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The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 5743

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

On March 18, 1766, the obnoxious Stamp Act was repealed, but the repeal contained a clause that took all the merit out of the repeal, by maintaining the principle that the King, with the consent of Parliament, had the authority and power to "bind the colonies, and the people of America, in all cases whatsoever."

If the colonies consented to this repeal with its clause, they would be affirming the very thing they were opposing in the Stamp Act. Such "sharp practice" could not win. It was not the stamps they were opposing alone, nor the imposing of taxes. They repudiated the idea and the motive of the right to tax them without their consent, one of the ways of which was to make them buy stamps to legalize any of their business transactions. This explicitly proves that the Revolutionary War was not "an economic war," as some theorists endeavor to prove, but a war of principle, liberty and justice, as it claimed to be.

The King was now asserting a right over the colonies which he did not have anywhere in his own country. This was his will, his "divine right," as it were. If he tried to establish and enforce that will and the colonies endeavored to establish and enforce their will against that will, then it would be, as had so often happened before in English history, a war of the King against the People. So it is often described in history as "the King's war" against the colonies. To such an extent did the people refuse to fight it that the Hanoverian King had to hire Hessian mercenaries.

We have long since learned that it was not the people of England against the people of America, but the war of a foreign-minded King to retain a personal mastery over a branch of the English people, a right lost forever among English-speaking people through the successful revolt of the American Colonies in the name of American liberty.

The King through Parliament hastened to verify his right to tax the Colonies by various taxes against single articles. This was especially resented at Boston where the taxes were most oppressive. The General Court of Massachusetts became a hot-bed of agitation against those taxes. The excitement of every day increased. Violent collisions were of frequent occurrence between the authorities and the people. At last, it became public that two regiments were held at Halifax ready to be sent to Boston to quell the remonstrances there. The colonists looked upon these signs of coercion as nothing less than despotism. The two regiments soon arrived with seven war vessels. The commander reported that he was sure these "spirited measures" would soon quell all disturbances and restore order.

But the colonists now had a greater grievance. They held town meetings and resolved that the King had no right to send troops into the colonies without their consent. They claimed that the charters of all the colonies

were now broken by this act of the King in sending troops into their midst without their consent. It was many times worse than taxation without representation. It was a violation of their allegiance to Great Britain.

The Boston selectmen refused to have anything to do with the soldiers. The council would not recognize that they had any rights in the town. Accordingly, the commander quartered them in the State-House and in Faneuil Hall. The public was enraged at the cannon planted around these buildings and against the sentinels that challenged the rights of free citizens to come and go. Besides, their religious ideas were equally outraged by the fife and drum on Sunday, with the oaths and loud commands of officers, where heretofore all had been peace and quiet.

Virginia was far away from these stirring scenes and news went slowly. However, Washington recognized the grave significance of it all. A letter written April 5, 1769, by him to his friend George Mason, shows what he thought.

"At a time," he wrote, "when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors."

He continued by discussing what was the best way to do this necessary thing. He advised that the use of arms should be the last resource and resort. His moral view is expressed farther on in the letter where he says, as he discusses the effect on the colonists in the war cutting off their trade, "There will be a difficulty attending it everywhere from clashing interests, and selfish, designing men, ever attentive to their own gain, and watchful of every turn that can assist their lucrative views."

This shows us that very far from all of the revolutionary people could be called heroes of principle and entitled to be regarded as the founders of American freedom. Democracy had the usual percentage of sordid parasites, as well as its many noble martyrs and heroic champions.

Still farther on in the same letter, he says, "I can see but one class of people, the merchants excepted, who will not, or ought not, to wish well to the scheme,-namely, they who live genteely and hospitably on clear estates. Such as these, were they not to consider the valuable object in view, and the good of others, might think it hard to be curtailed in their living and enjoyments."

Now it must be taken into consideration that Washington not only belonged to the genteel freeholders to which he refers, but he was also one of the largest merchants who would lose heavily in any stoppage of trade with Great Britain. But we have clearly seen through all his military and public service, that principle, and not gain or comfort, was the vital motive of his conduct and his life.

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