THE American Revolution was a movement with two distinct aspects. On one side it was marked by the union of hitherto independent communities and the beginning of common institutions and of a common life. The other phase witnessed the progress of the revolt within the colonies themselves and the creation of their individual governments. The method of historians in treating of the Revolution generally has been to take the most striking incidents in the history of the colonies in the years immediately preceding 1776 and join them to an account of the workings of the Continental Congress and the campaigns of the Continental army. The internal growth of the newmade States is almost entirely ignored, probably because in some instances it is not well known. But in this stage of American history, when the national life was so feeble, the progress of events in Massachusetts and Virginia was more important than the deliberations of Congress. No adequate account has been given of the spiritual change which came over Massachusetts and Virginia in the Revolutionary epoch and which had such great influence on the development of the nation. Because the early history of the individual States has not been well worked out, there are certain hiatuses in our histories, such, for instance, as the lack of an account of the origin of the Democratic Party. Historians give us the impression that it sprang full-grown from the head of Jefferson, that he was its creator. But the Democratic Party had come into existence in an undefined way before the great political genius of Jefferson laid hold of it and moulded it to his purposes. Jefferson was a Virginian and the Democratic Party as a political movement with real purposes was likewise a Virginia product; the story of its rise is one of the most interesting chapters of Revolutionary history.
In a brief analysis, the Revolution was the result of the clash between imperial expansion and colonial development-two forms of progressivism-just as the Puritan Revolution was the outcome of the conflict of expanding monarchy with the growing idea of popular rights, mainly expressed through religion. In Virginia the colonial constitution had become well defined before the middle of the eighteenth century. Based on the fine old principle of the Englishman's inherent right of self-government, it had acquired certain fixed positions without much reference to strict logic. It was really the result of a long contest; the history of Virginia, like that of the other colonies, is little more than a series of disputes with the royal governors, who served the colony greatly in some ways and in other ways were out of touch with colonial life and needs. Parliament exerted a variable control over the colonies, from time to time passing taxation-without-representation statutes, but generally leaving the provincials sufficiently alone to cause itself to be looked on admiringly as the palladium of liberty. As a matter of fact, the causes of the Revolution were practical far more than theoretical. The colonies endured Parliamentary supervision so long as this was not too vigorous; customs laws were of small account while smuggling went unchecked. Only when the British government attempted to enforce its customs acts and ventured to impose other and burdensome taxes, like the Stamp Act, did the taxation-without-representation protest appear; then the provincials, with all of Englishmen's gravity in asserting a paradox, denied the Parliamentary right of taxation. If we think they may have been deficient in argument while right in principle, it should be remembered that the king's lawyers produced good precedents in the ship-money case in 1637. In a political struggle both sides always prove themselves right by any number of constitutional citations, but, nevertheless, the victory of one side carries with it far more right and happiness than the triumph of the other.
Opposition to the British government did not begin with the Stamp Act in 1765. Before this time the colony had on many occasions successfully resisted the royal authority; indeed a legislature noted for its independence had existed in Virginia since 1619. In 1635 this assembly forcibly sent the royal governor Harvey back to England because it resented his efforts to enlarge his powers. Virginia tardily and reluctantly acquiesced in the rule of Commonwealth and Protectorate, and, on the other hand, broke out in 1676 in open rebellion against its Cavalier governor, who sought to play the tyrant. Ten years later, in 1686, the House of Burgesses refused to allow the governor and council to lay a tag, and it did not favor the establishment of a post-office in America by act of Parliament.
The high spirit of the Virginia assembly quickened in the eighteenth century with the colony's rapid growth in wealth, population, and culture. The governors of that period found themselves continually at odds with the House of Burgesses in attempting to secure votes of money; Dinwiddie even had difficulty in obtaining supplies for the French-and-Indian War. This dual government by royal governor and local assembly resulted in the attachment of certain constitutional powers to either party, with a neutral zone between, while outside of both loomed the vague, ill-defined claims of Parliament. The governor was selected by the king and represented him. Along with the ordinary executive routine, he appointed most of the colonial officials; called out the militia against the Indians and made treaties with them; suggested legislation and approved or vetoed bills, but with a final reservation to the Privy Council; sat as chief judge in the general court; and, finally, inducted clergymen of the established church into parishes - though he had not the power of appointing them. The governor's council, which acted in the threefold capacity of consulting executive body, the highest court and the upper chamber of the legislature, was appointed for life by the British Privy Council on the governor's nomination, and was generally under his influence. The House of Burgesses, the representative branch of the assembly, consisted of two members for each county and single members for boroughs. It initiated money bills in the manner of the House of Commons and was the most important and powerful branch of the colonial government, successfully asserting its rights and privileges on many occasions in opposition to the governor and council.
