History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 6

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII.
THE CHARTER OF MASSACHUSETTS IN PERIL. THE FALL OF
THE ROCKINGHAM WHIGS. THE EARL OF CHATHAM

MAY–OCTOBER 1766.

THE repeal of the stamp act “planted thorns” under the pillow of the king who preferred losing the colonies to tempering the British claim of absolute authority over them. Their denial of that claim and their union were ascribed by his friends to the fatal compliance of his ministers, whose measures, they insisted, had prevailed “by artifices” against the real opinion of parliament, and “the coming hour” was foretold “when the British Augustus would grieve for the loss, not of a province, but of an empire; not of three legions, but of nations.”

A reaction necessarily followed. Pitt had erected no stronger bulwark for America than the shadowy partition which divides internal taxation from imposts regulating commerce, and Rockingham had broken down this slight defence by declaring that the power of parliament extends of right to all cases whatsoever. But they who give absolute power give the abuse of absolute power; they who draw the bolts from the doors and windows let in the robber. When the opinions of Bedford and Grenville became sanctioned as just principles of constitutional law, the question that remained was but of the expediency of its exercise, and country gentlemen, if they had a right to raise a revenue from America, were sure that it was expedient to ease themselves of one fourth of their landtax by exercising the right. “The administration is dead, and only lying in state,” was the common remark. Conway was eager to resign, and Grafton not only threw up his office, but,

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