(A line by line historical analysis of the accusations of the Declaration of Independence.)
XXI. For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering, fundamentally, the forms of our governments.
While the Boston Port Bill was before the Lords, Lord North, on the twenty-eighth day of March, 1774, in a Committee of the whole Lower House, brought in a bill "for the better regulating of the government in the province of Massachusetts Bay." It provided for an alteration in the Constitution of that province as it stood upon the charter of William III By this act the people of Massachusetts were, without a hearing, deprived of some of the most important rights and privileges secured to them by their charter; rights which they had enjoyed from the first settlement of the colony. The members of the Council, heretofore chosen under the charter, by the General Assembly, were, after the first of August of that year, to be chosen by the King; to consist of not more than thirty-six, and not less than twelve; and to hold their office during his pleasure. After the first of July the governor was authorized to appoint and remove, without the consent of the Council, all judges of the inferior Courts of Common Pleas, Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, the Attorney General, Provosts, Marshals, Justices of the Peace, and other officers belonging to the Council and courts of justice; and was also empowered to appoint sheriffs without the consent of the Council, but not to remove them without their consent.
The ministers did not confine themselves to these fundamental alterations in the charter of that province, but materially altered or totally repealed the laws relating to town meetings, and the election of jurors; laws which had been in existence from the commencement of the government, and deemed a part of the constitution of the colony. The right of selecting jurors by the inhabitants and freeholders of the several towns, was taken from them, and all jurors were by this act, to be summoned and returned by the sheriffs.1
This bill was zealously opposed by the friends of America in the British House of Commons. Barre and Burke, the leaders of this party, opposed it with all their strength of mind and eloquence of speech. "What," said the latter, "can the Americans believe but that England wishes to despoil them of all liberty, of all franchises; and by the destruction of their charters to reduce them to a state of the most abject slavery? As the Americans are no less ardently attached to liberty than the English themselves, can it ever be hoped they will submit to such exorbitant usurpation: to such portentous resolutions?" Governor Pownall, too, lifted up the voice of warning, and plainly told the ministers that their measures would be resisted, not only by the will and sentiment of the whole people, but probably by force of arms. But a false security shut the ears of the British ministry against all of these portentous warnings, and the British legislators seemed to have lost all sense of right and equity. The bill was adopted by an overwhelming majority--two hundred and thirty-nine against sixty-four in the Commons, and ninety-two against twenty in the House of Lords. The King gave the bill his royal signture, and thus he "combined with others for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally, the forms of our governments."
1 Pitkin's Political and Civil History of the United States, vol. 1. p. 266.
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