With the increase of the number of counties in the eighteenth century and the rise of a large class of landed proprietors whose main public ambition took the form of representing fellow countrymen in Williamsburg, the House of Burgesses grew greatly in power and prestige. Virginia in its earlier period had been a more or less democratic community and it always contained a sturdy smallfarmer class, tenacious of its self-respect. Lyon G. Tyler has pointed out that, while in New England the poor man was addressed as "goodman," in Virginia he insisted on his right to "mister."
But the eighteenth century saw the rise of a strong aristocracy, based on the possession of the comparatively valuable lands of the tidewater section tilled by white indented servants and negro slaves. Ownership of great tracts of cleared lands and abundance of cheap labor enabled the planters, in spite of the wasteful agricultural system then in vogue, to raise large enough crops of tobacco to leave a considerable surplus above expenses. The settlers had gone from England to Virginia for the same reason that settlers go everywhere - to make a living. After the first hard age of settlement, when men struggled to subdue nature and lived and died toiling relentlessly, there succeeded a period of relaxation, enjoyment, and growing refinement, wherein the descendants of successful land-patentees and tobacco-growers gave themselves an English education, found pleasure in society and sport, and took to politics as a means of gaining influence and distinction. And since the Virginia colonists, unlike those of New England, were fully in accord with the feelings of the majority of Englishmen, they were without dissenter ideas in religion or politics. It was natural, therefore, that they should take as their ideal of imitation the English country gentleman, whose thoughts and habits, considering the necessary differences between England and Virginia, they reproduced with remarkable fidelity. This planter class, generally fairly well informed for the times and enjoying considerable leisure, possessed great power among a poor and ignorant population: they took over almost as a right the local offices, and the ambition of the ablest or most pushing led them to the House of Burgesses.
The majority of planters did not, of course, profit by their opportunities. Many of them, in the fervor of their liking for English country life, merely wasted their means and leisure in sport and dissipation. Horse-racing for large stakes flourished in Virginia between 1730 and 17'75, and at the beginning of the Revolution a considerable number of large landholders had ruined themselves by gambling and high living. Many estates were on the market. But the colonial system, with all its great drawbacks, offered a wonderful chance of development to ambitious and willing men. Politics was a respectable career, and not a business as it is so often nowadays; it invited the best men. The planter had a sufficient and tolerably secure income derived from his crops; he could give much time to reading and public affairs without private injury, because he usually had an overseer to superintend the labor of his slaves; and gradually there developed a race of politicians remarkable for their combination of theoretical training with practical experience - men well read in English law and history, and, later, open to the great liberal tendencies of the middle eighteenth century. The liberal movement, which influenced America as well as western Europe, had the effect in Virginia of disturbing that deep-rooted idolatry of English institutions which had given birth to the Virginia aristocracy. A typical product of eighteenth-century liberalism in Virginia was George Mason, the broad-minded and capable thinker who wrote the constitution of 1776.
The House of Burgesses was largely made up of planters, who were Englishmen in feeling, but who nevertheless asserted the dignity and independence of the body in which they sat in opposition to attempts or imagined attempts of the British authorities to stretch their jurisdiction. They were reinforced about the middle of the century by another self-willed element actually hostile to the imperial government, the representatives from the new middle and western counties. This piedmont and mountain section was much more democratic in feeling and much less cultured and wealthy than the east, even for the standard of those days. The western or " upland " members for many years were too few and inexperienced to do more than vote with the controlling majority led by skilled politicians, but they were never quite in harmony with the tidewater and eventually asserted themselves successfully against it.
Several serious clashes with the royal government in the decade preceding the Stamp Act illustrated the growing independence and self-consciousness of the House of Burgesses. When Governor Dinwiddie in 1753 attempted on his own initiative to levy a fee of a pistole for signing land patents, the Burgesses protested in the memorable and prophetic words of Richard Bland: "The rights of the subject are so secured by law, that they cannot be deprived of the least part of their property but by their own consent." The governor in reply claimed that he was acting according to the king's instructions and strictly within the king's rights over vacant lands, but the House refused to accept his explanation: it declared that those who paid the pistole fee would be regarded as betrayers of the people, and thereby established a precedent for securing uniformity through holding offenders up to public obloquy later used with great effect in suppressing Toryism. The British Privy Council, when appealed to as the final authority in the fee dispute, allowed the Burgesses to have their way. Before the passage of the Stamp Act the British government at times inclined to be almost too conciliatory towards the colonies.
