Page images
PDF
EPUB

At evening's penfive hour, or opening day,
He yet hall seem the partner of our way.
Bleft Spirit! ftill thro’ fancy's ear impart
The calm of virtue to the troubled heart !
Correct each fordid view, each vain desire,
And touch the mortal with celestial fire!
So may we still, in this dark scene of earth,
Hold sweet communion with thy living worsh;
And, while our purer ihoughts thy merit scan,

Revere the Angel, as we lov'd the Man. The fame nervous elegance of expression, the same freedom and fulness in the harmony of his numbers (perhaps the most certain indication of true poetical genius), with the same elevated manliness of thought, which were admired in a former production of this excellent writer, are equally discernible in the present.

Before we dismiss this article we must observe, there is one passage in this poem, on which we have particularly fixed our eye.

Oft to our giddy Muse thy voice has taught
The just ambition of poetic thought;
Bid her bold view to lateft time extend,

And strive to make FUTURITY Her Friend. It is needless to point out, that he who wishes to make futurity his friend, must disclaim attention to whatever is in its own na. ture temporary; he must be jealous of the dignity of verse, not to debase it (as too many do whose writings will be forgotten), by prostitution to the purposes of party or personal satire. But there can be little to fear in this respect from a Writer like the present. A mind, formed for and delighting in the contempla. tion of what is elegant in art or amiable in manners, is not likely to be seduced by objects that are in no way congenial to itself.

Epifle to an eminent Painter : See Rev. O&. 1778.

Art. XI. Political Annals of the prefent United Colonies, from their

Settlement to the Peace of 1763. Compiled chiefly from Records, and authorised often by the Insertion of State Papers. By George Chalmers, Esq. Book I. 4to. il. Is. Boards. Printed for the Author, and sold by Bowen, in London. 1779. HUCYDIDES hath always been thought entitled to

the highest praise, for the impartiality with which he hath related the transactions of the period wherein he lived. It is fo extremely difficult for an historian to preserve himself entirely free from the bias of party, and to view events and characters with the eye of calm philosophy, when he is treating of facts immediately connected with the country and age to which

he

he belongs; it requires such a degree of firmness of mind, and independence of spirit, to stand disengaged from all undue influence, on the one hand turning a deaf ear to popular clamour, and, on the other, viewing all the bribes which power can offer, oculo irretorto; that, in this situation, impartiality ought doubtless to be regarded as the most meritorious quality in an historical writer.

We wish it were in our power to allow this kind of merit to the Author of these Annals. The work is so valuable, on account of the distinctness of its detail, the authenticity of its documents, and the elegant manner in which it is written, that it is with concern we remark, throughout the narrative, the most studied application of every fact, which will admit of it, to the vindication of a principle, as warmly contradicted by one party, as it is strenuously asserted by another,--the right of the British Parliament to tax America. Taking for granted principles which many will be disposed to contest-that a series of precedents is of itself a fufficient foundation of legality, and that it is conclusive to argue from the manner in which the Colonies were treated in their infancy, to that in which they ought to be treated in their maturity, he takes every occasion which the history affords him of maintaining this right; and thus, in indulging the warmth of political disputation, he loses the dignity of history.

Impatient to express his sentiments on his favourite topic, the Author, in our opinion rather prematurely, afferts the legisla- . tive right of taxation on the ground of the second charter granted by James I. to the Virginian colonists, by which a body of merchants and tradesmen were incorporated, and impowered to convey lands, make ordinances for the colony, and rule and direct the colonists; and by which the colonists were permitted to export merchandise, for seven years, custom free. Thus, says he, it appears decisively that the colonists were to be governed by the ordinances of a corporation residing in England, in which they were not represented, and over the deliberations of which they had no controul. Thus was affirmed the general right of taxing them without their consent, because they were exempted from duties payable within the colony for a limited time t'

These are sentiments which the Author takes every opportunity to repeat. Speaking of the exercise of the power of taxing the colonies, by the parliament in 1672, he says:

