THE ENGLISH COI.ONIES.
GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY,
From the beginning of the eighteenth century we may regard the American colonies, if not as a homogeneous community, yet as an organic body bound together by certain principles of administration. There was indeed wide diversity arising from difference of origin, of religious beliefs, and even more of industrial conditions. Against these there were, over and above the connexion with Great Britain, two influences making for unity. Each colony, as we have seen, had a constitution modelled on that of the mother-country; and thus each was of necessity familiar with the same political methods, and imbued in some measure with the same political principles. Moreover the flowing tide of French aggression was forcing the colonists, albeit reluctantly, to face the problem of common action.
In one respect the British colonial empire was paying heavily for the heedlessness of its rulers at an earlier day. We have already seen how the carelessness wuth which land had been granted and pi'ovinces laid out — a carelessness no doubt in some measure inevitable in the case of an imperfectly knowm and often impenetrable country — had led to territorial disputes between colonies. A large volume might be compiled from the pamphlets and the correspondence in which are embodied the disputes between Virginia and her neighbours North Carolina and Maryland, between Maryland and Pennsylvania, between New York and Connecticut. These disputes usually had their origin in the refusal of settlers occupying the debatable ground to accept the jiu-isdiction of the colony which claimed them. Unfortunately the dispute almost alwavs arose in newlv-settled and isolated districts, where effective control was most needed and w'here di-.pute meant violence.
By 1700 the whole territory continuously occupied or at least claimed by the Briti.sh settlements reached from the St Croix to the Savannah, along a coast-line, in place.s deeply indented, of about a thousand miles. In theory each colony had the Atlantic for its eastern
boundary, with an indefinite right of extension westw'ard. To this however there was one conspicuous exception. The eastern boundary of New York ran not at right angles to the Atlantic but along the left bank of the Hudson, and thus, running northward, blocked the expansion of the New England colonies by giving them a western frontier. New York may be regarded as an isolated projection running westward, and far beyond the normal line, as one may call it, of occupied territory. With that exception the colonies practically formed a belt along the coast, of less than a hundred miles across at its widest.
If we divide the colonies by their constitutions they fall into three groups. Connecticut and Rhode Island were chartered colonies with extensive rights of self-government. The Crown exercised over them no regular and continuous control: it could only intervene in special cases and by exceptional process. Otherwise they were only subject to such restrictions as the Crown or Parliament might impose on the whole body of colonies. In Maryland and Pennsylvania administrative power was normally vested in the Proprietor, subject, as in the chartered colonies, to special intervention by the Crown. In the remaining eight colonies all administrative power was vested in the Crown and exercised through its nominees. Somewhat indefinite powers of legislation and taxation were enjoyed by all the colonics, in varying degrees, and exercised in popular assemblies of similar though not identical nature.
The division by constitutions is however one of no great practical importance. A division which has far more real bearing on facts is one which has been already touched upon, namely, that which separates the colonies into a northem and a southern group, the former in some measure agricultural, but tending more and more to become commercial and industi’ial, and depending mainly on free labour; the latter purely agricultural and wholly dependent on some form of servile labour. We may go further and subdivide the northem colonies. New England, homogeneous in origin and principles, intensely definite in habits of thought and modes of life, stands on one side; on the other side are New York and the Quaker colonies, cosmopolitan and fluid, and lacking in that political and religious discipline which fashioned, for good and evil, the self-conscious and self-reliant New Englander.
That exactness of method and organisation which marked the New England colonies enables us to ascertain with tolerable accuracy their population at successive stages of their giowth. We shall probably be not far wrong if we set down the English-speaking population of New England at the acces.sion of George I at about 90,000, of which Massachusetts contributed about half, Connecticut a fourth, and Rhode Island and New Hsmp.'.hire the remainder in about etpial proportions. Of the southern colonies we have no such statistics as warrant us in
• 1750 ]
hazarding a conjecture. All that we can say is that in the middle colonies the negroes were to the whites in the proportion of about one ♦ to seven; in Maryland and Virginia of one to three; while in South Carolina they formed a majority.
In race, as in other respects, the New England colonies were by far the most homogeneous portion of the colonies. French Huguenots and Irish Presbyterians occasionally settled in Massachusetts; and among the former were the founders of more than one prosperous house of business; but there was no appreciable influx of any alien element. In the middle colonies, on the other hand, over and above the original Swedish and Dutch populations, there were waves of immigration from Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, and Wales. In Virginia and Maryland we find no trace of any foreign element, though doubtless there were individual foreign settlers. But the Carolinas were largely peopled by French Huguenots, by Swiss, by refugees from the Palatinate, and during the eighteenth century by Scottish and Irish immigrants.
