The American History Company

By Peter Bell, Geographer, 1772.



Books for Study and Reading

References.--Fiske's War of Independence, 39-86; Scudder's George Washington; Lossing's Field-Book of the Revolution; English History for Americans, 244-284 (English political history).

Home Readings.--Irving's Washington (abridged edition); Cooke's Stories of the Old Dominion; Cooper's Lionel Lincoln; Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride.



England's early liberal colonial policy.
England's changed colonial policy.

103. Early Colonial Policy.--At the outset, England's rulers had been very kind to Englishmen who founded colonies. They gave them great grants of land. They gave them rights of self-government greater than any Englishmen living in England enjoyed. They allowed them to manage their own trade and industries as they saw fit. They even permitted them to worship God as their consciences told them to worship him. But, as the colonists grew in strength and in riches, Britain's rulers tried to make their trade profitable to British merchants and interfered in their government. On their part the colonists disobeyed the navigation laws and disputed with the royal officials. For years Britain's rulers allowed this to go on. But, at length, near the close of the last French war Mr. Pitt ordered the laws to be enforced.

Difficulties in enforcing the navigation laws.
James Otis. Eggleston, 163. His speech against writs of assistance, 1761.

104. Writs of Assistance, 1761.--It was a good deal easier to order the laws to be carried out than it was to carry them out. It was almost impossible for the customs officers to prevent goods being landed contrary to law. When the goods were once on shore, it was difficult to seize them. So the officers asked the judges to give them writs of assistance. Among the leading lawyers of Boston was James Otis. He was the king's law officer in the province. But he resigned his office and opposed the granting of the writs. He objected to the use of writs of assistance because they enabled a customs officer to become a tyrant. Armed with one of them he could go to the house of a man he did not like and search it from attic to cellar, turn everything upside down and break open doors and trunks. It made no difference, said Otis, whether Parliament had said that the writs were legal. For Parliament could not make an act of tyranny legal. To do that was beyond the power even of Parliament.

Patrick Henry. Eggleston, 162.
His speech in the Parson's Cause, 1763.

105. The Parson's Cause, 1763.--The next important case arose in Virginia and came about in this way. The Virginians made a law regulating the salaries of clergymen in the colony. The king vetoed the law. The Virginians paid no heed to the veto. The clergy men appealed to the courts and the case of one of them was selected for trial. Patrick Henry, a prosperous young lawyer, stated the opinions of the Virginians in a speech which made his reputation. The king, he said, had no right to veto a Virginia law that was for the good of the people. To do so was an act of tyranny, and the people owed no obedience to a tyrant. The case was decided for the clergyman. For the law was clearly on his side. But the jurymen agreed with Henry. They gave the clergyman only one farthing damages, and no more clergymen brought cases into the court. The king's veto was openly disobeyed.

Proclamation of 1763. McMaster, 110.

106. The King's Proclamation of 1763.--In the same year that the Parson's Cause was decided the king issued a proclamation which greatly lessened the rights of Virginia and several other colonies to western lands. Some of the old charter lines, as those of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, and the Carolinas had extended to the Pacific Ocean. By the treaty of 1763 (p. 69) the king, for himself and his subjects, abandoned all claim to lands west of Mississippi River. Now in the Proclamation of 1763 he forbade the colonial governors to grant any lands west of the Alleghany Mountains. The western limit of Virginia and the Carolinas was fixed. Their pioneers could not pass the mountains and settle in the fertile valleys of the Ohio and its branches.



George III.
George Grenville.
The British Parliament.

107. George III and George Grenville.--George III became king in 1760. He was a narrow, stupid, well-meaning, ignorant young man of twenty-one. He soon found in George Grenville a narrow, dull, well-meaning lawyer, a man who would do what he was told. So George Grenville became the head of the government. To him the law was the law. If he wished to do a thing and could find the law for it, he asked for nothing more. His military advisers told him that an army must be kept in America for years. It was Grenville's business to find the money to support this army. Great Britain was burdened with a national debt. The army was to be maintained, partly, at least, for the protection of the colonists. Why should they not pay a part of the cost of maintaining it? Parliament was the supreme power in the British Empire. It controlled the king, the church, the army, and the navy. Surely a Parliament that had all this power could tax the colonists. At all events, Grenville thought it could, and Parliament passed the Stamp Act to tax them.

