execute their design. This he readily complied with, and I sent the papers down to Fort Johnson, and lest their madness should attempt to carry their scheme into execution, I reinforced the garrison with a detachment of a sergeant aud 12 Royal Americans who happened to be in town, that the appearance of military troops joining the few provincials there might deter them from the rash undertaking; and I gave directions to Col. Howorth, who commands in that fort, to take every precaution against a surprise, and put it in the best posture of defence against an escalade. These measures happily prevented their making any attempt on the papers. Their fury was then directed towards striking a terror into the stamp officers if they persisted to perform their duty; which was done by night in great numbers, battering the house of Mr. Saxby, who was suspected to be arrived, though he then was not, and hunting after Mr. Caleb Lloyd, searching his lodgings, who prudently had withdrawn himself.
On the same day the information was given to me that the stamp papers were arrived, I summoned the Council, acquainting them therewith and what I had done thereon, and took my oath to use my utmost endeavours to carry the Act into execution, and as this commotion began on Saturday while the Court of General Sessions for the whole province was sitting in town, I thought proper to recommend to the chief justice to require all peace officers to exert themselves in suppressing such unlawful assemblies. But the infection was too generally spread to receive any check from his authority. On the Monday, being informed what had happened on Saturday and Sunday nights, I published a proclamation offering a reward from my own pocket of £50 sterling to any person who would discover the author of the outrage, and a pardon to any informer who was an accomplice, aud commanded all judges, etc., to do their duty in preserving the public peace, but all this produced not the desired effect. And some insults having been committed on several persons' houses under pretext of searching for stamp papers, I ordered an advertisement to be published that they were by my order lodged in Fort Johnson. The commotions upon this in some measure subsided till the arrival of Mr. Saxby from London on the 27th when everything was again set in motion by a very great concourse of people threaten in everything against the persons and effects of Mr. Saxby and Mr. Lloyd to deter them or any other person from doing their duty under that Act. Mr. Saxby having been apprised of these dispositions by his friends on the first arrival of the ship, prudently declined coming up to town but went on shore at Fort Johnson, whither Mr. Lloyd had also retired for his safety, which was all the protection my power could afford them. The commotions still continued and all this during the sitting of the Court of Sessions which by law is vested with the powers of the King's Bench in criminal matters, till on Monday these two officers, prevailed upon by the importunate request of their friends, consented to decline acting until the sense of the Parliament of Great Britain should be known upon the joint petition of the colonies which is now on the anvil at New York. These two gentlemen wrote me a letter on the occasion of their declining to act, a copy whereof I have the honour to transmit to your lordships.
Although these very numerous assemblies of the people bore the appearance of common populace, yet there is great reason to apprehend they were animated and encouraged by some considerable men who stood behind the curtain. This contagion has spread through this whole country and many are alarmed by various false representations, not only of what this act enjoins, but with fears of what is to follow from future laws of the like nature.
As there are no stamp papers can be issued during this situation, a stop is now put to all business in every office where they are required, and notwithstanding the great inconveniences and detriments which it will occasion, the people at present seem determined to submit to them patiently all they see the fate of New England, which I presume they will follow, in returning to their duty in this matter, as soon as they know that province is brought to theirs.
I have thus endeavoured, my lords, to represent to your lordships a faithful and circumstantial account of the unhappy situation of this province on account of this spirit of opposition to the Stamp Act, in which relation I thought it my duty to be very particular that your lordships might be the better enabled to judge what was necessary to be done for his Majesty's service thereupon, and at the same time, my lords, may I humbly hope to appear to your lordships to have performed everything in my power for the service of his Majesty and the preserving the public peace of the province; and I flatter myself I shall, when your lordships will please to consider that I had none but the civil magistracy to enforce my orders, and that they are to be supported by the posse comitatus, of which these concourses of people were composed; and I am morally certain, my lords, any attempt to quell them by force would have occasioned the shedding of blood without effecting the end proposed thereby.
The new elected General Assembly met on the 29th ultimo and in their answer to my recommending to them to form their deliberations upon the principle of duty to his Majesty and the considering the service of the king and their country as in-separable and as the surest foundation whereon to establish the tranquillity, prosperity, and happiness of their country, they declared heir resolution to proceed upon those dutiful and loyal principles, which they trusted would produce freedom and happiness to their constituents. Being too early to enter upon the ordinary business of the year, they had my leave to adjourn to the 25th instant. Whether a little longer time and the examples of the assemblies of several other provinces in coming to bold resolutions which assert the independency of America in taxing themselves, exclusive of any other power, will contaminate our Assembly and lead them to come to such resolutions also, is what I do not think impossible, though it may be at present some-what doubtful, wherefore I will not flatter your lordships or myself with too sanguine expectations therein.
