|Vine & Fig Tree in history|
In this excerpt from George Bancroft's History of the United States, England debates the conquest of Canada, and the "Native Americans" show that they are not beyond the same kind of desire to "be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). Government is seen to be largely commercial. Flag-waving shows itself to be in direct contrast to the Vine & Fig Tree ideal held by the colonists.
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
Volume 1, To 1688
IN THREE PARTS
The Overthrow of the European Colonial System
From 1748 to 1763
Possession Taken of the Country on the Lakes, 1760
As soon as the river opened, Levi proceeded, with an army of less than ten thousand men, to besiege Quebec. On the twenty-eighth of April, Murray, marching out from the city, left the advantageous ground which he first occupied, and hazarded an attack near Sillery Wood. The advance-guard, under Bourlamarque, returned it with ardor. In danger Of being surrounded, Murray was obliged to fly, leaving 'his very fine train of artillery," and losing a thousand men. The French appear to have lost about three hundred, though Murray's report increased it more than eightfold. During the next two days, Levi opened trenches against the town; but the frost delayed the works. The English garrison, reduced to twenty-two hundred effective men, labored with alacrity; women, and even cripples, were set to light work. In the French army, not a word would be listened to of the possibility of failure. But Pitt had foreseen and prepared for all. A fleet at his bidding went to relieve the city; and to his wife he was able to write in June: "Join, my love, with me, in most humble and grateful thanks to the Almighty. Swanton arrived at Quebec in the Vanguard on the fifteenth of May, and destroyed all the French shipping, six or seven in number. The siege was raised on the seventeenth with every happy circumstance. The enemy left their camp standing; abandoned forty pieces of cannon. Happy, happy day! My joy and hurry are inexpressible."
When the spring opened, Amherst had no difficulties to encounter in taking possession of Canada but such as he himself should create. A country suffering from a four years'scarcity, a disheartened peasantry, five or six battalions, wasted by incredible services and not recruited from France, offered no opposition. Amherst led the main army of ten thousand men by way of Oswego; though the labor of getting there was greater than that of proceeding directly upon Montreal. He descended the St. Lawrence cautiously, taking possession of the feeble works at Ogdensburg. Treating the helpless Canadians with humanity, and with no loss of lives except in passing the rapids, on the seventh of September 1760, he met before Montreal the army under Murray. The next day, Haviland arrived with forces from Crown Point; and, in the view of the three armies, the flag of St. George was raised in triumph Over the gate of Montreal, the admired island of Jacques Cartier, the ancient hearth of the council-fires of the Wyandots, the village consecrated by the Romish church to the Virgin Mary, a site connected by rivers and lakes with an inland world, and needing only a milder climate to be one of the most attractive spots on the continent. The capitulation included all Canada, which was said to extend to the crest of land dividing branches of Lakes Erie and Michigan from those of the Miami, the Wabash, and the Illinois rivers. Property and religion were cared for in the terms of surrender; but for civil liberty no stipulation was thought of. Canada, under the forms of a despotic administration, came into the possession of England by conquest; and in a conquered country the law was held to be the pleasure of the king.
On the fifth day after the capitulation, Rogers departed with two hundred rangers to carry English banners to the upper posts. In the chilly days of November, they embarked upon Lake Erie, being the first considerable party of men whose tongue was the English that ever spread sails on its waters. The Indians on the lakes were at peace, united under Pontiac, the great chief of the Ottawas, happy in a country fruitful of corn and abounding in game. The Americans were met at the month of a river by a deputation of Ottawas. "Pontiac," said they, "is the chief and lord of the country you are in; wait till he can see you."
When Pontiac and Rogers met, the savage chieftain asked: "How have you dared to enter my country without my leave?" "I come," replied the English agent, "with no design against the Indians, but to remove the French;" and he gave the wampum of peace. But Pontiac returned a belt, which arrested the march of the party till his leave should be granted.
The next day, the chief sent presents of bags of parched corn, and at a second meeting smoked the calumet with the American leader, inviting him to pass onward, and ordering an escort of warriors to assist in driving his herd of oxen along the shore. The tribes south-east of Erie were told that the strangers came with his consent; yet, while he studied to inform himself how wool could be changed into cloth, how iron could be extracted from the earth, how warriors could be disciplined like the English, he spoke as an independent prince, who would not brook the presence of white men within his dominions but at his pleasure. After this interview, Rogers took possession of Detroit.