Taxation and representation.
Henry's resolutions, 1765. Higginson, 161-164; McMaster, 112-114.

108. Henry's Resolutions, 1765.--The colonists, however, with one voice, declared that Parliament had no power to tax them. Taxes, they said, could be voted only by themselves or their representatives. They were represented in their own colonial assemblies, and nowhere else. Patrick Henry was now a member of the Virginia assembly. He had just been elected for the first time. But as none of the older members of the assembly proposed any action, Henry tore a leaf from an old law-book and wrote on it a set of resolutions. These he presented in a burning speech, upholding the rights of the Virginians. He said that to tax them by act of Parliament was tyranny. "Caesar and Tarquin had each his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III"--"Treason, treason," shouted the speaker. "May profit by their example," slowly Henry went on. "If that be treason, make the most of it." The resolutions were voted. In them the Virginians declared that they were not subject to Acts of Parliament laying taxes or interfering in the internal affairs of Virginia.


Opposition to the Stamp Act, 1765. Higginson, 164-165; McMaster, 116.

109. Stamp Act Riots, 1765.--Until the summer of 1765 the colonists contented themselves with passing resolutions. There was little else that they could do. They could not refuse to obey the law because it would not go into effect until November. They could not mob the stamp distributers because no one knew their names. In August the names of the stamp distributers were published. Now at last it was possible to do something besides passing resolutions. In every colony the people visited the stamp officers and told them to resign. If they refused, they were mobbed until they resigned. In Boston the rioters were especially active. They detested Thomas Hutchinson. He was lieutenant-governor and chief justice and had been active in enforcing the navigation acts. The rioters attacked his house. They broke his furniture, destroyed his clothing, and made a bonfire of his books and papers.

Colonial congresses.
Albany Congress, 1754.
Stamp Act Congress, 1765.

110. The Stamp Act Congress, 1765.--Colonial congresses were no new thing. There had been many meetings of governors and delegates from colonial assemblies. The most important of the early congresses was the Albany Congress of 1754. It was important because it proposed a plan of union. The plan was drawn up by Benjamin Franklin. But neither the king nor the colonists liked it, and it was not adopted. All these earlier congresses had been summoned by the king's officers to arrange expeditions against the French or to make treaties with the Indians. The Stamp Act Congress was summoned by the colonists to protest against the doings of king and Parliament.

[Illustration: PATRICK HENRY "I am not a Virginian, but an American."]

Declaration of the Rights and Grievances of the Colonists, 1765. McMaster, 115.

111. Work of the Stamp Act Congress.--Delegates from nine colonies met at New York in October, 1765. They drew up a "Declaration of the Rights and Grievances of the Colonists." In this paper they declared that the colonists, as subjects of the British king, had the same rights as British subjects living in Britain, and were free from taxes except those to which they had given their consent. They claimed for themselves the right of trial by jury--which might be denied under the Stamp Act. But the most important thing about the congress was the fact that nine colonies had put aside their local jealousies and had joined in holding it.

Benjamin Franklin.
Examined by the House of Commons.

112. Franklin's Examination.--Born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin ran away from home and settled at Philadelphia. By great exertion and wonderful shrewdness he rose from poverty to be one of the most important men in the city and colony. He was a printer, a newspaper editor, a writer, and a student of science. With kite and string he drew down the lightning from the clouds and showed that lightning was a discharge of electricity. He was now in London as agent for Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. His scientific and literary reputation gave him great influence. He was examined at the bar of the House of Commons. Many questions and answers were arranged beforehand between Franklin and his friends in the House. But many questions were answered on the spur of the moment. Before the passage of the Stamp Act the feeling of the colonists toward Britain had been "the best in the world." So Franklin declared. But now, he said, it was greatly altered. Still an army sent to America would find no rebellion there. It might, indeed, make one. In conclusion, he said the repeal of the act would not make the colonists any more willing to pay taxes.

Fall of Grenville.
Repeal of the Stamp Act, 1766.
The Declaratory Act, 1766.

