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   Chapter 25 1765).

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3527

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Plan for a stamp duty.]

[Sidenote: Questions of troops.]

The next step in colonial control met an unexpected and violent resistance. In the winter of 1763-1764 Grenville, then English prime minister, called together the agents of the colonies and informed them that he proposed to lay a small tax upon the colonies, and that it would take the form of a stamp duty, unless they suggested some other method. Why should England tax the colonies? Because it had been determined to place a permanent force of about ten thousand men in America. A few more English garrisons would have been of great assistance in 1754; the Pontiac outbreak of 1763 had been suppressed only by regular troops who happened to be in the country; and in case of later wars the colonies were likely to be attacked by England's enemies. On the other hand, the colonies had asked for no troops, and desired none. They were satisfied with their own halting and inefficient means of defence; they no longer had French enemies in Canada, and they felt what seems an unreasonable fear that the troops would be used to take away their liberty. From the beginning to the end of the struggle it was never proposed that Americans should be taxed for the support of the home government, or even for the full support of the colonial army. It was supposed that a revenue of one hundred thousand pounds would be raised, which would meet one-third of the necessary expense.

[Sidenote: Stamp Act passed.]

Notwithstanding colonial objections to a standing army, garrisons would doubtless have been received but for the accompanying proposition to tax. On March 10, 1764, preliminary resolutions passed the House of Commons looking towards the Stamp Act. There was no suggestion that the

proposition was illegal; the chief objection was summed up by Beckford, of London, in a phrase: "As we are stout, I hope we shall be merciful."

The news produced instant excitement in the colonies. First was urged the practical objection that the tax would draw from the country the little specie which it contained. The leading argument was that taxation without representation was illegal. The remonstrances, by an error of the agents who had them in charge, were not presented until too late. Franklin and others protested to the ministry, and declared the willingness of the colonies to pay taxes assessed in a lump sum on each colony. Grenville silenced them by asking in what way those lump sums should be apportioned. After a short debate in Parliament the Act was passed by a vote of 205 to 49. Barré, one of the members who spoke against it, alluded to the agitators in the colonies as "Sons of Liberty;" the phrase was taken up in the colonies, and made a party war-cry. George the Third was at that moment insane, and the Act was signed by a commission.

[Sidenote: Expectations of success.]

Resistance in the colonies was not expected. Franklin thought that the Act would go into effect; even Otis said that it ought to be obeyed. It laid a moderate stamp-duty on the papers necessary for legal and commercial transactions. At the request of the ministry, the colonial agents suggested as stamp collectors some of the most respected and eminent men in each colony. Almost at the same time was passed an act somewhat relaxing the Navigation Laws; but a Quartering Act was also passed, by which the colonists were obliged, even in time of peace, to furnish the troops who might be stationed among them with quarters and with certain provisions.

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