In the northern colonies slavery was a mere excrescence, exercising no perceptible influence over industry or social life. Probably in 1700 there were not 6000 slaves in the whole territory between the Kennebec and Long Island. For the negro slave can only fulfil one of two functions. He may be the appendage of a luxurious establishment, or he may be the instrument of a monotonous and unintelligent form of tillage where labour can be organised in large gangs. In New England neither of these conditions existed. Luxury, except at Boston, was unknown. Farms were small, and the sterility of the soil necessitated intelligent and diversified tillage. In New York, on the other hand, the rich merchant could find place for a retinue of domestic slaves; and the landowner growing corn on a large scale could make use of unskilled labour. Further south, in the tobacco plantations of Virginia and Mar}'land, negro-slavery w'as no doubt, if one sets aside moral and social considerations, the most effective and economical system of labour; and, as the black was more efficient than the indented white servant and less likely to organise resistance of any kind, negro-slavery rapidly obtained the ascendancy over the earlier system. It is also noteworthy that, whereas slaves were proportionately fewer in New York than in the southern colonies, yet they were evidently objects of greater dread. The legislative restraints imposed upon them were more severe. In the South we never hear of anything like an organised servile insurrection; but in New York there were negro insurrections in 1712 and 1741. In both cases houses were burnt, and in both the offenders were punished w'ith great severity, some being broken on the wheel or burned alive.
Men have often ^vritten and spoken as though the economical development of the colonies had been stifled by the narrow and selfish policy of the mother-country. It is no doubt true that English
66 Trade and industry. [1700-
statesmen for the most part thought of a colony as a community which existed to supplement the commerce and industry of the mother-country, to receive its goods and to furnish it with desirable imports. In this t respect the colonial administration of England differed in no way from that of any other country in the Old World. It differed, however, in this, that, though the men who administered the English colonies might be at times corrupt or negligent, corruption and negligence never undermined the colonial administration of England as they did that of France. Nor is there any reason to think that under a more hberal and enlightened system the colonies would have advanced further in manufacturing industry than they did. In New England repeated attempts were made to encourage the production of textile fabrics by bounties and by importing skilled workmen, but with small success. Only the coarser forms of clothing worn by the poor were made in the colony. Iron, too, was raised, but only of inferior quality; and all cutlery and fai'm -implements of any importance came fiom England. Shipbuilding flourished at Boston and in Rhode Island. The chief exports of New England were ship-timber, salt fish, tar, and com; and the vessels that conveyed these exports did a complex carrying trade among the southern colonies and the British West Indies, with many sales and purchases of cargo. Thus the New England trader acquired! a versatility denied to tho.^e whose commerce moves regularly in certain fijied and limited grooves. )
The trade and industry of the middle colonies did not differ widely from those of New England. Cora, cattle, and other articles of food were sent to the West Indies; the command of the Hudson enabled the settlers to export furs; and already ironworks were carried on profitably in Pennsylvania. In Maryland and Virginia on the other hand there was one staple of industry, and one only, namely tobacco.
So completely was it the dominant product of the country that, by the middle of the seventeenth ccntuiy, it had become the recognised circulating medium of the country and the accepted standard of value.
In the early days of the colony much of the coarse clothing worn by the slaves was home-made. As communication with England became more frequent, even this form of manufacture died out. The trade of South Carolina resembled that of Virginia, save that rice took the place of tobacco. North Carolina, the poorest, most backward and ignorant of all the colonies, was virtually a community of small proprietors living squalidly on the products of their own farms, and occasionally exporting their surplus products, pork, cattle, and tar.
The lines of demarcation separating the various groups of colonies in intellectual and spiritual matters corresponded pretty closely to the differences just sketched in their national progress". In the New England colonies we find a well-organised and finnly rooted ecclesiastical system. It is not enough to say that in New England every township
- 1750 ]
had a Congregational Church: more truly might it be said that Church and township were the same society seen from different points of view.
• Against this solid resisting body the efforts of Anglicanism profited little. In Connecticut the Church of England fared better than in Massachusetts. There was always in Connecticut a greater width of thought and more accessibility to new impressions. There Episcopacy obtained as recruits from the Independent ministry more than one man of ability, learning and high character. Episcopalians too were granted a form of concurrent endowment, whereby, if there were a chiuch of their own denomination within reach, their rates for church-maintenance might be diverted thither. Episcopacy in Connecticut also benefited by a movement which ran through New England in the middle of the eighteenth century. The preaching of Whitfield and the emotional religion which it awakened were passionately accepted by one section of the Independent Churches and as passionately repelled and denounced by another; and many persons, alienated by the violence of the contending parties, found a refuge in Anglicanism. In Rhode Island the majority^ of the inhabitants were Baptists. Quakers were also numerous; and the residue of the inhabitants were for the most part equally divided into Independents and Anglicans. The system was one of pure voluntaryism; and there was nothing in the moral and intellectual condition of the colony to furnish arguments either to the upholders or the opponents of Church establishments.
