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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Continued Patrick Henry proudly


In

America the effect was terrible and the dismay profound. The Virginia House was in session; nobody dared to speak against a measure which struck at all the privileges of the colonies and went to the hearts of the loyal gentlemen still passionately attached to the mother-country. A young barrister, Patrick Henry, hardly known hitherto, rose at last, and in an unsteady voice said, "I propose to the vote of the Assembly the following resolutions: 'Only the general Assembly of this colony has the right and power to impose taxes on the inhabitants of this colony; every attempt to invest with this power any person or body whatever other than the said general Assembly has a manifest tendency to destroy at one and the same time British and American liberties.'" Then becoming more and more animated and rising to eloquence by sheer force of passion: "Tarquin and Caesar," he exclaimed, "had each their Brutus; Charles I. had his Cromwell, and George III. . . ." "Treason! treason!" was shouted on all sides . . . "will doubtless profit by their example," continued Patrick Henry proudly, without allowing himself to be moved by the wrath of the government's friends. His resolutions were voted by 20 to 19.

The excitement in America was communicated to England; it served the political purposes and passions of Mr. Pitt; he boldly proposed in the House of Commons the repeal of the stamp-tax. "The colonists," he said, "are subjects of this realm, having,

like yourselves, a title to the special privileges of Englishmen; they are bound by the English laws, and, in the same measure as yourselves, have a right to the liberties of this country. The Americans are the sons and not the bastards of England. . . . When in this House we grant subsidies to his Majesty, we dispose of that which is our own; but the Americans are not represented here: when we impose a tax upon them, what is it we do? We, the Commons of England, give what to his Majesty! Our own personal property? No; we give away the property of the Commons of America. There is absurdity in the very terms."

The bill was repealed, and agitation was calmed for a while in America. But ere long, Mr. Pitt resumed office under the title of Lord Chatham, and with office he adopted other views as to the taxes to be imposed; in vain he sought to disguise them under the form of custom-house duties; the taxes on tea, glass, paper, excited in America the same indignation as the stamp-tax. Resistance was everywhere organized.

"Between 1767 and 1771 patriotic leagues were everywhere formed against the consumption of English merchandise and the exportation of American produce; all exchange ceased between the mother-country and the colonies. To extinguish the source of England's riches in America, and to force her to open her eyes to her madness, the colonists shrank from no privation and no sacrifice: luxury had vanished, rich and poor welcomed ruin rather than give up their political rights" [M. Cornelis de Witt, _Histoire de Washington_]. "I expect nothing more from petitions to the king," said Washington, already one of the most steadfast champions of American liberties, "and I would oppose them if they were calculated to suspend the execution of the pact of non-importation. As sure as I live, there is no relief to be expected for us but from the straits of Great Britain. I believe, or at least I hope, that there is enough public virtue still remaining among us to make us deny ourselves everything but the bare necessaries of life in order to obtain justice. This we have a right to do, and no power on earth can force us to a change of conduct short of being reduced to the most abject slavery. . . ." He added, in a spirit of strict justice: "As to the pact of non-exportation, that is another thing; I confess that I have doubts of its being legitimate. We owe considerable sums to Great Britain; we can only pay them with our produce. To have a right to accuse others of injustice, we must be just ourselves; and how can we be so if we refuse to pay our debts to Great Britain? That is what I cannot make out."


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