I humbly beg your lordships to be assured that I shall do everything in my power to prevent the prerogative of the Crown from receiving any indignity, though as I had the honour to observe before to your lordships, my power can extend its influence but a little way under the present almost universal disposition of the people against the admitting the execution of the Stamp Act.
As the Grenville packet is daily expected here, I may probably receive the Stamp Act by that opportunity; in the meantime I shall continue to acquaint your lordships with the proceedings in this province on this subject and with great punctuality perform any commands with which his Majesty or your lordships shall be pleased to honour me.
The debates in Parliament lasting so long on the Stamp Act determined me to return to my business ere it was terminated. I was three weeks in London, and every day with some one member of Parliament, talking as it were for my own life. It is surprising how ignorant some of them are of trade and America. The House at last came to a resolution to examine only one person from each place that brought petitions. Mr. William Reeve, being the senior of us who went from Bristol, was put in the votes. Upon hearing of this resolve, I set out and arrived here late last night; it is now afternoon, and not until this moment would Mr. Penington let me know his vessel was bound to New York. He assures me no man in Bristol knows it but Mr. Hayes and myself. I will employ what little time I have in scribbling as much news to you as I can, supposing everybody on your side are impatient for the Stamp Act. Tuesday the 11th instant Mr. Trecothick was ordered to the bar of the House of Commons, where he was examined, and X examined 3½ hours; the last question Lord Strange (your enemy) asked was this: if he did not think the Americans would rather submit to the S[tamp] Act than remain in the confusion they are in? It was not a proper question. Mr. Trecothick was ordered to withdraw; some debates ensued; he was recalled to the bar and told the House had altered the question to this: if it was not his opinion the Americans would acquiesce with the Stamp Act provided it was mitigated: Mr. Trecothick answered it was his opinion that no modification of the Act would reconcile it and that the Americans would be contented with nothing less than a Total Repeal.
This inflamed Grenville's party. They called you insolent rebels. I dread his party coming into power before the Act is repealed. If they do, they'll certainly scourge you although some English merchants are ruined by it.
We have proved the debt from the continent of America to England is five millions sterling. This Grenville attempted to disprove, and is what makes the examinations at the bar so tedious.
All the principal manufacturing towns have sent petitions for a repeal of the Stamp Act. A manufacturer from Leeds was ordered to the bar, who said since the stagnation of the American trade he has been constrained to turn off 300 families out of 600 he constantly employed. This fact will have great weight when added to many more evidences of the like kind. The country members are somewhat alarmed at so many people losing employ; if anything repeals the Act, it must be this. The present ministry see and have declared the expediency of repealing on this ground. If the late ministers come in again and enforce the Act, they will have 20,000 unemployed poor in a suppliant manner petitioning a repeal of the S[tamp] Act; otherwise they must starve, or so I think. There is no doubt but it must be repealed on some grounds, or some cause or other, especially if you stick to your engagements of having no English goods until it is effectuated. This resolution I hope you'll abide by. Nay! it is my opinion this tiresome procrastination would never have happened if you had sent no ships away till it was decided, for Mr. Grenville has declared he will try to keep it off this 6 weeks in hopes you will at last submit, saying it is a proof you .are tired by venturing to send your ships away, and that he has no doubt you will also soon bc tired of the lawless state you are in. retrospect to the question Lord Strange put to Mr. Trecothick, I attended the House of Commons all day Tuesday the 11th instant In the evening a member (who is in the administration) told me things were doubtful and went vastly hard with them; that the k[ing] was not staunch to his ministers; that although he assured them he would support them, yet he had deceived them; that they daily and hourly experience Lord Bute's dreadful influence, that the k[ing] had empowered Lord Bute and Lord Strange to say his private wish was not tor a repeal of the Stamp Act as it would be derogatory to the honour of his Crown and dignity of his Parliament to be compelled to repeal an Act that had been so disrespectfully treated without first exercising their authority by enforcing it. He further told me that the k[inq] acted with great duplicity-it is amazing what power Lord Bute continues to have over him! My friend further said he thought notwithstanding all this they would yet have a repeal of the Stamp Act. At one time the present ministry were bent upon resigning, on finding the duke of York and duke of Gloucester were against them, also all the k[ing]'s immediate servants such as the lords of the bed chamber and nine bishops; they were for carrying fire and sword to America with this argument: that since you snarl and begin to show your teeth, they ought to be knocked out before you are able to bite.
Endorsed is a minute or two I made the days they happened. By them you'll see the sentiments of the great.
