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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

But Hillsborough undoubtedly did think so


good intentions. But he was,

as we have seen, a perfervid Tory, a zealous champion of the royal prerogative, a profound believer in the wisdom of minimizing, if not abrogating, the privileges of which the colonists, and especially the colonists of Massachusetts, were so proud. It was Bernard's peculiar fortune to be not merely the supporter but the adviser of the English Ministries in almost all the series of disastrous actions towards their colonies. Bernard was inspired by a kind of furious folly in his words and deeds. Unhappily, this kind of furious folly was not confined to the colonial governor. Lord Hillsborough was no less foolish and no less dangerous than Bernard. Horace Walpole described Hillsborough as nothing more than a pompous composition of ignorance and want of judgment. He certainly was hopelessly ignorant of America, and he certainly showed a hopeless want of judgment in his dealings with the Americans. Hillsborough backed up Bernard in his blunders and his braggadocio with the light heart that comes of an empty head. He backed up Bernard with a steady zeal that would have been splendid if it could have been made to serve any useful purpose. Where Bernard was bellicose and blustering, Hillsborough blustered and was bellicose in his turn. It was Hillsborough's honest, innate conviction that the American colonists were a poor-spirited, feeble-hearted, and still more feeble-handed pack of rascals, braggarts whom a firm front discomfited, natural bondsmen to whom it was only necessary,
as in the old classic story, to show the whip to awe them into cringing submission. This theory found its fittest formula a little later, when Hillsborough, speaking for the Government he adorned, and {149} inspired by a more than usual afflatus of folly, declared that "we can grant nothing to the Americans except what they may ask with a halter round their necks." It is difficult to believe that a reasonable minister, endowed with a sufficient degree of human ability to push his way from office to office and from title to title, could have known so little of the history of his own country and the characteristics of his own countrymen as to think that any of England's children were easily to be frightened into ignominious supplication. But Hillsborough undoubtedly did think so, and he always acted consistently in support of his strong conviction that the independent colonists were nothing more than a mob of cowardly malcontents. He acted on this conviction to such good purpose that his name has earned its place of honor with that of Grenville, of Townshend, and of Wedderburn, in the illustrious junta who were successfully busy about the sorry business of converting a great empire into a small one.

[Sidenote: 1766--The Mutiny Act]

After the Stamp Act had raised its crop of disturbance and disorder, the Government extended to the colonies the measure called the Mutiny Act, for the quartering of troops and providing them with necessaries. The Legislature of New York refused to execute this Act, on the ground that it involved the very principle of taxation which had just been abandoned by the repeal of the Stamp Act. It made provision for the troops in its own way, and calmly ignored the Act of Parliament. Parliament retorted in due course by passing a bill by which the Governor, Council, and Assembly of New York were prevented from passing any law whatsoever until they had complied with the letter and the spirit of the Mutiny Act. This measure was loudly applauded in England, even by some who had shown themselves very friendly to the grievances of the colonists. When New York found that her great deed was too great, and, bending before the anger of Parliament, reluctantly complied with the terms of the Mutiny Act, there were not wanting observers to point out that the lesson, though only addressed to one colony, was of significance to all, and that an inevitable surrender was the proof {150} of the hopeless inferiority of the colonies when brought into direct contest with the supreme power. These jubilations were as short-lived as they were untimely. If New York was weak and wavered, Massachusetts was more firm of purpose. She sternly refused to comply with the terms of the Mutiny Act. She went farther still in defiance of the Government. She issued a circular to the other colonies, calling upon them very frankly and very clearly to co-operate in taking some united course for the purpose of obtaining redress for the recent acts of the English Government. This was the second instance of deliberate combination for a definite end among the colonies, and it caused much disquiet and more irritation to the Government. Lord Hillsborough, always in favor of what he believed to be firm measures, immediately sent Governor Bernard instructions to have the offending circular rescinded. Governor Bernard would have been only too glad to obey, but obedience was not easy.


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