The middle colonies were the region where the labours of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, founded in 1701, bore most fruit. This was partly due to the fact that there was not, as in New England, any one rival communion in occupation of the field. In religion, as in other matters, cosmopolitanism prevailed. Moreover the gi-ound had been in a measiue prepared by the Swedish Episcopalian Cluuches, which, remaining dependent on the mother-Church till long after the extinction of Swedish laile, yet maintained friendly relations with the Church of England, and were finally incorporated with it. The reports received from these colonies by the friends of the Church at home give evidence of a vitality, both in increased numbers and also in a growth of zeal and liberality, unknown to the other colonies.
The legal position of the Church of England in New York and New Jersey was somewhat anomalous. Till 1693, whatever support had been given to the Church of England had been given in virtue of certain specific orders from the Crown. In 1693 an Act of extraordinary vagueness was passed, providing for the maintenance of a Protestant minister in certain portions of the province. The Act did not provide for the method of appointment, or impose any test on behalf of any special form of Protestantism; but by a succession of Anglican governors it was interpreted, not without protest and resistance, as making special provision for the Chm-ch of England. The state of things in New
The Church of England in America. [ 1640 -
Jersey was somewhat similar. There no legal provision was made for any form of worship. Yet more than one governor acted on the assumption that, as the colony was directly dependent on the Crown, < and as the governor was a servant of the Crown, the established Church of England had a certain claim to support and to precedence.
In Maryland and Virginia the Church of England was established by Acts of the colonial legislation, in the Carolinas by the Proprietary Charter. In all four colonies Dissenters existed, numerically probably weaker than the Anglicans, in intelligence and spiritual activity fully their equals. In none of these colonies were the learning and character of the clergy or the state of ecclesiastical discipline such as to give the Church any advantage in its contest mth Dissent. The clergy of the southern colonies may not have fallen and probably did not fall short of the general standard of life about them: they certainly did not rise above it. The habits of the southern planter, coarse, boisterous, and unspiritual, were often redeemed by his vigour, by his clear recognition of public responsibilities, and by the extensive and exacting demands of private administration. The clergy shared to the full in the temptations of laymen, but not in the counterbalancing influences; and their failure to reach a higher standard was naturally more remarked.
The weakness of Anglicanism in the American colonies has been attributed to lack of organisation and controlling machinery. The appointment of commissaries by the Bishop of London, to whose diocese the colonies in theory pertained, was no doubt an inadequate substitute for direct episcopal control. The establishment of an American episco- pate was urgently advocated by Bishop Berkeley. The attempt nearly succeeded, and was only frustrated at the last moment by the imperfectly concealed hostility of Walpole. Yet one may doubt whether any machinery could have done much for a Church which was clearly felt by the majority of the settlei-s, and especially by the most earnest and spiritually minded section of them, to be exotic, which could appeal to no inspiring associations in the past, and which had done little for the mental and spiritual life of the colonies since they had become separate communities.
Whatever might be the shortcomings of New England, her eyes were never shut to the truth that man does not live by bread alone. Strenuous though her sons might be in the pursuit of wealth, yet material aims were never suffered to stifle the spiritual and intellectual side of life. Her care for education is among the worthiest of her traditions. So early as 1647 the legislature of Massachusetts established elementary schools in all townships of fifty householders, and grammar- schools in all containing more than a hundred. A similar system was established in Connecticut. In Plymouth little seems to have been done before incorporation wdth Ma.vsachu;,etts. In Rhode Island the first school came into existence in 1640; but it was not till the
- 1754 ]
eighteenth century that the colony had anything like a regular system of public education.
% When we pass into the middle colonies we at once find a change. In reading the records of New York, of New Jerseys, and of Pennsylvania, we find the neglect of education occasionally lamented, and the obli- gation to supply it intermittently recognised and imperfectly fulfilled. There was no comprehensive system enforcing on townships the necessity for providing schools and schoolmasters. About the middle of the eighteenth century, however, a wave of educational progress seems to have swept over the middle colonies, since between 1741 and 1754 colleges were founded in New York, in New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania.
Among the commonplaces of American history is the saying of Berkeley, the cavalier governor of Virginia, who thanked God that his colony had no schools. The indifference of the ruling classes no doubt had its share in keeping the southern colonies without any effective system of education. But their educational deficiencies were far more due to natural causes, mainly to the fact that the tillers of the sod. were a class permanently doomed to seiafile labour, with whom any hope of improvement became more dangerous as it became more possible. The young Virginian of the upper class either had a tutor at home, such a one as guided the studies of George and Harry Warrington, or he was sent to England for education. More than one of the Virginians who played a conspicuous part in the struggle for independence, such as Dulany and Aiihur Lee, had been trained at English public schools or universities. One vigorous attempt was indeed made to introduce higher education into Virginia. After the Revolution, Compton, Bishop of London, appointed as his commissary in Viiginia an able and public- spirited Scotsman, James Blair. Through his energy, seconded by that t)f Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson, and by the liberality of certain London merchants, a college called that of Wdliam and Maiy was founded in Virginia. It is clear, however, that, in spite of Blair’s energy, the college did not become more than a boarding-school with a somewhat disorderly set of pupils.
