Party Government in the United States of America

By William Milligan Sloane | Go to book overview

ernment might be never so democratic; that of the colony and State was not.

The circumstances which on occasion put all this rude machinery in motion were connected partly with the defense of the colonies against the French or Spanish and the Indians; partly with questions of taxation. Common danger produced common action in military affairs among groups of colonies at first, finally among all of them during that portion of the Seven Years' War fought in America. The concept of the colony as a source of wealth to the metropolis so dominated England that in the eighteenth century her government never questioned its absolute control, its right to lay taxes when, where, and how it pleased. The only open question was that of expediency and necessity.

The matter of taxing the colonies was first broached in 1739; but the expense of the Seven Years' War made it at the close of that struggle a vital concern for the first time; and the Stamp Act of 1765 was at Westminster a normal procedure. The rebellion of the colonial spirit simply stunned the British Tories; but the Whigs, notorious or renowned-- according as we ourselves feel--for their shrewd opportunism, gained power long enough to repeal it. Thereafter a definite issue was joined between parties. The American Whigs shifted the doctrine of their complaint as circumstances required, being utterly illogical and opportunist, and finally ending in the glitter of Rousseauism, which was naturally foreign to their genius. In every shift and turn, however, they enjoyed the moral support of British Whigs. No one saw that the real issue was home rule. The struggle was initially partisan and on both sides of the Atlantic gave the great impulse to modern party government.

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