THE LAST DAYS OF A BRITISH AMERICA

THE colonies had been kept loyal to England mainly by I fear of the Catholic and military power of France. The final defeat of the French (in which the Americans claimed perhaps more than their proper share) removed this menace. The new government in England proposed to maintain a force in America for defence against the Indians: for this purpose, and to recover some part of the enormous expense that had been incurred (the colonists said unnecessarily) in the war, they hunted round for revenue and tightened up the anti-smuggling machinery. In Canada the French peasants who remained were very wisely given complete toleration for their religion. Very wisely, too, an elected Parliament was not yet established in Canada, and immigration thither and into the ex-French territory west of the Alleghanies was restricted. This far-sighted policy aroused furious disgust amongst New Englanders who had expected to flood Canada and the West, and set up a Canadian parliament.

England had as king a stupid and overbearing young man, George III., who was busy between 1760 and 1770 in breaking up the Whig party which had governed England, not unsuccessfully, since 1714. A succession of feeble Whig governments held office during this period when attention was distracted by domestic scandals and disputes. In 1770 George got a congenial Tory ministry under North, who did as the King wished for the next twelve years. They were years which spoiled for good any hope there might have been of restoring the active monarchy of Charles II. or William III.

One of the feeble Whig governments-Grenville's-imposed a Stamp Duty on the colonies. It required newspapers and other documents to carry stamps. The total amount of the tax was only a shilling or two a year per head of the colonial population. The Americans, however, like Hampden -the old Parliamentarians were much in their minds-suspected the thin edge of a wedge, as indeed it probably would have been. Their slogan was " No taxation without representation." Realists in vain pointed out that not more than one per cent. of the British population was directly represented in Parliament. A few members in either House would have satisfied them, the colonists said, but it is hardly likely that they would have been content for long.

The Stamp Act was repealed by a new government, which vexatiously declared that it retained the right to tax, while insisting that it never intended to use it. Another new government imposed small extra duties on certain imported goods, which the colonists refused to use; all the duties were removed except that on tea, which was disguised by allowing the East India Company to convey it directly to America from China at a reduced cost. A violent protest was organised in Boston by certain vested interests, and there ensued the " Boston Tea Party," in which a number of men disguised as Indians boarded the Company's ships and threw the tea overboard. Severe penalties were imposed on the riotous city-it was no longer to be a port of entry. The Quebec Act, which in the same year (1774) guaranteed the language and religious rights of French Canadians, caused nearly as much resentment. The anti-English party in New England prepared for war. Fighting began in 1775. There was a conference of the colonies other than Georgia that year, and in 1776 a Declaration of Independence was issued that disowned the rule of George III.

The grounds of rebellion were perhaps inadequate, and had greater men been ruling England the quarrel might well have been healed. But it is obvious that there were many colonists who were only waiting for an opportunity to strike for independence. It is unlikely that the colonies could have remained subordinate to Great Britain as they grew, or that any form of friendly partnership could have been, at that stage, evolved.