113. Repeal of the Stamp Act, 1766.--It chanced that at this moment George III and George Grenville fell out. The king dismissed the minister, and gave the Marquis of Rockingham the headship of a new set of ministers. Now Rockingham and his friends needed aid from somebody to give them the strength to outvote Grenville and the Tories. So when the question of what should be done about the Stamp Act came up, they listened most attentively to what Mr. Pitt had to say. That great man said that the Stamp Act should be repealed wholly and at once. At the same time another law should be passed declaring that Parliament had power to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. The Rockinghams at once did as Mr. Pitt suggested. The Stamp Act was repealed. The Declaratory Act was passed. In the colonies Pitt was praised as a deliverer. Statues of him were placed in the streets, pictures of him were hung in public halls. But, in reality, the passage of the Declaratory Act was the beginning of more trouble.

The Chatham Ministry.
The Townshend Acts, 1767. McMaster, 117-118.

114. The Townshend Acts, 1767.--The Rockingham ministers did what Mr. Pitt advised them to do. He then turned them out and made a ministry of his own. He was now Earl of Chatham, and his ministry was the Chatham Ministry. The most active of the Chatham ministers was Charles Townshend. He had the management of the finances and found them very hard to manage. So he hit upon a scheme of laying duties on wine, oil, glass, lead, painter's colors, and tea imported into the colonies. Mr. Pitt had said that Parliament could regulate colonial trade. The best way to regulate trade was to tax it. At the same time that Townshend brought in this bill, he brought in others to reorganize the colonial customs service and make it possible to collect the duties. He even provided that offences against the revenue laws should be tried by judges appointed directly by the king, without being submitted to a jury of any kind.

The Sugar Act.
Enforcement of the Navigation Acts.

115. Colonial Opposition, 1768.--Many years before this, Parliament had made a law taxing all sugar brought into the continental colonies, except sugar that had been made in the British West Indies. Had this law been carried out, the trade of Massachusetts and other New England colonies would have been ruined. But the law was not enforced. No one tried to enforce it, except during the few months of vigor at the time of the arguments about writs of assistance. As the taxes were not collected, no one cared whether they were legal or not. Now it was plain that this tax and the Townshend duties were to be collected. The Massachusetts House of Representatives drew up a circular letter to the other colonial assemblies asking them to join in opposing the new taxes. The British government ordered the House to recall the letter. It refused and was dissolved. The other colonial assemblies were directed to take no notice of the circular letter. They replied at the first possible moment and were dissolved.

Seizure of the sloop Liberty, 1768.

116. The New Customs Officers at Boston, 1768.--The chief office of the new customs organization was fixed at Boston. Soon John Hancock's sloop, Liberty, sailed into the harbor with a cargo of Madeira wine. As Hancock had no idea of paying the duty, the customs officers seized the sloop and towed her under the guns of a warship which was in the harbor. Crowds of people now collected. They could not recapture the Liberty. They seized one of the war-ship's boats, carried it to the Common, and had a famous bonfire. All this confusion frightened the chief customs officers. They fled to the castle in the harbor and wrote to the government for soldiers to protect them.


Virginia Resolves, 1769.

117. The Virginia Resolves of 1769.--Parliament now asked the king to have colonists, accused of certain crimes, brought to England for trial. This aroused the Virginians. They passed a set of resolutions, known as the Virginia Resolves of 1769. These resolves asserted: (1) that the colonists only had the right to tax the colonists; (2) that the colonists had the right to petition either by themselves or with the people of other colonies; and (3) that no colonist ought to be sent to England for trial.

Non-Importation Agreements, 1769.
Partial repeal of the Townshend Acts, 1770.

118. Non-Importation Agreements, 1769.--When he learned what was going on, the governor of Virginia dissolved the assembly. But the members met in the Raleigh tavern near by. There George Washington laid before them a written agreement to use no British goods upon which duties had been paid. They all signed this agreement. Soon the other colonies joined Virginia in the Non-Importation Agreement. English merchants found their trade growing smaller and smaller. They could not even collect their debts, for the colonial merchants said that trade in the colonies was so upset by the Townshend Acts that they could not sell their goods, or collect the money owing to them. The British merchants petitioned Parliament to repeal the duties, and Parliament answered them by repealing all the duties except the tax on tea.