It was not only in the narrower and more special sense of the term education that the New England colonies stood out pre-eminent. They alone had something which might be called a definite and organic school of literatm-e. English thought in the generation w'hich produced Puritanism was intensely articulate. It instinctively embodied in words its experiences and aspirations with due regard to literary form. Of that spirit there was no lack among the founders of New England. For the New Englander in the young days of his country two subjects overwhelmed all others — the spiritual life of the individual, and the corporate life of the State. Thus the literature of early New England falls into two groups — chronicles, and theological writings. The former are always tinged with partisanship and, with one or two exceptions, are
uncritical in their estimate of evidence, but are redeemed by their tone of glowing and hopeful patriotism, and by a dignity of diction belonging to those who have assimilated the English Bible till their speech in-^ stinctively adopts its form. To a modern reader the theology of New England, the sermons and the controversial treatises, can, with very rare exceptions, be nothing but a weariness. Their dogmatising is for the most part to us meaningless, buried under the successive strata of thought which three centuries have produced: their controversial fencing has the cumbrous elaboration and tortuousness which were the besetting vices of Elizabethan hterature. Yet they claim our respect as written not only by men, but for men, who did not shrink from resolute study and serious thought.
The type of writer of whom we speak passed away as New England changed its character. The New England of 1700, though still orderly, patient and labour-loving, was no longer the Christian Sparta, merciless in its discipline, crushing the individual into subjection to the State, yet strengthening him in the process, at which the founders of Massachusetts had aimed, not without a measure of success. As the life of Boston becomes more and more a reproduction of decorous middle-class English life, so the literature of New England becomes more and more a con- ventional copy of contemporary English models. We find colonial Steeles and Addisons and Popes without the redeeming graces of instinctive felicity of expression and simple elegance. One New England writer of the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, stands out, it is true, above his fellows. His work is marked by a force and consecutiveness of thought, an exactness of expression, and a wealth of illustrative learning which give him a place among great thinkers. But he is isolated, and in no sense a typical representative of a contemporary school.
In the colonies outside New England we have nothing that can be called a school of literature. We find men in whom colonial life had quickened the habit of observation, and who have left us vivid descriptions of what was striking in the physical life of the newly-discovered world. Virginia produced three waiters who at least showed that a colonist could attain a high standard of culture and expression. Stith’s history of Viiginia, published in 1747, the work of a Virginian clergyman, is fragmentary and uncritical; but it is never tame, and the style has a rolling dignity such as might have been begotten by a study of Clarendon. Beverley and Bjad, both Virginian squires, ivrote, the former a history of the colony, the latter a narrative of his exploration in the backwoods, full of freshness and easy correctness.
In journalism Boston, as might be expected, led the way, producing in 1701 the first American newsp.aper. By 1750 Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and'South Carolina all possessed newspapers of their own.
Oglethorpe and Georgia.
In 1732 another colony was added to the twelve already in existence. The foundation of Georgia was, both in conception and in execution, the work of James Oglethorpe, as fully as the foundation of Pennsylvania was the work of Penn. Oglethorpe was bom in 1698. After the Revolution, members of his family adhered to the Stewart cause; and he did not whoUy escape the suspicion of Jacobitism. After a short military career he settled down on the family property to which he had succeeded, entered Parliament and became a well-kno'wn figure in political life and in the fashionable and literary society of London. He was chairman of a Parliamentary committee for inquiring into the state of prisons. What he then saw and learnt timied his thoughts to the necessity of colonisation. He may be said to have taken up afresh those conceptions of colonisation which had been present to the minds of statesmen in the Elizabethan age, but had been overlaid by other motives.
The contemporaries of Gilbert and Ralegh thought of colonisation as a national enterprise, having among its chief objects the relief of the country' from the burden of surplus population, and the creation of a check on Spanish aggression. In the actual formation and development of the colonies these considerations had passed out of sight; and the profit of individuals or the advantage of special religious communities had become the foremost consideration. Oglethorpe’s design was by the establishment of a colony adjoining South Carolina to form a home where men, instead of pining in debtors’ prisons, might live in industry and comfort, and also to establish for the whole body of colonies a barrier against Spain. Accordingly Oglethorpe and his associates, amongst them the well-known philanthropist Thomas Coram, obtained from the Crown a grant of land south of the Savannah river. The grantees were formed into a corporation entitled “Trustees for the Colonisation of Georgia,” with full powers of administration for twenty- six years, after which the control of the colony was to revert to the Crown. For the present the appointment of aU officials was vested in the Trustees; nor were the settlers to enjoy any rights of self-government save such as the Trustees might grant them of favour. Tffie needful funds were obtained by contributions from the Trustees themselves, and by appeals to public benevolence.