It is probable that the House of Burgesses was mistaken in the pistole contention, for the title to vacant lands was unquestionably vested in the king, and the governor as the royal representative was hardly outside his rights in levying a fee. Still, it had not been demanded before, and the Virginians felt that advantage was being taken of a technical right to introduce a new and insidious custom and a possible precedent for future taxes.
This controversy was the prelude to a much more important dispute hinging on the king's power of interference with colonial legislation. The colonial constitution, as has been noted, recognized three powers in the state - king, Parliament, and local assembly. The king's power was mainly, though not entirely, delegated to the governor, who received instructions from home outlining his policy; these instructions were regarded as law. Parliamentary authority was by general colonial consent limited to the regulation of commerce. Needless to say, the extensive right of regulating commerce when interpreted in the loose construction fashion might seem to sanction almost any stretch of governmental jurisdiction, but as a matter of fact Parliament was not inclined to be unduly vexatious before 1760. Most colonial ills flowed from other sources.
The assembly, which was the strictly local branch of government, exercised wider powers than modern lawmaking bodies - executive and judicial as well as legislative. At first the small upper house, representing a few allied families, held a dominating position, but as the colony grew in age and population the House of Burgesses more and more tended to become the important chamber. The council was Tory in feeling, while the Burgesses cherished the Whig tradition of English liberty, and its independent-minded leaders were bound to come into conflict with the British government as soon as the latter should attempt to stretch its prerogatives.
The first important controversy between colony and home government, however, did not result from Parliamentary taxation, but from the royal authority as exercised in colonial legislation. The Church of England establishment in Virginia, the miniature state church of the colony, furnished the occasion, and the conflict decided the long-debated question whether the control of the establishment lay finally with the assembly or the British officials. In 1758 the assembly passed an act which particularly affected the ministers of the established church and aroused their ire. This socalled "Twopenny Act" compounded debts and the salaries of officials, which were payable in tobacco by legal regulation, in money at the rate of twopence a pound. The measure was possibly necessary on account of the low price of tobacco and the weight of taxation due to the French-and-Indian War, then in progress, but the assembly had passed a similar law in 1755 and seemed about to establish a rule of scaling down salaries when tobacco was high without providing any compensation when it fell below the normal, as it frequently did. The state-supported clergy, who naturally objected to this heads-I-win-tails-you-lose system, appealed to England and succeeded in enlisting the services of the Bishop of London, the colonial diocesan. The bishop took up the cudgels in a letter denouncing the Virginia government.
The final stage in the passage of a colonial law was the king's assent, but the assembly hastened to put the Twopenny Act into effect upon securing the governor's approval, without waiting to hear from England, although the act altered a statute which the king had approved. In other words, the Virginia assembly dared to legislate on its own authority and in practical disregard of the king. The Bishop of London hinted that such action was in the nature of treason; it was at least not strictly constitutional. In answer to the bishop's letter two high-spirited Virginians, Landon Carter and Richard Bland, sprang to the defense of the assembly and there followed a merry war of pamphlets, in which John Camm, president of William and Mary College, supported the side of the clergy. In this dispute the theory of the colonial constitution was first clearly defined by the chief writer participating, Richard Bland.
Richard Bland, of Prince George, deserves a word of mention, since he more than any other man was the author of the Revolution in Virginia. He was born in 1710 and died in 1776, spanning the whole preliminary period of the Revolution in his mature manhood. His education was of peculiar value for these critical decades from 1755 to 1775; after a preliminary course in William and Mary he studied history and law at the University of Edinburgh, and was probably the best constitutional lawyer in the colonies. He saw with great clearness and astuteness on just what grounds the legal resistance to the British policy might be effectively placed and most of the remonstrances emanating from the House of Burgesses were his work. In personality Bland was of that type of Virginian which is best illustrated by the figure of George Mason, that type considered characteristically Virginian, - half practical farmer, half classical scholar and lawyer; genial, wellmannered, personally somewhat untidy and careless of clothes.
