Norfolk: Historic Southern Port

By Thomas J. Wertenbaker; Marvin W. Schlegel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The Maelstrom of
Revolution

The accession of George III to the throne marked the culmination of a conflict which had long been in progress between the British government and the colonies. Ever since the meeting of the first representative assembly, at Jamestown, in 1619, the colonists had exercised almost complete control over internal taxation. This proved an effective weapon. In imitation of the House of Commons, who thwarted the king at every turn by threatening to cut off his revenues, the colonial assemblies mastered his representatives in America by holding tight to the purse-strings. In internal affairs the colonies had become practically self-governing republics before the middle of the eighteenth century.

When, then, the failure to reapportion representation in Great Britain thrust into power a group of reactionaries, a clash with America was inevitable. To George III, to his prime minister, George Grenville, to the entire Tory faction, the authority exercised by the assemblies seemed to threaten, not only British control in the colonies, but the foundations of conservatism in England itself. So they set to work to strengthen the hands of the governors. The obvious, if rather dangerous, way to do this, was to supply them with funds for the payment of their salaries and for the expenses of their governments by taxing the colonies by act of Parliament.

The changed temper of the British government was not at first apparent to the Americans. When Grenville forced through the socalled Sugar Act, they did not take alarm. "England has always controlled our commerce," they said, "this is just one more troublesome regulation. Perhaps like the Molasses Act, it will not be strictly enforced." But Grenville intended that it should be enforced. Revenue

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