In October, 1732, Oglethorpe set sail with 114 settlers. The spot chosen for the settlement was a high ground on the south bank of the river Savannah, about twenty miles from its mouth. The site was w'ell chosen, as the river was navigable by large vessels; while the colony was guarded on the water-side by a high and precipitous bank, and landwards by the swampy and impenetrable nature of the comitry. The settlement
Foundation of Georgia.
was called after the name of the river. The frankness and kindliness which were leading features in Oglethorpe’s character at once won the good-will of the natives, and relieved the colony from all fear in that 4 quarter. Early in 1786 a second settlement was formed, and received the name of Frederica. It was on St Simon’s Island at the mouth of the Alatamaha river, about seventy miles south of Savannah. The site chosen faced the mainland, and could only be approached through a narrow strait; and the town was fortified. The colony, though primarily intended for the good of destitute English citizens, was not wholly made up of such inhabitants. There were two foreign settlements, one of Moravians, and one of Protestants from Salzburg who had fled from the severity of a Roman Catholic archbishop. There was also a settlement of Highlanders, of great military value to the colony, forming a township called New Inverness, a little to the north of Frederica. Somewhat later another township was formed at Augusta, about a hundred miles abov'e Savannah, on the river of that name. This, however, was rather a station for the Indian trade than a regular to%vn.
In 1736 the Spaniards in Florida excited Oglethorpe’s suspicion by making an armed reconnaissance. Finding the colony, however, stronger than they expected, they abstained from active hostility, and Oglethorpe received a friendly visit from the Spanish governor. In 1739 war was declared between Great Britain and Spain; and in the spring of 1740, Oglethorpe, relying on assistance promised from South Carolina, resolved to invade Florida and to attack the fortified town of St Augustine. His force consisted of 400 regulars whom he had brought out, two troops of irregular horse and one of foot, and a company of Highlanders, raised in the colony. He had also a large force of Indians, and 100 volunteers from South Carolina, while a fleet of six vessels was to co-operate. He reached St Augustine, but for various reasons could do nothing against it. The garrison had been reinforced, and was stronger than Oglethorpe had anticipated; the government of South Carolina failed to send adequate help; the Indian allies were, as usual, useless for sustained operations; and, most serious of all, Oglethorpe had no siege artillery. Moreover on such a coast, intersected by creeks and often untraversable, it was scarcely possible to keep up regidar com- munication between the fleet and the land force. The siege had to be abandoned, and Oglethorpe retired into his own colony; but the Spaniards were not strong enough to retaliate or even to harass the retreating enemy.
During the next year the colony was more than once alarmed by the appearance of Spanish vessels, evidently with hostile purpose; but it was not tiU 1742 that any attempt was made at an invasion by land. In that year a force estimated at 5000 men, supported by a fleet of 41 sad, threatened Frederica. Tie result fully confirmed what the events of two years earlier had suggested, that in such a country there were
1742 - 3 ]
enormous advantages on the side of those who acted on the defensive. Over and above the physical difficulties of the country, the Indians, who \ were little but an encumbrance to an organised invading force, were invaluable in harassing an enemy advancing through their own country. It was clear too that the previous failure had done nothing to dishearten the settlers or to shake their confidence in their general. The Spaniards were worsted in two engagements near Frederica, and their attempts to attack from the sea were equally unsuccessful.
The colony might now reckon itself safe against foreign invasion. It had not escaped other dangers almost of necessity inherent in its origin and composition. Care was taken so far as possible that the colonists, albeit debtors and paupers, should not be the refuse of society. But men who had failed in England were not likely as a rule to make thrifty and industrious colonists, save under exceptionally favourable conditions; and in Georgia the conditions were distinctly unfavourable. The climate was one in which only men of unusual resolution and physical energy, such as w'ere the Salzburgers, could work hard. In the hope of enforcing industry and sobriety, the Trustees forbade the importation of negroes and of ardent spirits. An influential party sprang up among the settlers, which insisted that both the prohibited articles were necessaries of life. Oglethoipe’s virtues were great and many; but there was along with them a good deal of the benevolent despot. It is clear that he did not make unpleasant restrictions smoother by his administration. He also came into conflict with John Wesley, who, accompanied by his brother Charles, had come out as a minister. Two such men as Oglethoi-pe and Wesley, strenuous, self-willed, and sustained by a firm conviction of the integrity of their own motives, could hardly fail to quarrel. Wesley, after more than one act of indiscretion and display of ill-temper, left the colony with a sense of martyrdom.
