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- The Eve of the Revolution, - 4/28 -


quantities of inferior rum, the common drink of that day, regarded as essential to the health of sailors engaged in fishing off the Grand Banks, and by far the cheapest and most effective instrument for procuring negroes in Africa or for inducing the western Indians to surrender their valuable furs for some trumpery of colored cloth or spangled bracelet. All this thriving traffic did not benefit British planters, who had molasses of their own and a superior quality of rum which they were not unwilling to sell.

Such traffic, since it did not benefit them, British planters were disposed to think must be bad for England. They were therefore willing to support Mr. Grenville's budget, which proposed that the importation of foreign rum into any British colony be prohibited in future; and which further proposed that the Act of 6 George II, c. 13, be continued, with modifications to make it effective, the modifications of chief importance being the additional duty of twenty-two shillings per hundredweight upon all sugar and the reduction by one half of the prohibitive duty of sixpence on all foreign molasses imported into the British plantations. It was a matter of minor importance doubtless, but one to which they had no objections since the minister made a point of it, that the produce of all the duties which should be raised by virtue of the said act, made in the sixth year of His late Majesty's reign, "be paid into the receipt of His Majesty's Exchequer, and there reserved, to be from time to time disposed of by Parliament, towards defraying the necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America."

With singularly little debate, honorable and right honorable members were ready to vote this new Sugar Act, having the minister's word for it that it would be enforced, the revenue thereby much improved, and a sudden stop put to the long-established illicit traffic with the foreign islands, a traffic so beneficial to the northern colonies, so prejudicial to the Empire and the pockets of planters. Thus it was that Mr. Grenville came opportunely to the aid of the Spanish authorities, who for many years had employed their guarda costas in a vain effort to suppress this very traffic, conceiving it, oddly enough, to be injurious to Spain and highly advantageous to Britain.

It may be that the Spanish authorities regarded the West Indian trade as a commercial system rather than as a means of revenue. This aspect of the matter, the commercial effects of his measures, Mr. Grenville at all events managed not to take suffciently into account, which was rather odd, seeing that he professed to hold the commercial system embodied in the Navigation and Trade Acts in such high esteem, as a kind of "English Palladium." No one could have wished less than Grenville to lay sacrilegious hands on this Palladium, have less intended to throw sand into the nicely adjusted bearings of the Empire's smoothly working commercial system. If he managed nevertheless to do something of this sort, it was doubtless by virtue of being such a "good man of business," by virtue of viewing the art of government too narrowly as a question of revenue only. For the moment, preoccupied as they were with the quest of revenue, the new measures seemed to Mr. Grenville and to the squires and planters who voted them well adapted to raising a moderate sum, part only of some 350,000 pounds, for the just and laudable purpose of "defraying the necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America."

The problem of colonial defense, so closely connected with the question of revenue, was none of Grenville's making but was a legacy of the war and of that Peace of Paris which had added an immense territory to the Empire. When the diplomats of England and France at last discovered, in some mysterious manner, that it had "pleased the Most High to diffuse the spirit of union and concord among the Princes," the world was informed that, as the price of "a Christian, universal; and perpetual peace," France would cede to England what had remained to her of Nova Scotia, Canada, and all the possessions of France on the left bank of the Mississippi except the City of New Orleans and the island on which it stands; that she would cede also the islands of Grenada and the Grenadines, the islands of St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago, and the River Senegal with all of its forts and factories; and that she would for the future be content, so far as her activities in India were concerned, with the five factories which she possessed there at the beginning of the year 1749.

The average Briton, as well as honorable and right honorable members of the House, had known that England possessed colonies and had understood that colonies, as a matter of course, existed to supply him with sugar and rice, indigo and tobacco, and in return to buy at a good price whatever he might himself wish to sell. Beyond all this he had given slight attention to the matter of colonies until the great Pitt had somewhat stirred his slow imagination with talk of empire and destiny. It was doubtless a liberalizing as well as a sobering revelation to be told that he was the "heir apparent of the Romans," with the responsibilities that are implied in having a high mission in the world. Now that his attention was called to the matter, it seemed to the average Briton that in meeting the obligation of this high mission and in dealing with this far-flung empire, a policy of efficiency such as that advocated by Mr. Grenville might well replace a policy of salutary neglect; and if the national debt had doubled during the war, as he was authoritatively assured, why indeed should not the Americans, grown rich under the fostering care of England and lately freed from the menace of France by the force of British arms, be expected to observe the Trade Acts and to contribute their fair share to the defense of that new world of which they were the chief beneficiaries?

If Americans were quite ready in their easy going way to take chances in the matter of defense, hoping that things would turn out for the best in the future as they had in the past, British statesmen and right honorable members of the House, viewing the question broadly and without provincial illusions, understood that a policy of preparedness was the only salvation; a policy of muddling through would no longer suffice as it had done in the good old days before country squires and London merchants realized that their country was a world power. In those days, when the shrewd Robert Walpole refused to meddle with schemes for taxing America, the accepted theory of defense was a simple one. If Britain policed the sea and kept the Bourbons in their place, it was thought that the colonies might be left to manage the Indians; fur traders, whose lure the red man could not resist, and settlers occupying the lands beyond the mountains, so it was said, would do the business. In 1749, five hundred thousand acres of land had been granted to the Ohio Company "in the King's interest" and "to cultivate a friendship with the nations of Indians inhabiting those parts"; and as late as 1754 the Board of Trade was still encouraging the rapid settling of the West, "inasmuch as nothing can more effectively tend to defeat the dangerous designs of the French."

On the eve of the last French war it may well have seemed to the Board of Trade that this policy was being attended with gratifying results. In the year 1749, La Galissomere, the acting Governor of Canada, commissioned Celoron de Blainville to take possession of the Ohio Valley, which he did in form, descending the river to the Maumee, and so to Lake Erie and home again, having at convenient points proclaimed the sovereignty of Louis XV over that country, and having laid down, as evidence of the accomplished fact, certain lead plates bearing awe-inspiring inscriptions, some of which have been discovered and are preserved to this day. It was none the less a dangerous junket. Everywhere Blainville found the Indians of hostile mind; everywhere, in every village almost, he found English traders plying their traffic and "cultivating a friendship with the Indians"; so that upon his return in 1750, in spite of the lead plates so securely buried, he must needs write in his journal: "All I can say is that the nations of those countries are ill disposed towards the French and devoted to the English."

During the first years of the war all this devotion was nevertheless seen to be of little worth. Like Providence, the Indians were sure to side with the big battalions. For want of a few effective garrisons at the beginning, the English found themselves deserted by their quondam allies, and although they recovered this facile allegiance as soon as the French garrisons were taken, it was evident enough in the late years of the war that fear alone inspired the red man's loyalty. The Indian apparently did not realize at this early date that his was an inferior race destined to be supplanted. Of a primitive and uncultivated intelligence, it was not possible for him to foresee the beneficent designs of the Ohio Company or to observe with friendly curiosity the surveyors who came to draw imaginary lines through the virgin forest. And therefore, even in an age when the natural rights of man were being loudly proclaimed, the "Nations of Indians inhabiting those parts" were only too ready to believe what the Virginia traders told them of the Pennsylvanians, what the Pennsylvania traders told them of the Virginians--that the fair words of the English were but a kind of mask to conceal the greed of men who had no other desire than to deprive the red man of his beloved hunting grounds.

Thus it was that the industrious men with pedantic minds who day by day read the dispatches that accumulated in the office of the Board of Trade became aware, during the years from 1758 to 1761, that the old policy of defense was not altogether adequate. "The granting of lands hitherto unsettled," so the Board reported in 1761, "appears to be a measure of the most dangerous tendency." In December of the same year all governors were accordingly forbidden "to pass grants...or encourage settlements upon any lands within the said colonies which may interfere with the Indians bordering upon them."

The policy thus initiated found final expression in the famous Proclamation of 1763, in the early months of Grenville's ministry. By the terms of the Proclamation no further grants were to be made within lands "which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by us, are reserved to the said Indians"--that is to say, "all the lands lying to the westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea from the west or the northwest." All persons who had "either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves" on the reserved lands were required "forthwith to remove themselves"; and for the future no man was to presume to trade with the Indians without first giving bond to observe such regulations as "we shall at any time think fit to...direct for the benefit of the said trade." All these provisions were designed "to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our justice and determined resolution to remove all reasonable cause of discontent." By royal act the territory west of the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, from Florida to 50 degrees north latitude, was thus closed to settlement "for the present" and


The Eve of the Revolution, - 4/28

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