Bland defended the assembly's action in setting aside a law approved by the king on the plea that action was sometimes necessary before the king's will could be learned. "Sales populi, suprema lex," he impudently quoted. In brief, the colony had to consider its own best interests, even at the expense of constitutional forms. But the royal council, to which Virginia's action was not especially palatable, "disallowed," that is, vetoed the Twopenny Act, and left the clergy the remedy of suing in the courts for the difference between their money commutations and their salaries in tobacco according to the prices current in 1758. Several ministers took advantage of this decision to bring suit and some judgments were obtained. One of the cases came up in Hanover Court in 1763, with the parish minister, Maury, the plaintiff. Patrick Henry, then an obscure young lawyer, represented the defendants, who were the vestry. In the speech delivered on this occasion, Henry boldly asserted Bland's doctrine, put forward three years earlier, that the assembly had the right to pass necessary legislation without interference from England. He even went so far as to declare, in terms that simply thrilled his audience, that the king in vetoing a reasonable and beneficial measure had forfeited the right to his subjects' obedience. This speech, which is generally regarded as the beginning of the Revolutionary movement in Virginia, actually marks the end of an agitation lasting for five years. Henry played Luther to Bland's Erasmus, carrying to their conclusion the principles which the constitutional lawyer had outlined in his pamphlet of 1760.
As it happened, the seed fell on prepared ground. The once solidly Episcopalian Hanover County was now full of dissenters, and Presbyterians largely manned the jury, which brought in a nominal verdict of one penny damages. It proved the ruin of the clerical cause. Virginia rang with Henry's name and the great body of people, who had hitherto viewed the matter with indifference, now took sides against the preachers. This outburst of enthusiasm led in later times to an obscuring of the actual issues involved, and Henry was presented somewhat in the light of a tribune combating class privilege. In truth, however, the Twopenny Act had been devised by the ruling clique in the House of Burgesses, which would have been inconveniently taxed if the ministers had been paid according to the letter of the law. The dissenters did play a part, but it was subordinate. Henry's real importance in the case consisted in the coup by which he turned a quarrel of the House of Burgesses and the courts into a general political issue. It was Henry's great work, as the "Parsons' Cause" first showed, to enlist the body of Virginia people in the Revolutionary movement, which, without him, would have taken a different direction.
The clergy were defeated in the Virginia courts by the popular clamor raised by Henry; the British Privy Council also ruled against them on some technicality when appeals were carried to that body. Though the dispute had thus ended in the complete discomfiture of the clergy, the war of pamphlets continued for several years longer; John Camm, the clerical leader, exchanged fire again and again with Bland and Carter. Camm believed that the control of the Virginia establishment belonged properly to the king, not to the assembly; and this unpopular theory, along with the clergy's unsuccessful appeal from the Virginia courts to the Privy Council, tended to alienate many persons from the state church and foster the growth of dissent in eastern Virginia. Presbyterians and Baptists now appeared in numbers in even the most conservative counties.
Bland, in his later pamphlets in the Twopenny case, and in his "Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies," published in 1766, advanced beyond his first position, until he came to assert that all men born under an English government are subject only to laws made with their own consent. In his Stamp Act pamphlet of 1766 he ingeniously outlined the distinction between the external government of England and the internal government of the assembly and between external and internal taxation, basing the colonial right to internal self-taxation on the common law, which follows the Englishman around the world, as well as on specific grants in royal charters. He defined, probably more clearly than any other colonial writer, the difference between the external authority of Parliament to pass acts for the regulation of commerce and the internal power of the assembly to levy any tax it might see fit, which distinction has survived in the American Constitution of 1787. This difference between "external" and "internal"government, rather ridiculous to Charles Townshend and not altogether convincing today, was an ingenious effort of the colonial mind to offer some real objection in law to the encroachments of the British ministry. From the Pistole Fee to 1776 Bland was busy in occupying defensive positions against England, and these were none the less effective that they sometimes happened to be novel.
Opinion in Virginia over the "Parsons' Cause" had been practically unanimous except for the parsons, who naturally viewed the constitution in another light. But in 1765, with the crisis brought on by the Stamp Act, party differences began to appear for the first time. On this occasion the middle and western sections rose to a place of influence never afterwards lost. The country beyond the Blue Ridge was being rapidly settled by non-English races - Germans and ScotchIrish - who had little of the Virginian reverence for Anglican institutions. The Presbyterian and democratic Scotch-Irish were reinforced by the piedmont country between the tidewater and the mountains, which had also been affected by dissent and democracy. Counties were being formed, and all that the new section needed was a vigorous and self-assertive leader. At length he appeared.