In 1743 Oglethorpe also departed, never to return. If Georgia had not become all that its founders hoped, one may at least say that Oglethorpe had attained a far larger measure of success than most men could have won with such material. Broken and shiftless men could not be made at once into prosperous and hard-working citizens. But the colony held together: it fulfilled its function as an outpost against the Spanish invasion: it had given the settlers a life far better than that which they left behind. Oglethorpe’s associates had loyally and dis- interestedly discharged their self-imposed duties, and had administered the colony as a trust for public ends, uninfluenced by any prospect of personal gain. But they might fairly think that, having launched the colony, they were absolved from the duty of supporting and controlling it. In 1752, just twenty yeai-s after the foundation of the colony, the Trustees resigned their charter; and Georgia passed under the direct government of the Crown. The restrictions on slavery and the use of cn. II.
The colonies and the Crovcn.
spirits had been already evaded, and were now suffered to lapse. It is clear indeed that the prohibition of slaver}’ must for some time have been a dead letter, since at the time of the siurender the population 4 consisted of 2381 whites and 1066 negro slaves.
Before the surrender the colony had no constitution. All power, legislative and administrative, was vested in the Trustees; and, though in 1751 a representative assembly was called, its functions were simply deliberative. When the colony came under the Crown it received a constitution of the normal colonial pattern. There was a governor and a council, who together with all the executive officer’s were nominated by the Crown, and a representative assembly elected by the freeholders.
THE COLONIES AND THE CROWN.
As we have already seen, the constitutional development of the colonies was by the time of the Hanoverian accession virtually complete. The chief feature of interest in their subsequent domestic history lies in the administrative relations between the colonists and the home government. Unhappily those relations were largely contentious; and the contention turned chiefly on financial questions. In Massachusetts there was a prolonged dispute or series of disputes about the governor’s salary, beginning immediately after the grant of the new charter under William and Mary. The first governor appointed by the Crown was Sir William Phipps, a vigorous and enterprising seaman. He w’as a native of Massachusetts, by birth one of the people, and in the disputes preceding the Revolution he had stood loyally by his own colony. His appointment was distinctly a concession to the feelings and wishes of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, in spite of his own demand for a fixed salary, the Assembly would not do more than vote him an annual grant. Exactly the same policy was adopted towards his successor. Lord Bello- mont. Bellomont was also governor of New York; and troubles in that colony, arising out of piracy, left him no leisure to resist the Assembly of Massachusetts.
BeUomont’s s’jccessor, Joseph Dudley, ivas peculiarly odious to what one may call the national party in the colony. His father had been one of the strictest and narrowest among the Pui’itan founders of Massa- chusetts. The son had held office under Andros, and was thus looked on as worse than an open enemy, as a deserter and an apostate. Dudley, understanding the principles and objects of his countrvnien better than did Bellomont or the advisers of the Crown in England, saw that the question of fixed salaries to the governor and other officials was of vital importance. On it turned the question whether the officials were to be independent servants of the Ciwvn or merely its nominees, dependent after appointment on the good-will of the Assembly.
3Iassachusetts and its governors.
'ITie Board of Trade, acting as the advisers of the Crown on colonial questions, supported Dudley’s views in favour of fixed salaries. But % Assembly stood firm. In 1705 the two Houses presented a joint address to the governor, in which they laid down the doctrine that it was “ the native privilege and right of English subjects to raise and dispose of money according to the present exigency of affairs.” Dudley’s personal unpopularity beyond doubt embittered the dispute. But the action of the Assembly fifteen years later made it clear that the contest was one of principle. In 1720 the governorship of Massa- chusetts was conferred on William Burnet, son of the Bishop of Salisbury. The father’s Whiggery and latitudinarianism might be held in the eyes of New Englanders to wipe out the taint of episcopacy; and the reception given to the son clearly showed approval of the appointment. But neither Burnet nor the Hanoverian government which appointed him had any intention of accepting the interpretation of Whig prin- ciples for which the Assembly of Massachusetts was contending. The Crowm adopted the exceptional course of sending out by the governor a distinct instruction to the Assembly. “ As they hope to recommend themselves to the continuance of our royal grace and favour, they must manifest the same by immediate compliance with what has been so often recommended to them.” The instruction went on to say that the recommendation in question was the payment of a fixed salary. The amoimt weis specified as at least £1000; and the Assembly was warned that non-compliance would be regarded as “a manifest mark of un- dutiful behaviour,” and would necessitate the intervention of Parliament. Tire Assembly showed that clear and lawyer-like perception of the real issue which marked the proceedings of the colonists in the great dispute half a century later. They voted Burnet £1700, but a fixed salary they would not give. Biunet at length succeeded in winning over the Council, but the representatives were inflexible; and when he died in 1729 the dispute was still unsettled.
