(A line by line historical analysis of the accusations of the Declaration of Independence.)
XVII. For imposing taxes on us without our consent.
George Grenville, an honest but short-sighted statesman, became the Prime Minister, or "First Lord of the Treasury," of Great Britain, in 1764. He found the treasury drained empty by the vampire appetite of war, and his first care was to devise means to replenish it. Believing that the Crown had an unquestionable right to tax its colonies, and perceiving the capacity of the A mericans to pay a tax if levied, he turned his attention to a project for replenishing the treasury, by establishing new duties upon all foreign goods imported by the Americans. They were already submitting to the taxes, in the shape of duties, which the Navigation Act, and the Sugar Act, imposed; and when this new scheme was proposed to Parliament, the people were at once aroused to a sense of their danger--they saw clearly the designed the British Ministry to impose tax upon tax, as long as forbearance would allow it. Action on the subject was taken in the colonial assemblies, and one sentiment. seemed to prevail,--a denial of the right of Great Britain to tax its colonies without their consent. The fundamental principle of a free government, that "Taxation equitable representation are inseparable," was boldly proclaimed, and petitions and remonstrances from the colonies were transmitted to the King and Parliament. But the King, instead of heeding these remonstrances, asserted his right to tax the colonies, in his speech to Parliament at the opening in January, 1765, and recommended the adoption of Grenville's measures. Emboldened by this, the Minister proposed his famous Stamp Act in February, and in March it became a law, and received the royal signature.
The ferment which this act produced in America, and the violent opposition it met with from Pitt, and other leading minds in Parliament, caused its repeal in March 1766. The Repeal Act, however, was accompanied by a Declaratory Act, which contained the germ of other oppressions. It affirmed that Parliament had power to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever. Although it was thought expedient to repeal the Stamp Act, yet the Declaratory Act asserted the correctness of the doctrine it contained and exhibited practically.1
Again in 1767, another tax was imposed in the shape of duties upon glass, paper, painter's colors, and tea. Here again taxes were imposed upon us "without our consent." The act was strongly condemned throughout the colonies, and the British ministry perceiving a tendency toward open rebellion in America, repealed this act also, excepting the duty upon tea. Finally, in 1773, Lord North attempted to draw a revenue from America by imposing additional duties upon tea; but it was met by firm opposition, and the celebrated Boston Tea Riot ensued. We might cite other proofs of the truth of this charge, but these may suffice.
1 As the Stamp Act was the first and chief cause which fully aroused the colonists to a sense of the danger of enslavement by the mother country, and awakened the first notes of universal alarm that led to a general union of the Anglo-Americans in defence of their inalienable rights, and resulted finally in the adoption of a Declaration of Independence, we have inserted it in detail in the Appendix to this work.
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