Before Patrick Henry's debut in the assembly in 1765, Virginia was ruled by a coterie of eastern members - an astute, far-seeing, and experienced group of politicians, of whom the chief was John Robinson, speaker of the House of Burgesses and treasurer of the colony. Robinson belonged to the type which controls a conservative community; he was well connected, rich, polished, genial, and possessed of fair mental powers. He ruled inter pares by virtue of his popularity and a certain force of character. This group led by Robinson had governed with considerable efficiency and usually managed to overreach the governor and get their way with the home administration. But in 1764 they had been appalled by the declaratory act preceding the Stamp Act, which laid down the doctrine of the Parliamentary right of taxing the colonies. The House of Burgesses registered a dignified though emphatic protest, but Parliament, in disregard of colonial objections, passed the Stamp Act in the following year, 1765. Patrick Henry took his seat in the House as a member for Louisa at the May session of 1765, when the news of the act was fresh.
Robinson and his group had long held undisturbed possession of the House of Burgesses, but Henry, instead of containing himself in the presence of the silk-stockinged and self-important gentlemen from the tidewater, as might have been expected of a newcomer ignorant of the legislative "ropes," signalized his entry by assuming the championship of popular measures. A good opportunity stood at hand, but one which only a man of nerve would take. The ruling clique in Virginia, like all ruling cliques, could not entirely refrain from abusing a long lease of power. John Robinson partly owed his commanding place to an accommodating disposition, for it had been his habit to lend the public funds to friends on their personal security. As he was a man of large wealth for the times, the colony apparently did not run much risk of loss by this procedure, while a number of free-living, money-spending politicians and planters profited by the use of the treasury as a bank until Robinson became involved for a great amount.
The situation finally became so serious that the speaker and his friends devised a plan of securing specie from England and lending it to planters on land security; this would have enabled Robinson to transfer to the treasury the securities he held for the public money loaned. Henry boldly fell athwart the scheme, and, according to Jefferson, defeated it, though the journal shows that the bill actually passed the House of Burgesses and was lost in the council. In the debate on the loan-office Henry gained a valuable ally in Richard Henry Lee, another ambitious politician of radical predilections, who succeeded in bringing about an investigation of the treasury. This cutand-dried performance resulted in Robinson's vindication for the time being, but on his death in 1766 a defalcation of more than one hundred thousand pounds came to light. Nevertheless, the parties implicated looked out for themselves so cleverly that they were not called to account, and Robinson, being dead, could not protect himself. A large part of his estate was sold for the benefit of the colony, which was not entirely reimbursed. The names of the borrowers never came to light, but the scandal had some effect on popular opinion and assisted in paving the way for the rise of a novus homo.
The loan-office was quickly crowded into the background by weightier measures, for at this same session of 1765 Patrick Henry took the lead in opposition to the Stamp Act. He precipitated a sensational crisis by suddenly introducing in the House a set of resolutions which openly and indignantly denied the right of Parliament to tax the colonies. It was the best-judged move of his whole wonderful career, and, in effect, the beginning of the American Revolution. At this time the colonies had taken no stand on the taxation question and their future action was uncertain, yet, if the right of taxation was not to be conceded, definite and emphatic protest was imperative. With all deference for modern American writers who make out such a good case for the British government, it should be observed that the Stamp Act, no matter on what excellent legal grounds it might stand, was a genuine measure of oppression. It was a subtle tax, affecting almost every relation of life. If it had been tamely submitted to, any governmental tyranny might have been expected. The plea of levying a tax on America for colonial defense should not blind us to the obvious intention of the British government also to milk the fat American cow for its own benefit.
The boldness of the resolutions and the violence of Henry's speech alarmed the circle of eastern planters, who were as much opposed to the Stamp Act as the orator, but who preferred to carry on their opposition in the timehonored method of respectful petition. At a later date and in a period of glorification of the Revolution, it was claimed that Henry won a victory over the "court" or British faction in the House of Burgesses. As a matter of fact, no English party existed in Virginia at this time or afterwards. The nearest approach to such a party was the council, which was closely allied to the governor, but the council's influence had been steadily declining for some years and had practically disappeared by the Revolution. Certainly no English party had a place in the House of Burgesses, if by that term is meant a group willing to subordinate the colony to the will of the British government. The leaders acting against Henry to defeat his resolutions were Speaker Robinson, Edmund Pendleton, Peyton Randolph, Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard Bland, and George Wythe, all of whom with the exception of Robinson became active revolutionists a decade later. The speaker, it is true, stood near the governor, Fauquier, and was, so to speak, in touch with the home government, but it is almost certain that he would have sided with his associates if he had been living in 1775, since he had taken the lead in protests and in the first committee of correspondence. Assertion of colonial rights was nothing new to, the House of Burgesses; it had always been a singularly independent body. It had thwarted Governor Dinwiddie consistently, it had asserted itself in the "Parsons' Cause" and in the Pistole Fee, and in 1764 it had memorialized against the declaratory act preceding the Stamp Act. Landon Carter, George Wythe, Richard Bland, Peyton Randolph, and others of the so-called "court" party formed the committee to draw the protest. No view could be more mistaken than that Henry originated the spirit of resistance to British claims in the Virginia House of Burgesses; that spirit had always existed.