Burnet’s successor, Jonathan Belcher, was a rich and influential Boston merchant. He had been first a representative and then a coun- cillor, and had been sent by the Assembly to England to plead their cause in the question of salary. No self-respecting man would have accepted a position which necessarily compelled him to turn his back on the very principles which he had just advocated. Belcher’s career had shown that he had an elastic political conscience; and the advisei s of the Crown might have seen that it was a fatal error to entrust their affairs to a deserter from the popular cause, liable at every moment to be confronted with his own declarations. Again a fixed salary was demanded and Parliamentary intervention threatened, and again the demand was refused. This time the victory of the Assembly was complete. Henceforth the governor was allowed to accept a grant annually voted; only the condition was imposed and accepted th.at
c. M. u. VII. ci:.
Questio?is of taasation.
the grant must be made at the beginning of the session, so that the governor might retain some measure of independence. There were citizens of Massachusetts engaged in that dispute who lived to fight • the battle of the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax; and we cannot doubt that the feebleness of the British government in abandoning a claim so strongly and so persistently asserted was not forgotten by them. It should be noticed too that the Assembly was fighting not against an immediate practical grievance which bore hard on individual citizens, but against a system the evils of which were dormant and potential rather than actual.
Massachusetts was not the only colony in which the question of taxation gave rise to conflict. In Virginia, Governor Dinwiddie claimed in 1753 the right to levy a fee fixed by himself on all documents that required the use of the public seal. The Assembly protested and petitioned the King. The petition was rejected; but it appears from Dinwiddie’s letter that the attitude of the Assembly led him to modify his demands. In Pennsylvania a financial dispute raged between the Assembly and the Proprietors. The latter claimed that their lands, of which large tracts were unoccupied and unremunerative, should not be rated on the same terms as the rest of the colony. The Assembly denied the claim to such exemption, and in retaliation refused to levy money for public purposes till the claim was withdra\vn, notwithstanding that funds were urgently needed to protect the colony against Indian and French invaders.
It will be noticed that all these disputes were concerned with financial matters, and that two of them turned on the broad general question, the right of the colonists to tax themselves. The inevitable result was to give to the colonial conception of liberty a certain practical definite- ness and hardness, to divest it of sentiment, and to teach men to fight for it in a technical lawj’er-like temper. When Burke said that taxation had been always the battlefield on which the fight for English liberty was waged, he might have gone fmdher and said that, of all Englishmen, this was most peculiarly applicable to the American colonists.
Other influences had been at work to make them look with suspicion and apprehension on the financial claims of the British government. Though the hardships of the restraint imposed by the mother-country on the commerce and industry of the colonies have often been grossly exaggerated, yet it cannot be doubted that they were enough to create friction and to beget a sense of grievance. The commercial legislation afiecting the trade of the colonies faUs under two heads — the Acts con- trolling exportation and importation, and those controlling production. Of the latter we have already spoken. It will probably be convenient to make a clear enumeration of what the former actually were. By an Act of 1660 certain enumerated commodities, being all the chief products of the colonies, could be landed only in British ports. Two later Acts
Trade-restrictions and smuggling.
extended this restriction. Security must be given at the time of loading that the goods should be imported either to an English or Scottish port, % or to one in a British colony; and in the last case a duty had to be paid on loading. Moreover, under the Navigation Act of 1660, Euro- pean goods might not be imported into the colonies except in ships either of Britain or the British colonies, sailing from British ports. This restriction however was relaxed in the case of salt, which was necessary for the New England fish-curers; moreover it did not apply to trade with foreign colonies. But in 1733 an Act was passed which, if strictly enforced, would no doubt have borne very hardly on the New England colonies. Large quantities of molasses were habitually imported from the French West Indian islands into the American colonies and used for making rum. The British government, for the benefit of its own sugar plantations, imposed a duty on all molasses imported from foreign colonies.
The view that these restrictions exercised a crippling influence on the trade and industry of the American colonies is often met by the answer that they were systematically and almost univei'sally evaded. It is true that the pamphlets and ofiicial documents of the time are full of complaints of smuggling; but they seldom are specific enough to enable us to gauge the real extent of the practice. It must be remembered too that smuggling meant not only evasion of the British Navigation Acts, but also evasion of the import duties imposed by the various colonial governments; and those who complained were not always careful to discriminate between the two. Undoubtedly the two restraints which bore most hardly on the colonies were the Molasses Acts and the prohibition to export tobacco to the continent of Em-ope. It is certain that both were largely evaded. A shipowner was bound to report all tobacco loaded on board his vessel, and to give security for its delivery in a British port. As a matter of fact a supplementary cargo could be carried out at night in boats and shipped. The absence of any one chief port in Virginia, and the number of navigable rivers and therefore of private landing-stages, made effective supervision well- nigh impossible. The contraband import of European commodities seems to have largely depended on the above-mentioned contraband export trade. Indeed the two almost of necessity went together. If an American vessel landed a cargo in a foreign port, it was clearly better to load with French silk and foreign wine and sail straight back to an American port, than to excite suspicion by touching at a British port.