The British soldiers at New York.
Soldiers sent to Boston, 1768.

119. The Soldiers at New York and Boston.--Soldiers had been stationed at New York ever since the end of the French war because that was the most central point on the coast. The New Yorkers did not like to have the soldiers there very well, because Parliament expected them to supply the troops with certain things without getting any money in return. The New York Assembly refused to supply them, and Parliament suspended the Assembly's sittings. In 1768 two regiments came from New York to Boston to protect the customs officers.

The Boston Massacre, 1770. Higginson, 166-169; McMaster, 118.

120. The Boston Massacre, 1770.--There were not enough soldiers at Boston to protect the customs officers--if the colonists really wished to hurt them. There were quite enough soldiers at Boston to get themselves and the colonists into trouble. On March 5, 1770, a crowd gathered around the soldiers stationed on King's Street, now State Street. There was snow on the ground, and the boys began to throw snow and mud at the soldiers. The crowd grew bolder. Suddenly the soldiers fired on the people. They killed four colonists and wounded several more. Led by Samuel Adams, the people demanded the removal of the soldiers to the fort in the harbor. Hutchinson was now governor. He offered to send one regiment out of the town. "All or none," said Adams, and all were sent away.

Town Committees of Correspondence.
Colonial Committees of Correspondence, 1769.

121. Committees of Correspondence.--Up to this time the resistance of the colonists had been carried on in a haphazard sort of way. Now Committees of Correspondence began to be appointed. These committees were of two kinds. First there were town Committees of Correspondence. These were invented by Samuel Adams and were first appointed in Massachusetts. But more important were the colonial Committees of Correspondence. The first of these was appointed by Virginia in 1769. At first few colonies followed Massachusetts and Virginia in appointing committees. But as one act of tyranny succeeded another, other colonies fell into line. By 1775 all the colonies were united by a complete system of Committees of Correspondence.

The tax on tea. McMaster, 119.

122. The Tea Tax.--Of all the Townshend duties only the tax on tea was left. It happened that the British East India Company had tons of tea in its London storehouses and was greatly in need of money. The government told the company that it might send tea to America without paying any taxes in England, but the three-penny colonial tax would have to be paid in the colonies. In this way the colonists would get their tea cheaper than the people of England. But the colonists were not to be bribed into paying the tax in any such way. The East India Company sent over ship-loads of tea. The tea ships were either sent back again or the tea was stored in some safe place where no one could get it.

Boston Tea Party, 1773. Higginson, 171-173; Eggleston, 165; Source-Book, 137.

123. The Boston Tea Party, 1773.--In Boston things did not go so smoothly. The agents of the East India Company refused to resign. The collector of the customs refused to give the ships permission to sail away before the tea was landed. Governor Hutchinson refused to give the ship captains a pass to sail by the fort until the collector gave his permission. The commander at the fort refused to allow the ships to sail out of the harbor until they had the necessary papers. The only way to get rid of the tea was to destroy it. A party of patriots, dressed as Indians, went on board of the ships as they lay at the wharf, broke open the tea boxes, and threw the tea into the harbor.

Repressive acts, 1774. McMaster, 120.

124. Punishment of Massachusetts, 1774.--The British king, the British government, and the mass of the British people were furious when they found that the Boston people had made "tea with salt water." Parliament at once went to work passing acts to punish the colonists. One act put an end to the constitution of Massachusetts. Another act closed the port of Boston so tightly that the people could not bring hay from Charlestown to give to their starving horses. A third act provided that soldiers who fired on the people should be tried in England. And a fourth act compelled the colonists to feed and shelter the soldiers employed to punish them.

The colonists aid Massachusetts. Higginson, 174-177.
George Washington.

125. Sympathy with the Bostonians.--King George thought he could punish the Massachusetts people as much as he wished without the people of the other colonies objecting. It soon appeared that the people of the other colonies sympathized most heartily with the Bostonians. They sent them sheep and rice. They sent them clothes. George Washington was now a rich man. He offered to raise a thousand men with his own money, march with them to Boston, and rescue the oppressed people from their oppressors. But the time for war had not yet come although it was not far off.