England began hostilities for Nova Scotia and the Ohio. These she had secured, and had added Canada and Guadaloupe. "I will snatch at the first moment of peace," said Pitt. "The desire of my heart," said George II. to parliament, "is to see a stop put to the effusion of blood;" and the public mind was discussing what conquests should be retained.
"We have had bloodshed enough," urged Pulteney, earl of Bath, who, when in the house of commons, had been cherished in America as the friend of its liberties, and now, in his old age, pleaded for the termination of a truly national war by a solid and reasonable peace. "Our North American conquests," said he, "can not be retaken. Give up none of them, or you lay the foundation of another war. Unless we would choose to be obliged to keep great bodies of troops in America, in full peace, we can never leave the French any footing in Canada. Not Senegal and Goree, nor even Guadaloupe, ought to be insisted upon as a condition of peace, provided Canada be left to us." "North America" was of "infinite consequence," for, by its increasing inhabitants, it would consume British manufactures; by its trade, employ innumerable British ships; by its provisions, support the sugar islands; by its products, fit out the whole navy of England.
Peace, too, was to be desired in behalf of England's ally, the only Protestant sovereign in Germany who could preserve the privileges of his religion from being trampled under foot. "How calmly," said Bath, "the king of Prussia possesses himself under distress! how ably he can extricate himself!" having "amazing resources in his own unbounded genius." "The warm support of the Protestant nation" of Great Britain must be called forth, or "the war begun to wrest Silesia from him" will, "in the end, be found to be a war" to "overturn the liberties and religion of Germany." Peace was, moreover, to be solicited from love to political freedom. The increase of the navy, army, and public debt, and the consequent influence of the crown, were "much too great for the independence of the constitution."
But William Burke, the kinsman and friend, and often the associate, of Edmund Burke, found arguments for retaining Guadaloupe, in the opportunity it would afford of profitable investment, the richness of its soil, the number of its slaves, the absence of all rivalry between England and a tropical island. Besides, he added, "if the people of our colonies find no check from Canada, they will extend themselves almost without bound into the inland parts. They will increase infinitely from all causes. What will be the consequence, to have a numerous, hardy, independent people, possessed of a strong country, communicating little or not at all with England?
"By eagerly grasping at extensive territory, we may run the risk, and in no very distant period, of losing what we now possess. A neighbor that keeps us in some awe is not always the worst of neighbors. So that, far from sacrificing Guadaloupe to Canada, perhaps, if we might have Canada without any sacrifice at all, we ought not to desire it. There should be& balance of power in America."
Private letters from Guadaloupe gave warning that the acquisition of Canada would strengthen America to revolt. "One can foresee these events clearly," said the unnamed writer; "it is no gift of prophecy. It is a natural and unavoidable consequence. The islands, from their weakness, can never revolt; but, if we acquire all Canada, we shall soon find North America itself too powerful and too populous to be governed by us at a distance."
If Canada were annexed, "the Americans," it was objected in conversation, "would be at leisure to manufacture for themselves."
On the other side, Benjamin Franklin, then in London as the agent of Pennsylvania, defended the annexation of Canada as the only mode of securing America. The Indians, from the necessity of commerce, would cease to massacre the planters, and cherish perpetual peace. There would be no vast inland frontier to be defended against France at an incalculable expense. The number of British subjects would, indeed, increase more rapidly than if the mountains were to remain their barrier; but they would be more diffused, and their employment in agriculture would free England from the fear of American manufactures. "With Canada in our possession," he remarked, "our people in America will increase amazingly. I know that their common rate of increase is doubling their numbers every twenty-five years by natural generation only, exclusive of the accession of foreigners. This increase continuing would, in a century more, make the British subjects on that side the water more numerous than they now are on this." Should the ministry surrender their own judgment to the fears of others, it would "prevent the assuring to the British name and nation a stability and permanency that no man acquainted with history durst have hoped for till our American possessions opened the pleasing prospect."
To the objection that England could supply only the seacoast with manufactures, Franklin evoked the splendid vision Of the future navigation on the great rivers and inland seas of America. The poor Indian on Lake Superior was already able to pay for French and English wares; and would not industrious settlers in those countries be better able to pay for what should be brought them?