Whatever may have been the extent of this contraband ti-ade, there can be little doubt that the commercial restrictions begat a sense of oppression and a habit of evasion. Yet, in estimating their justice, we must not forget that the mother-country granted compensatory advan- tages. The tobacco trade of Virginia was rendered possible by the prohibition against gi-owing tobacco in Gieat Britain, while bounties
Currenci! difficulties. [1700-
were given for ship-timber and naval stores; but this class of products supplied another source of dispute, in the pereistent and legitimate determination of British officials to retain the woods and unoccupied € land as a source of supply for naval timber.
There was yet another fruitful somce of dispute between the home government and the colonial assemblies. The latter were constantly seeking to meet financial difficulties by the issue of paper-money. The causes of this desire were of two kinds, commercial and politieaL All the colonies suffered from lack of specie. In some the difficulty was partly surmounted by what one may call a system of modified and legalised barter. In Virginia, as we have seen, tobacco was the accepted form of currency. In New York beaver-fur held at one time the same position. There was in New England a curious and complex system by which certain commodities were declared to be legal tender at a fixed value. As might have been expected, the vendor indemnified himself by having two prices, one for specie, the other for what was called “ country pay.”
The deficiency of specie naturally made men welcome the issue of paper; and this in turn reacted and diminished the supply of specie. For it is an accepted economical law that bad money drives out good; or, to put it differently, if one form of currency will circulate more generally than another, no one will introduce that other into an area where both forms are of equal value, or keep it there. The demand for paper-money was further strengthened by administrative considerations; for if payment in kind is inconvenient to the private trader, much more is it so to the collector of public dues. Moreover there is a natural tendency on the part of young and hopeful communities to escape from financial difficulties by mortgaging their future.
The problem of raising funds for public purposes was also beset by special difficulties. For while there was plenty of wealth in the colonies, that wealth was mostly in the hands of men actively engaged in trade, and thus took the form of floating capital, not of those accumulations which are the easy and obvious prey of the public financier.
It was natural that the home government should oppose such a policy, for the real inconveniences of a paper currency made themselves felt far more in intercolonial than in internal trade. Thus we find the records of almost every colony full of disputes between governors endeavouring to carry out their instructions prohibiting the issue of paper-money, and assemblies bent on taking a short road to financial relief and prosperity. In 1720 an order was issued by the King in Council forbidding governors of colonies in America to sanction the issue of bills of credit. It may be doubted how far this instruction was held to apply to the proprietary or chartered colonies, two of which — Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — were among the chief offenders. But this limitation did not apply to an Act of Parliament passed in
-1754] Schemes of consolidation. 69
1744 containing the same prohibition. Since the belief in the enriching ^ power of a paper currency is a delusion deeply rooted in the human mind, we may be sure that the action of the Crown and of Parhament was looked upon as a real and serious grievance.
The ill-advised attempt of James 11 to consolidate the colonies north of the Hudson into a single province bore witness to the necessity of some form of administrative union. There is hardly a bundle of colonial papers from 1700 to 1750 which does not contain some document insisting on that necessity. The one redeeming feature of Leisler’s career was that he convened a meeting of deputies from the northern colonies to make arrangements for an invasion of Canada. The convention met at New York in May, 1690. Unhappily Leisler’s aiTogant and tactless disposition prevented any practical result. In 1751 the governor of New York invited representatives of all the thirteen colonies to confer with the Iroquois confederacy about an alliance; but nothing was aimed at in the nature of permanent union. In 1754 William Shirley, one of the most vigorous of colonial governors, obtained the permission of the British government to summon a conven- tion of colonial representatives at Albany. A scheme for a federal union was then laid before them, drawn up by perhaps the ablest and most statesmanlike man who had as yet borne any part in colonial affairs, Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin’s scheme for colonial xmion was approved of by the Convention. He proposed a council elected by the colonies, with a president appointed by the Crown. The difficulty of proportioning representation to the population of the various colonies and yet pre- venting the smaller colonies from being virtually annihilated was surmounted, not, as in the later Federal Constitution, by establishing two chambers, but by varying the number of representatives assigned to the different colonies, and giving to none less than two or more than seven. The president was to have a veto, the Crown a further veto. Military appointments were to be made by the president and approved by the council, civil appointments vice versa. The administi-ative functions of the council were virtually limited to three subjects — defensive war, Indian trade, and the distribution of unoccupied lands. TTie weak point of the system was that it provided no machineiy whereby the council could exercise any authority over individual citizens, or coidd even enforce its decision on a refractory province. The scheme was disapproved by many of the colonists as giving too much power to the Crown. It was rejected by the home government as giving too much independence to the colonies. In this Franklin ingeniously found a proof that he had hit upon the happy mean.