You also have an exact copy of Mr. Grenville's motion in the House which I had address enough to get, he little thinking what use was to be made of it, though if he knew I don't suppose it would give him any concern. he was backed upon a division (after debating till 11 o'clock at night) by 134 though lost it by a majority of 140. I saw the list of the minority. In it were Sir Charles Hardy and General Abercrombie. These are the thanks for the old Madeira you have given them. 0! Curse them! About 10 o'clock when the House were almost wearied out, old General Howard stood up. At his martial appearance a profound silence ensued. he spoke (I don't pretend to give you his words, only the substance) to this effect: that he shuddered at the unnatural motion; he hoped in God it would not succeed, for in all likelihood he might be ordered to execute it, and before he would imbrue his hands in the blood of his countrymen who were contending for English liberty he would, if ordered, draw his sword, but would soon after sheath it in his own body. secretary Conway said (though not at the same time) that he would sooner cut off his right arm than sign an order for soldiers to enforce the Act. The majority against it in the House of Commons were 274; yet, when you reflect that 134 were for it, it is enough to make you tremble. When I left London the 12th instant it was about three to one the Act would be repealed, but for three weeks past there has been no dependence on anything we hear-neither king nor Parliament knew. Today the ministry would have the best of it, and things would look well; tomorrow Grenville and his party would gain the power, and then of course no repeal. The vox populi now begins to gain ground, and I think since the legality of taxation is allowed, the Act will be repealed upon the ground of expediency.
These particulars, few and inconclusive as they are, I thought would still be agreeable, for the authenticity of them I will answer.
As so much politics may confound business, I will do myself the honour to write you a few lines on the latter subject in another epistle. I remain with all due respect in haste my Dear Sir Your Most Dutiful Son etc.
H. C. Jr.
P.S.-The Parliament have not yet done anything about the Sugar Act and other destructive restraint on your trade. It will come a soon as ever the Stamp Act is settled. I imagine they will rescind all the restrictive clauses, and grant you everything you ask. Their eyes are at last opened and they seem convinced what vast benefit will accrue to this kingdom by giving you almost an unlimited trade, so far as doth not interfere with British manufactures. The West Indians are collecting all their force to oppose us; I have reason to say they will at length be defeated.
'Tis said French sugars, coffee, cotton, etc., the produce of foreign islands, will have the indulgence of being imported in our colonies duty free, but must be put in kings warehouses, and the proprietors constrained to ship them off again (to any part of the world they please) in a stipulated time.
The duty on molasses will be reduced to 1d per gallon.
[To Aaron Lopez, Bristol, 1 March 1766]
The confusion of American affairs hath affected us equally. I have been very deeply involved in them, and think myself amply rewarded with the bare aspect which now abounds with looks and promises success to America. The Stamp Act is not yet repealed, but it is as good as done. A motion was made in the House of Commons for a bill to be brought in for a repeal and was carried by 275 against 167: the latter were only for a modification of the Act. The debates pro and con have been very warm and serious. As I have not time now to be particular, will trouble you with a copy of my last letter to my father just for your amusement. There is little doubt but the affairs will be finished in a few days and the Act repealed. You'll be informed that the Parliament have settled their right of taxing you. When that was done they proceeded to the expediency of repealing the Act, which never would have come to pass had it not been for the merchants and manufacturers of England. Trade here was totally stagnated; not one American merchant gave out a single order for goods on purpose to compel all manufacturers to engage with us in petitioning Parliament for a repeal of the Stamp Act, by which thousands were out of employ and in a starving condition. You, dear sir, shared in the common calamity. I hope and persuade myself you will not murmur at this momentary disappointment when so much good will come out of it. I hug myself the Parliament will never trouble America again. I could not think of giving out any of your orders until I saw which way this momentous affair would turn and terminate. I congratulate you on our success and with redoubled joy-as the contrary was at one time much dreaded. The letter I shall enclose you will give you a great insight into the actions and sentiments of our British senators.
Immediately upon hearing by express that a bill was to be brought in the House of Commons for a total repeal, I set about providing your orders, all which I hope to have shipped on board the Charlotte, Captain Brown, by the latter end of this month. No doubt you'll wonder at not hearing from me oftener of late. I have the best excuse that ever I had for not writing, even a serving my country, which I have been doing day and night. I am no politician, but in this matter of America and its trade I embarked body and soul. I have been in London with all the great men in the kingdom. The Stamp and Sugar Acts were my two objects. I think you American gentlemen will have all your wishes gratified, but more of this in my next. I only claim a share of the merit if all comes to pass that I expect. See the P.S. of the letter to my father. I will be very punctual in future to make amends for my past silence; have patience and you'll reap the advantages.