The Quebec Act, 1774.

126. The Quebec Act, 1774.--In the same year that Parliament passed the four acts to punish Massachusetts, it passed another act which affected the people of other colonies as well as those of Massachusetts. This was the Quebec Act. It provided that the land between the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Great Lakes should be added to the Province of Quebec. Now this land was claimed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. These colonies were to be deprived of their rights to land in that region. The Quebec Act also provided for the establishment of a very strong government in that province. This seemed to be an attack on free institutions. All these things drove the colonists to unite. They resolved to hold a congress where the leaders of the several continental colonies might talk over matters and decide what should be done.

The First Continental Congress, 1774.

127. The First Continental Congress, 1774.--The members of the Continental Congress met in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, in September, 1774. Never, except in the Federal Convention (p. 137), have so many great men met together. The greatest delegation was that from Virginia. It included George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee. From Massachusetts came the two Adamses, John and Samuel. From New York came John Jay. From Pennsylvania came John Dickinson. Of all the greatest Americans only Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were absent.


The American Association, 1774.

128. The American Association, 1774.--It soon became clear that the members of the Congress were opposed to any hasty action. They were not willing to begin war with Great Britain. Instead of so doing they adopted a Declaration of Rights and formed the American Association. The Declaration of Rights was of slight importance. But the Association was of great importance, as the colonies joining it agreed to buy no more British goods. This policy was to be carried out by the Committees of Correspondence. Any colony refusing to join the Association should be looked upon as hostile "to the liberties of this country," and treated as an enemy. The American Association was the real beginning of the American Union.

Resistance throughout the colonies 1774-75.

129. The Association carried out, 1774-75.--It was soon evident that Congress in forming the Association had done precisely what the people wished to have done. For instance, in Virginia committees were chosen in every county. They examined the merchants' books. They summoned before them persons suspected of disobeying "the laws of Congress." Military companies were formed in every county and carried out the orders of the committees. The ordinary courts were entirely disregarded. In fact, the royal government had come to an end in the Old Dominion.

Parliament punishes Massachusetts, 1774-75.

130. More Punishment for Massachusetts, 1774-75.--George III and his ministers refused to see that the colonies were practically united. On the contrary, they determined to punish the people of Massachusetts still further. Parliament passed acts forbidding the Massachusetts fishermen to catch fish and forbidding the Massachusetts traders to trade with the people of Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and all foreign countries. The Massachusetts colonists were rebels, they should be treated as rebels. General Gage was given more soldiers and ordered to crush the rebellion.

General Gage.
Opposed by the Massachusetts people.

131. Gage in Massachusetts, 1774-75.--General Gage found he had a good deal to do before he could begin to crush the rebellion. He had to find shelter for his soldiers. He also had to find food for them. The Boston carpenters would not work for him. He had to bring carpenters from Halifax and New York to do his work. The farmers of eastern Massachusetts were as firm as the Boston carpenters. They would not sell food to General Gage. So he had to bring food from England and from Halifax. He managed to buy or seize wood to warm the soldiers and hay to feed his horses. But the boats bringing these supplies to Boston were constantly upset in a most unlooked-for way. The colonists, on their part, elected a Provincial Congress to take the place of the regular government. The militia was reorganized, and military stores gathered together.

[Illustration: APRIL 19, 1775, DRAWN AND ENGRAVED BY TWO MEN WHO TOOK PART IN THE ACTION. Reproduced through the courtesy of Rev. E. G. Porter.]

Lexington and Concord, 1775. Higginson, 178-183; McMaster, 126-128; Source-Book, 144-146.

132. Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775.--Gage had said that with ten thousand men he could march all over Massachusetts. In April, 1775, he began to crush the rebellion by sending a strong force to Concord to destroy stores which his spies told him had been collected there. The soldiers began their march in the middle of the night. But Paul Revere and William Dawes were before them. "The regulars are coming," was the cry. At Lexington, the British found a few militiamen drawn up on the village green. Some one fired and a few Americans were killed. On the British marched to Concord. By this time the militiamen had gathered in large numbers. It was a hot day. The regulars were tired. They stopped to rest. Some of the militiamen attacked the regulars at Concord, and when the British started on their homeward march, the fighting began in earnest. Behind every wall and bit of rising ground were militiamen. One soldier after another was shot down and left behind. At Lexington the British met reinforcements, or they would all have been killed or captured. Soon they started again. Again the fighting began. It continued until the survivors reached a place of safety under the guns of the warships anchored off Charlestown. The Americans camped for the night at Cambridge and began the siege of Boston.



§ 103.--a. Name some instances which illustrate England's early policy toward its colonies.

b. Explain the later change of policy, giving reasons for it.

§§ 104, 105.--a. What reasons did Otis give for his opposition to the writs of assistance? Why are such writs prohibited by the Constitution of the United States?

b. What is a veto? What right had the King of Great Britain to veto a Virginia law? Which side really won in the Parson's Cause?

§ 106.--What colonies claimed land west of the Alleghany Mountains? How did the king interfere with these claims?


§§ 107-109.--a. What reasons were given for keeping an army in America?

b. What is meant by saying that Parliament was "the supreme power in the British Empire"?

c. Is a stamp tax a good kind of tax?

d. Explain carefully the colonists' objections to the Stamp Act of 1765. Do the same objections hold against the present Stamp tax?

§§ 110-113.--a. Explain the difference between the Stamp Act Congress and the earlier Congress.

b. What did the Stamp Act Congress do?

c. Give an account of Franklin. What did Franklin say about the feeling in the colonies?

d. Explain carefully the causes which led to the repeal of the Stamp Act.

e. Can the taxing power and the legislative power be separated? What is the case to-day in your own state? In the United States?

§§ 114-116.--a. How did Townshend try to raise money? How did this plan differ from the Stamp tax?

b. What was the Massachusetts Circular Letter? Why was it important?

c. What was the result of the seizure of the Liberty?

§§ 117, 118.--a. What were the Virginia Resolves of 1769? Why were they passed?

b. What were the Non-importation agreements?

c. What action did the British merchants take? What results followed?


§§ 119, 120.--a. Why were the soldiers stationed at New York? At Boston?

b. Describe the trouble at Boston. Why is it called a massacre?

§§ 121-123.--a. What was the work of a Committee of Correspondence?

b. What did the British government hope to accomplish in the tea business? Why did the colonists refuse to buy the tea?

c. Why was the destruction of the tea at Boston necessary?

§§ 124-126.--a. How did Parliament punish the colonists of Massachusetts and Boston? Which of these acts was most severe? Why?

b. What effect did these laws have on Massachusetts? On the other colonies?

c. Explain the provisions of the Quebec Act.

d. How would this act affect the growth of the colonies?

§§ 127-129.--a. What was the object of the Continental Congress?

b. Why was the Association so important?

c. How was the idea of the Association carried out?

d. What government did the colonies really have?

§§ 130-132.--a. What is a rebel? Were the Massachusetts colonists rebels?

b. Describe General Gage's difficulties.

c. What was the result of Gage's attempt to seize the arms at Concord?


a. Arrange, with dates, all the acts of the British government which offended the colonists.

b. Arrange, with dates, all the important steps which led toward union. Why are these steps important?

c. Give the chief causes of the Revolution and explain why you select these.


a. The early life of Benjamin Franklin (Franklin's Autobiography).

b. The early life of George Washington (Scudder's Washington).

c. The Boston Tea Party (Fiske's War of Independence).

d. The Nineteenth of April, 1775 (Fiske's War of Independence; Lossing's Field-Book).


This section is not only the most important but the most difficult of any so far considered. Its successful teaching requires more preparation than any earlier section. The teacher is advised carefully to peruse Channing's Students' History, ch. iv, and to state in simple, clear language, the difference between the ideas on representation which prevailed in England and in the colonies. Another point to make clear is the legal supremacy of Parliament. The outbreak was hastened by the stupid use of legal rights which the supremacy of Parliament placed in the hands of Britain's rulers, who acted often in defiance of the real public opinion of the mass of the inhabitants of Great Britain.

Back Next