"The trade to the West India islands," he continued, "is valuable; but it has long been at a stand. The trade to our northern colonies is not only greater, but yearly increasing with the increase of people, and even in a greater proportion, as the people increase in wealth.
"That their growth may render them dangerous I have not the least conception. We have already fourteen separate governments on the maritime coast of the continent, and shall probably have as many more behind them on the inland side. Their jealousy of each other is so great they have never been able to effect a union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother country to establish it for them. If they could not agree to unite for their defence against the French and Indians, who were perpetually harassing their settlements, burning their villages, and murdering their people, is there any danger of their uniting against their own nation, which they all love much more than they love one another? "Such a union is impossible, without the most grievous tyranny and oppression. While the government is mild and just, while important civil and religions rights are secure, people will be dutiful and obedient. The waves do not rise but when the winds blow."
Appealing to men of letters, Franklin communed with David Hume on the jealousy of trade, and approved the system of political economy that promises to the world freedom of commerce and mutual benefits from mutual prosperity. He rejoiced that the great master of English historic style loved to promote that common good of mankind, which the American, inventing a new form of expression, called "the interest of humanity;" and he summoned before the Scottish philosopher that audience of innumerable millions which a century or two would prepare in America for all who should write English well. England proudly accepted the counsels of magnanimity. Promising herself wealth from colonial trade, she was occupied by the thought of filling the wilderness, instructing it with the products of her intelligence, and blessing it with free institutions. Homer sang from isle to isle; the bards of England would find "hearers in every zone," and, in the admiration of genius, continent would respond to continent.
Pitt would not weigh the West India islands against half a hemisphere; he desired to retain them both, but, being overruled in the cabinet, he held fast to Canada. He made it his glory to extend the region throughout which English liberties were to be enjoyed; and yet at that very time the board of trade retained the patronage and internal administration of the colonies, and were persuaded more than ever of the necessity of radical changes in the government in favor of the central authority. While they waited for peace as the proper season for their interference, Thomas Pownall, the governor of Massachusetts, a statesman who had generous feelings but no logic, flashes of sagacity but no clear comprehension, who from inclination associated with liberal men even while he framed plans for strengthening the prerogative, affirmed, and many times reiterated, that the independence of America was certain, and near at hand. "Not for centuries," replied Hutchinson, who knew the strong affection of New England for the home of its fathers.
In the winter after the taking of Quebec, the rumor went abroad of the fixed design in England to remodel the provinces. Many officers of the British army expressed the opinion openly that America should be compelled to yield a revenue at the disposition of the crown. Some of them, at New York, suggested such a requisition of quit-rents as would be virtually a general land-tax, by act of parliament. "While I can wield this weapon," cried Livingston, the large landholder, touching his sword, "England shall never get it but with my heart's blood." In the assembly at New York, which had been chosen in the previous year, the popular party was strengthened by those who battled against Episcopacy; and the family of the Livingstons, descendants of Scottish Presbyterians, took a leading part. Of these were Philip, the popular alderman, a merchant of New York; William, who represented his brother's manor, a scholar, and an able lawyer, the incorruptible advocate of civil and religious liberty; and Robert R. Livingston, of Duchess county, an only son, heir to very large estates, a man of spirit and honor, of gentleness and candor.
On the other side, Cadwallader Colden, the president of the council, proposed to secure the dependence of the plantations A on the crown of Great Britain" by "a perpetual revenue," fixed salaries, and "an hereditary council of privileged landholders, in imitation of the lords of parliament." Influenced by a most "favorable Opinion" of Colden's "zeal for the rights of the crown," Lord Halifax conferred on him the vacant post of lieutenant-governor of New York.
In New Jersey, Francis Bernard, its governor, a royalist, selected for office by Halifax, had, from 1758, the time of his arrival in America, courted favor by plans for enlarging royal power, which he afterward reduced to form. Pennsylvania, of all the colonies, led the van of what the royalists called "Democracy." Its assembly succeeded in obtaining its governor's assent to their favorite assessment bill, by which the estates of the proprietaries were subjected to taxation. They revived and continued for sixteen years their excise, which was collected by officers of their own appointment and they kept its "very considerable" proceeds solely and entirely at their own disposal. They sought to take from the governor influence over the judiciary, by making good behavior its tenure of office. Maryland repeated the same contests, and adopted the same policy.
The proprietaries of Pennsylvania, in March 1760, appealed to the king against seventeen acts that had been passed in 1758 and 1759, "as equally affecting the royal prerogative, their chartered immunities, and their rights as men." When, in May 1760, Franklin appeared with able counsel to defend the liberties of his adopted home before the board of trade, he was encountered by Pratt, the attorney-general, and Charles Yorke, the son of Lord Hardwicke, then the solicitor-general, who appeared for the prerogative and the proprietaries Even the liberal Pratt, as well as Yorke, "said much of the intention to establish a democracy in place of his majesty's government," and urged upon "the proprietaries their duty of resistance." The lords of trade advised "to check the growing influence of assemblies by distinguishing the executive from the legislative power." When, in July, the subject was discussed before the privy council, Lord Mansfield moved, "that the attorney- and solicitor-general be instructed to report their opinion whether his majesty could not disapprove of parts of an act and confirm other parts of it;" but so violent an attempt to extend the king's prerogative met with no favor. At last, of the seventeen acts objected to, the six which encroached most on the executive power were negatived by the king; but by the influence of Lord Mansfield, and against the advice of the board of trade, the assessment bill, which taxed the estates of the proprietaries, was made the subject of an informal capitulation between them and the agent of the people of Pennsylvania, and was included among those that were confirmed.
There were two men in England whose relation to these transactions is especially memorable: Pitt, the secretary of state for the colonies; and Edmund Burke, a man of letters, at that time in the service of William Gerard Hamilton, the colleague of Lord Halifax. Burke shared the opinions of the board of trade, that all the offensive acts of Pennsylvania should be rejected, and censured with severity the temporizing facility of Lord Mansfield as a feeble and unmanly surrender of just authority. The time was near at hand when the young Irishman's opinions upon the extent of British authority over America would become of moment. Great efforts were made to win the immediate interposition of William Pitt, so that he might appall the colonies by his censure, or mould them by British legislation. After long-continued inquiry, I can not find that he ever consented to menace any restriction on the freedom of the people in the colonies, or even so much as expressed an opinion that they were more in fault than the champions of prerogative. So little did he interest himself in the strifes of Pennsylvania that, during his ministry, Franklin was never admitted to his presence. Every one of his letters which I have seenand I think I have read every considerable one to every colonyis marked by liberality and respect for American rights. The threat of interference, on the close of the war, was incessant from Halifax and the board of trade; I can trace no such purpose to Pitt.
American merchants were incited, by French commercial regulations, to engage in the carrying-trade of the French sugar-islands; and they gained by it immense profits. This trade was protected by flags of truce, which were granted by the colonial governors. "For each flag," wrote Horatio Sharpe who longed to share in the spoils, "for each flag, my neighbor, Governor Denny, receives a handsome douceur; and I have been told that Governor Bernard, in particular, has done business in the same way." "I," said Fauquier, of Virginia, "have never been prevailed on to grant one, though I have been tempted by large offers, and pitiful stories of relations lying in French dungeons for want of such flags." In vehement and imperative words, Pitt rebuked the practice, but not with the intention permanently to restrain the trade of the continent with the foreign islands.
In August, the same month in which this interdict was issued, Francis Bernard was removed to the government of Massachusetts. In September of that year, he manifested the purpose of his appointment by informing the legislature of Massachusetts "that they derived blessings from their subjection to Great Britain." Subjection to Great Britain was a new doctrine in New England, whose people professed loyalty to the king, but shunned a master in the collective people of England. The council, in its reply, owned only a beneficial " relation to Great Britain;" the house of representatives spoke vaguely of "the connection between the mother country and the provinces, on the principles of filial obedience, protection, and justice."
The colonists had promised themselves, after the conquest of Canada, that they should "sit quietly under their own vines and fig-trees, with none to make them afraid;" and already they began to fear aggressions on their freedom. To check illicit trade, the officers of the customs had even demanded of the supreme court general writs of assistance; but the writs had been withheld, because Stephen Sewall, the upright chief justice of the province, doubted their legality.
Vine & Fig Tree