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without their own consent. Some of the colonies very early asserted, and attempted to act upon, that principle; as Massachusetts in 1640; and in 1651 and 1660 in reference to the Navigation Acts. And although that State frequently in subsequent years, and as late as the year 1757, acknowledged the general supremacy of Parliament, * she excepted the case of submitting to taxation without her express consent. And even the southern States, which were in general most disposed to recognise the authority of the Crown and Parliament, “ denied the right to tax them internally to exist anywhere but in their respective legislatures." +
The passing of the Stamp Act in 1765 gave a further impulse to this feeling of independence, and strengthened the determination to assert it; and although that Act was afterwards repealed, the subsequent attempt to raise a revenue on importations into the colo
* Story, § 188.
+ $$ 189, 190. Declaration of the Congress of the Nine Colonies assembled at New York, October, 1765.
nies was as strenuously resisted as the former mode of taxation. In the glowing words of Burke, “ They augured misgovernment at a distance, and snuffed the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
One of the features most noticeable at the commencement of this great struggle, is the moderation of the language and conduct of the colonists, which was as conspicuous as the firmness with which they persevered in vindicating their rights and liberties. This moderation in the midst of so great a crisis, which, if it had been met in a similar spirit by the people of England, would have altered the whole character of the course of events, is traceable to many circumstances of the political and social existence of the colonists, which ought not to be lost sight of even in the present day. As has been shown above, by far the greater number of the colonial constitutions owed their origin to no extreme political views and opinions; but, in their moderate and temperate admixture of the several powers of government, were very similar to the constitutional system which had been gradually acquiring strength and consistence in the mother country. The prerogatives of the Crown were clearly defined and cheerfully recognised in the proprietary and charter governments, and although attempts at aggression on the part of the Crown in the provincial governments were met by the strenuous and successful opposition of the provincial assemblies, yet even in the latter governments most of the well-established and ordinary prerogatives were exercised without dispute.* The representative system was organised on a moderate basis, and consisted for the most part of two portions; one elected by the freeholders, the other, or the council to assist the governor, nominated by the Crown. The similarity of social institutions between the colonies and the mother country was kept up throughout the whole of the southern States, and in Rhode Island among the northern, by favouring the custom of primogeniture and the law of entails; and even in the rest of the northern States the principle was recognised to a certain extent, by assigning a double portion in case of intestacy to the eldest son. To this there was but one exception, that of the small State of Maryland. The long existence, and the general predominance throughout the Union, at the time of the Revolution, of political and social institutions such as these, are facts which should not be forgotten, inasmuch as they account for the very English tone of mind (if I may be allowed the expression) of most of the leading American statesmen of that day, which resulted also in part from an education and training, in most respects, entirely English. They account also for the elaborate system of checks against the encroachments of ultra-democracy introduced into the Constitution with so much care and caution by those who drew it up, and for the existence in it of such strong and carefullyguarded conservative elements, which appear to be commonly overlooked by modern politicians of the extreme school. They afford an explanation also of the phenomenon which strikes a stranger in the United States even at this day, namely, that of the strongly aristocratic organisation and feeling of social life in that country; wherein are seen ancient sympathies, strong and irrepressible associations, instincts of cultivation and of nature, asserting their empire, and rising above the level attempted to be maintained by forced habits and a specious but unphilosophical theory