• The Commons soon turned their views beyond the Atlantic. The commerce of the colonies had been before regulated and re

+ The futility of this conclufion was demonstrated in a former No. of our Review. Rev. June, 1780

Hh

strained ; ftrained; they were now considered by them as proper obje&s of taxation. They observed : That it had been permitted by several former laws to transport the enumerated productions of the plantations, in America, Asia, and Africa, from the places of their growth, to other English colonies in those parts, without paying cultom for the same, either at the lading or uolading; whereby the trade in those commodities was greatly increased ; that the inhabitants of ihose settlements, not content with being supplied themselves with those merchandises for their own use, free from all duties, while the subjects in England had paid great impositions for what they used, had fedt great quantities to divers paris of Europe, and daily vend the fame to the thipping of other nations, to the diminution of the cuftoms and of the navigation of the kingdom. They enacted there. fore: That if any veffel, which by law may trade in the plantations, fhall take on-board any enumerated commodities, and a bond, with fufficient security, shall not have been given to unlade them in Eng. land, there shall be rendered to his Majesty, for fugars, tobacco, ginger, cocoa-nut, indigo, logwood, fuftic, cotton wool, the several duties mentioned in the law; to be paid in such places in the plantations, and to such officers, as shall be appointed to collect the fame. And, for the better collection of those taxes, it was enaĉied : That the whole business thall be managed, and the imports shall be Jevied, by officers who shall be appointed by the commissioners of the customs in England, under the authority of the Lords of the Treafury,

The policy of the legislature is extremely clear; no duties were to be demanded for the commodities exported to England, because, under the authority of former laws, customs were already collected : The exportation of those merchandises to foreign nations had been already prohibited by the acts of navigation, though they were fill allowed to be carried from one plantation of the crown to any other ; and now the same duties were imposed, on such transportation, as were then paid upon the consumption within the realm. This law was made the corner-stone of a system which was afterwards erected ; it was extended to other productions of the colonies as they became objects of commerce; it was explained and enforced : and the money arising from it was ordered to be paid into the exchequer for the difposal of parliament. The duties of tonnage and poundage had been imposed, we have seen, and extended, to every dominion of the crown at the Restoration. But this is the first act which imposed customs on the colonies alone, to be regularly collected by colonial rever ue-officers. During the season of high paflion, the clearest propofitions of fact and of law are made objects of doubt or of disputation ; and history is often compelled to enter the lists of controversy. Whether she duties, which were then imposed, ought to be deemed regulations of trade. or exertions of taxation, for the uses of revenue, has been formally debated in modern cimes. Yet the nature of the question necessarily leads to an altercation of words, as frivolous as degrading. We may rely therefore on the weighty authority of Sir Edward Coke, who affures us : “ That every burden whatsoever, fet. upon any man, is a tallage, which cannot be imposed without com, mon affent, by act of parliament." And the Commons, the great

afe fors

affesors of the fate, have invigorated the sentiment of that most emihent lawyer by continual approbation. They acted agreeably to his seasoning, it should seem, when they rejected in 1233, the petition of the colony of Rhode. Inand, againit the act imposing duties on the products of the foreign Welt-lodie, when imported into the English plantations: giving as a reason, what shew's ite sense of the House and the nation; "that it was a money-bill."

* Bút the colonists of former times were assuredly as defirous to ad. mit the legality of the tax, and to deny the policy of the regulation, to pay the one, yet so evade the other, as their posterity have been zealous to dispute the former and allow the latter. The agents of Marsachusets represented to the committee of colonies, in 1078 ; " that; for the encouragement of their trade, they humbly proposed it as a thing that would be joyfully accepted, that, when they export their fish and flaves to foreign countries, they may have liberty to bring back such goods as New-Ergland wants for its own supplies, without coming first to England: they being molt willing to pay all his Majesty's duties upon their arrival in New-England.” When the colonilts were accused, in those days; of breaches of the acts of trade, they inlifted : That, after they had paid the tax, they might, by law, carry their commodities whither they pleased. Yer, the Lords of the Committee submitting this pretension, in the year 1675; to the Attorney-general, Jones, he gave it as his opinion, " that the tax must be paid, and security also given, to carry their productions to a dominion of the Crown; because the law imposing the custom did not repeal that requiring the bond.” The pertinacity of mankind is unbounded when trengthened by interest or encouraged by faction. Former practices nevertheless continued, becaufe they were in some measure justified by former pretences. And the doubts before-mentioned were at lengih decided, in conformity to the opinion of that eminent lawyer, by a ftatute of William and Mary.

