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HistRevolV1_001-050.indd 17 3/16/12 11:39 AM CHAPTER II The Stamp-Act • A Congress convened at New York, One thousand seven hundred and sixty-five • The Stamp-Act repealed • New Grievances • Suspension of the Legislature of New York [27] The project of an American taxation might have been longer CHAP. u meditated, but the memorable era of the stamp-act, in one thousand 1 1 6 4 seven hundred and sixty-four, was the first innovation that gave a general alarm throughout the continent. By this extraordinary act, a certain duty was to be levied on all bonds, bills of lading, public papers, and writings of every kind, for the express purpose of raising a revenue to the crown. As soon as this intelligence was transmitted to America, an universal murmur succeeded; and while the judicious and penetrating thought it time to make a resolute stand against the encroachments of power, the resentment of the lower classes broke out into such excesses of riot and tumult, as prevented the operation of the favorite project. Multitudes assembled in the principal towns and cities, and the popular torrent bore down all before it. The houses of some, who were the avowed abettors of the measure, and of others, who were only suspected as inimical to the liberties of America, in Boston, in Newport, [28] Connecticut, and many other places, were rased to the ground. The commissioners of the stamp-office were every where compelled to renounce their employments, and to enter into the most solemn engagements to make no further attempts to act in this obnoxious business. At New York the act was printed, and cried about the streets, under the title "The folly of England, and the ruin of America." In Philadelphia the cannon were spiked up, and the bells of the city, muffled, tolled from morning to evening, and every testimony of sincere mourning was displayed, on the arrival of the stamp papers. Nor were any of the more southern colonies less opposed to the operation of this act; and the house of Burgesses, m 17 HistRevolV1_001-050.indd 18 3/16/12 11:39 AM 18 W A R R E N ' S H I S T 0 R Y 0 F T H E R E V 0 L U T I 0 N CHAP. n Virginia, was the first who formally resolved against the encroachments 1 1 6 4 of power, and the unwarrantable designs of the British parliament. The novelty of their procedure, and the boldness of spirit that marked the resolutions of that assembly, at once astonished and disconcerted the officers of the crown, and the supporters of the measures of administration. These resolves* were ushered into the house, on the thirtieth of May, one thousand, seven hundred and sixty-five, by Patrick Henry, esq. a young gentleman of the law, till then unknown in political life. He was a man, possessed of strong powers, much professional knowledge, [29] and of such abilities as qualified him for the exigencies of the day. Fearless of the cry of 'treason,' echoed against him from several quarters, he justified the measure, and supported the resolves, in a speech, that did honor both to his understanding, and his patriotism. The governor, to check the progress ofsuch daring principles, immediately dissolved the assembly. But the disposition of the people was discovered, when, on a new election, those gentlemen were every where re-chosen, who had shewn the most firmness and zeal, in opposition to the stamp-act. Indeed, from New Hampshire to the Carolinas, a general aversion appeared against this experiment of administration. Nor was the flame confined to the continent; it had spread to the insular regions, whose inhabitants, constitutionally more sanguine than those born in colder climates, discovered stronger marks of resentment, and prouder tokens of disobedience to ministerial authority. Thus several of the West India islands shewed equal violence, in the destruction of the stamp papers, disgust at the act, and indignation towards the officers who were bold enough to attempt its execution. Nor did they at this period appear less determined to resist the operation of all unconstitutional mandates, than the generous planters of the southern, or the independent spirits of the northern colonies. [30] When the general assembly of the Massachusetts met this year, it appeared that most of the members of the house of representatives had instructions from their constituents to make every legal and spirited opposition to the distribution of...


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