Lord Rockingham and the Declaratory Act - North American Colonies

Taken from The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century (1898) by Edgar Sanderson

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assembly of Virginia first publicly opposed the law, and Patrick Henry, a brilliant and rising young lawyer, introducing a resolution which denied the right of Parliament to tax America, took occasion, amid cries of "Treason!" from several quarters of the House, to remind George the Third of the fate of Julius Caesar and Charles the First. John Ashe, speaker of the North Carolina Assembly, told Governor Tryon, "This law will be resisted to blood and to death." The houses of British officials were mobbed, stamps were seized, prominent loyalists were hung in effigy, British manufactures were "boycotted" by "Daughters of Liberty" wearing nothing but hosiery made of home-spun yarn, and " Sons of Liberty" were banded in resistance to the law.

In February, 1766, when the mild Lord Rockingham had succeeded Grenville as prime-minister, the Stamp Act was repealed, after nearly £7000 had been expended in gathering a stamp revenue of four thousand. At the same time a Declaratory Act was passed asserting that Great Britain had the right and authority to make laws binding upon the colonies and people of America in all cases whatsoever. In 1767, under the Duke of Grafton as nominal premier, Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposed additional custom-dues in America on glass, paper, painters' colours, and tea, in order to raise a revenue for the payment of the officials appointed by the Crown. A fresh cause of quarrel was thus established, and the government at home, anticipating resistance, carried a Mutiny Bill, ordering the colonies to provide quarters and supplies for the troops sent out to enforce the laws.

This ill-judging and menacing Act stirred violent indignation in America. The New York legislature refused compliance, and was suspended from its functions by another Act of the home Parliament. The Massachusetts Assembly sent round a circular urging the other colonies to unite for the redress of grievances, and refused, on demand, to recall the letters. This legislative body was then suspended by the Governor. In October, 1768, British troops, under General Gage, entered Boston, and, on being refused quarters, took possession of the State House. The British Parliament, early in the following year, denounced the action of the Massachusetts Assembly, and requested the king to order the Governor to send treasonable persons home for trial before a Special Commission. About this time, the House of Burgesses in … continue reading »

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