• During the session of 1672, the Colonies were not only deemed objects of taxation, but of regulation : and the Parliament, observa ing the national importance of the whale fishing, for its farther encouragement, permitted all persons' reliding in England, whether natives or aliens, to import, from Greenland, Newfoundland, or the, Colonies, whatsoever was made of any creature living in the sea, caught in Mips properly belonging to England, and in them brought in, without paying any custom: but for the oil or fins, imported ia vefsels belonging to the Plantations, several small duties were imposed ; and, on the importation of such commodities in foreign vera sels, taxes were laid, amounting almost to a prohibition. The policy of this regulation is extremely obvious: the filhing, in general, being of national importance, was to be encouraged ; the people of England were preferred to the inhabitants of the Colonies; but shefe were allowed greater advantages than foreigners. And this is the only law, which appears in the statute-book, that makes any distinction between the vessels of the Colonies, and those of Eogland, by giving a preference to the latter over the former,

Such then was the power exercised by the Parliament, during those days, over the Plantations : but, from chat period, the attenHb 2

tion

tion of the members was drawn to other obje&ts more near and inte: refting : and we shall find the Legislature taking little farther notice of colonial affairs during the reign of Charles II.

• The Commissioners of the Customs proceeded immediately to execute the soft so lately reposed in them by Parliament. They appointed officers for virginia, whose duty was twofold; to collect the various duties aliefied by the statute just mentioned ; to superintend the punctual execution of the acts of navigation. And these men were received in that loyal dominion with the attention due to per. fons invested with legal powers from royal authori:y. As early as the Seffion of September, 1672, an A & was passed, obliging “mafters of ships to pay the country dues to the collectors.” Thus the assembly recognised their power, and enlarged it, by extending their commission to taxes that were not within their authority, by contradistinguishing country dues, imposed by itself, from the customs eftablished by Parliament. The example of Virginia was followed by Maryland. Charles Calvert, the Governor, was the first colle&tor appointed for it; and this office he exercised, with approbation, till he became proprietary, in 1676. And the assembly seems to have first recognised that officer during the Seffion of April, 1682; by regulating “ the fees which fhould be paid at the entries of vessels be. longing to the province." Nevertheless, a collector, it should seem, was not appointed for New-England till the year 1679 : and, when Edward Randolph for the first time attempted to execute that office at Boston, he was opposed with the steady zeal of mea who deemed their chartered privileges invaded : and we shall find this condu& one of the chief causes of the dissolution of the ancient government of Massachusets. Thus were collectors firt introduced into colonial jurisprudence; and such was their reception in the different provinces, according to their diffimilar principles.'

Many fimilar passages it would be easy to select ; but it is of little consequence to continue a dispute, the object of which no longer exists. To take great pains to fupport the right of taxing America, appears to be now just as reasonable, as it would be for a man to incur the expence of a law-suit, in order to prove his property in an uninsured veflel, which a storm has buried in the deep.

We therefore proceed to take notice of some passages in which the Author has expressed his idea of religious liberty. From the vehemence with which he exclaims against the perfecuting spirit discovered by the Calvinists in New-England, and from some general assertions of the reasonableness of toleration, one might expect that Mr. Chalmers was a steady friend to the universal exercise of the right of private judgment in religion. How far this is in fact the case, let the Reader judge, from the following account of the settling of Charlestown in New-England.

• Religion, being the principal incentive to their emigration, naturally became the chief object of their care. Their zeal therefore soon appointed a day for the eftablishment of church order and dir.

cipline.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »