CHAPTER XIII.

HOW THE PEOPLE TREATED THE DEMANDS OF THE MOTHER COUNTRY.

""It was certain, beyond a doubt, that this province has made, must and will make a rapid progress, and in a few years will make as considerable a figure as most on the continent." --- Letter of GOVERNOR WRIGHT.

Map of Parishes, 1765 to the Revolution.ENGLAND'S expenses in the Seven Years' War had doubled her national debt, and now that the war was over, Parliament found that a new tax must be levied every year to pay the interest on the new debt. Taxes in England were already very high, and so the prime minister proposed that part of this new tax be levied on the American colonies, because, he claimed, a part of the debt had been for their defence. The colonies denied both the justice of the tax and the right of Parliament to levy it. It was not just, because they had already borne their part of the expense when they furnished and equipped soldiers who fought and won the campaigns in America. It was not right or constitutional, because the "Bill of Rights" which the English people had forced their kings to sign guaranteed that English citizens should not be taxed except by the votes of their representatives. Although these colonists lived in America, there were still Englishmen, entitled to all the rights of English citizens; and Parliament, in which they were not represented, had no right to tax them. In Georgia and in the other provinces Parliament had recognized this principle by permitting the lower house of the General Assembly, elected by the people, to exercise the sole right of levying taxes in the province.

The protests of America were not regarded, and in March, 1765, Parliament passed the famous "Stamp Act." The tax which was levied by this act was to be collected by the sale of stamped paper. Pamphlets could not be sold unless printed upon stamped paper, and legal documents such as notes, bonds, contracts, and even marriage licenses, were null and void unless written upon stamped paper. The price of the stamp was added to the cost of the paper, and each person that bought a sheet of this paper would in this way pay the tax.

When the news of the passage of the Stamp Act reached Georgia the people were filled with indignation. The ringing words of Patrick Henry in the General Assembly of Virginia expressed the conviction of every freeman in Georgia. When the call came from Massachusetts for a congress of all the colonies to protest against the tax, the people of Georgia were ready to respond. Governor Wright's personal influence prevented the election of delegates, but a letter was sent promising the cooperation of Georgia. William Knox, agent for Georgia in England, was dismissed because he advised the people to submit to the stamp tax. The people formed themselves into associations called "Sons of Liberty" (nicknamed Liberty Boys), and pledged themselves not to use stamped paper or to permit it to be used or distributed in the province.

On the 26th of October, Governor Wright ordered a general muster of the militia of the province to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the king's accession to the throne. A large crowd gathered in Savannah, but instead of taking part in the celebration, they paraded the streets with noise and excitement, threatening the governor and denouncing the Stamp Act. They made effigies of certain persons who had favored submission to the Stamp Act, and burned them with jeers and insults.

Although the Stamp Act was to take effect November 1st, 1765, it was the 5th of December before his Majesty's ship Speedwell arrived at Savannah with the stamped papers on board. The papers were taken out and placed in the king's storehouse, in charge of the commissary, guarded by forty men. On the 3d of January, Mr. Agnus, the distributor, arrived, was secretly landed in a scout-boat, with an officer and a party of men to protect him, and was taken safely to the governor's house, where he took the oath of office. He remained in the governor's house, where he took the oath of office. He remained in the governor's house about two weeks without daring to go out, and was then sent to the country for safety. There was good reason for this. The whole colony was aroused. Governor Wright received threatening letters. James Habersham, President of the Council, was waylaid at night and forced to seek protection in the governor's guarded mansion.

Finally, toward the end of January, a body of six hundred armed men arranged to assemble in Savannah, and either to force the governor to agree not to carry out the law, or else to destroy the stamps in his possession. The governor heard of this, and sent the stamps to Fort George, on Cockspur Island, where they were still guarded by soldiers. The general excitement continued. On the 2d of February, the Speedwell returned to Savannah, and the governor, a few days later, transferred the stamps from the fort to the ship. That night a riotous procession was formed, and burned an effigy of the governor holding in its hand one of his offensive circulars. The only stamps used in Georgia were employed in clearing sixty or seventy vessels which had collected in Savannah and were afraid to sail without them, because any ship found upon the high seas without clearance papers duly stamped might be seized by any other British ship, or by the ships of any other nation. The citizens consented to the use of these stamps in this instance alone.

February 22, 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed, and peace and order once more prevailed in the colonies. When the news reached Georgia, Governor Wright convened the General Assembly, and congratulated them that the Province of Georgia would have to pay no compensation for any injuries or damages to public or private property, and the Assembly itself had no votes or resolutions to reconsider.

In the following January an incident occurred which showed the spirit of independence pervading the people and their representatives in the Commons House of Assembly. The governor made a requisition on the Assembly for supplies for the British soldiers stationed in Georgia, and sent a copy of the "Mutiny Act" under which the supplies were authorized. The upper house cheerfully agreed, but the lower house, after a long delay, replied that a compliance with the requisition would be a violation of the trust reposed in them by their constituents, and would furnish a precedent which they did not feel themselves justified in establishing. The governor was very indignant, but was afraid to dissolve the Assembly, because it contained several members who were disposed to support the government, while if a new Assembly were elected, he feared that it would be composed wholly of the "Sons of Liberty."

Another dispute between the governor and the Assembly was with reference to the election of an agent to represent Georgia in England. The lower house refused to elect the man proposed by the governor, and he refused to approve the man elected by the house. Consequently, Georgia had no agent until 1768, when Dr. Benjamin Franklin was elected. His salary was fixed at 100 a year, and he continued to represent Georgia until the outbreak of the Revolution.

Although Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act, it had not abandoned its claim to the right to tax the colonies, and so a bill was framed levying a tax upon paints, paper, glass, and all articles of British manufacture. On the 11th of January, 1768, the Massachusetts House of Representatives sent a circular to the Provincial Assemblies of America, advising a union against the oppressive acts of Parliament. The Assembly of Georgia was not in session, but Mr. Wyley, who had been speaker of the lower house, sent a sympathetic response. When the Assembly met, the lower house elected Dr. Noble Wimberly Jones speaker, and transacted the regular business of the session. After the necessary laws had been passed, Mr. Wyley laid before the house the letter from Massachusetts and a similar letter from the speaker of the Commons House of Assembly of Virginia. The house ordered these letters entered upon the journal, and immediately passed strong resolutions indorsing the position taken by the other provinces. Governor Wright sent an indignant message to the Assembly, and, by virtue of his authority as governor, dissolved it.

In November, 1769, the merchants of Savannah met and solemnly agreed not to import any of the articles subject to the tax, and shortly afterward a mass meeting of the people adopted very strong resolutions, agreeing not to buy any of these articles, and "neither to buy nor to give mourning," because all mourning goods were manufactured in England. Jonathon Bryan, who presided, was at this time a member of the Council, and the king, upon receiving these resolutions, at once ordered that Mr. Bryan should be suspended from the Council and be removed from any office that he might hold in Georgia.

The contest between the governor and the Assembly continued, the Council being generally in sympathy with the governor and willing to do as he wished; but the Commons House of Assembly, coming direct from the people and representing the popular sentiment in the province, showed in all things a spirit of independence. In 1770, Dr. Noble W. Jones was again elected speaker of the house, but Governor Wright refused to sanction the choice and ordered the house to elect another speaker. Instead of doing so, the house passed resolutions complimentary to Dr. Jones and refused to elect any other speaker, declaring that the governor had no right to reject a speaker unanimously elected by the house. The only thing the governor could do was to dissolve the Assembly, and this he did. Noble W. Jones has been styled "one of the morning stars of liberty in Georgia."

[At the head of the chapter is the picture of one of the stamps which England attempted to make the American people use. The original was cut from a piece of parchment and is in the New York Historical Society library. The values of the stamps varied from a few pence up to several pounds, according to the tax levied on the different articles. The stamp in the picture is for two shillings and sixpence, which was the amount of the tax on a deed. The sale of stamps is a very common and a very satisfactory way of collecting a tax. Our internal revenue tax on cigars and tobacco is collected to-day by the sale of stamps, and every box cigars or tobacco has one and sometimes two stamps upon it. Each person who buys a cigar or a piece of tobacco pays a part of this tax. The stamps required by the "Stamp Act" were very different, however, from our internal revenue stamps, and were not sold separately, but were stamped upon the paper in England, and the paper thus stamped was sent over to be sold to the colonists.]

[James Habersham was born in England in 1712. He was a friend of George Whitefield, and came to Georgia with him in the interest of the orphan asylum. Soon after his arrival Habersham opened a school for destitute and orphan children. When Whitefield left for England, the care of the orphan asylum devolved upon Habersham, under whose management the institution flourished. In 1744 he resigned his position and entered into business with Francis Harris. Harris & Habersham was the first commercial house in Georgia. His house opened trade with Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, and later on began to trade directly with London. In 1750 Habersham was appointed by the Trustees commissioner to advance the culture of silk in the colony. His letters on this subject show an intimate knowledge of the agricultural and commercial interests in the colony. In 1754 he was appointed by the king secretary of the province and one of the Council. In 1767 he was president of the upper house of the General Assembly. When Governor Wright applied for leave of absence, he recommended James Habersham for his successor, "as being a gentleman of property and no Liberty Boy." He died at New Brunswick, N. J., in 1775 where he had gone on account of his illness.]


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