But if he did not initiate the opposition, he did show the wisdom of immediate and emphatic action. With his unrivaled faculty for seizing the psychological moment, Henry rightly judged that the time had passed for respectful representations to the "best of kings" and that the hour of rough and vigorous action had arrived. The speech he made in defense of his resolutions was startling and seditious in the extreme. After a stormy debate of two days, May 29-30, 1765, the resolutions, somewhat amended, passed the House. Jefferson, loitering in the lobby watching the scene instead of attending his classes at William and Mary, describes the fat and excited Peyton Randolph as rushing past him swearing that he would have given five hundred guineas for a single vote to help defeat Henry. Yet this man, who so passionately resented the orator's bold stand on the Stamp Act, afterwards became the speaker of the Revolutionary House of Burgesses and of conventions, and the first president of the Continental Congress. Robert Carter Nicholas, who a year later succeeded Robinson as treasurer, was an important Revolutionary leader, as was Edmund Pendleton, chairman of the Committee of Safety and president of the constitution-making convention of 1776. George Wythe, another of Randolph's associates, played a prominent part in the creation of the State government and is credited by Jefferson as being the only man in Virginia sharing his own extreme views of the colonial constitution. Richard Bland had been the most effective literary representative of colonial rights.
Jefferson admits that there was no difference in principle on the Stamp Act resolutions between the opposing parties in the House of Burgesses, but merely a difference on the question of their expediency. "They were opposed," he says, "by Randolph, Pendleton, Nicholas, Wythe, and all the old members whose influence in the House had till then been unbroken." The resistance of the tidewater planters was due to two things - to the leadership of a member outside of the old circle and, in greater part, to Henry's irreverent allusions to the king. The Virginian of that day, however much he might object to the policy of the British ministry, entertained a profound respect for the person of the sovereign; and the sentence which is almost all of the great speech that has come down to us "C.Tsar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third" -was drowned in the cries of "Treason" rising from a deeply shocked assembly. That rebellious speech startled a wider audience than the chamber which heard it; it ran through the colonies and gave rise to the agitation ending in Parliament's repeal of the offending statute.
The Virginia leaders had intended a constitutional protest against the Stamp Act; they did not wish to commit the colony to a resistance that the British government might construe as treason. The event showed that the orator was right, not they, and that a bold face intimidated the ministry where mildness and the spirit of conciliation would only have confirmed it in its course. So perhaps it is not to be wondered at that writers of succeeding generations, imbued with the prevailing democratic ideas and viewing the events of 1765 retrospectively, should have translated the conservative ring of planters and lawyers, which was thoroughly patriotic in temper if cautious in action, into a party advocating submission to England, and Henry, the agitator and incendiary, into an innovator forcing a declaration of colonial rights through a hostile House. We are further informed that the public so fully indorsed Henry and condemned his opponents that at the ensuing election for the assembly of 1766 many delegates who voted against the resolutions failed of reelection. A number of changes did take place in the personnel of the succeeding House of Burgesses, but the rejected conservatives must have been very minor victims, since in no case was a conservative leader defeated. More than this, Peyton Randolph, the leading conservative, was elected speaker in place of John Robinson - a strange victory indeed for the patriots to have won over the "court" party. An explanation of Virginia politics in the decade preceding the Revolution on the theory of a "court" or British party leads to a dilemma. We are led to conclude that Patrick Henry, by the sheer force of genius, prevailed on the planters to stand up for rights to which they had been indifferent before, or that he forced them because of his popularity to advocate principles they did not believe in. They were enlightened by the rather unlearned Henry on the subject of constitutional law, or were driven by fear of the populace into that basest of opportunism, insincere revolution. The whole history of the House of Burgesses - proud, independent, and tenacious of its privileges - speaks against such a theory.
In fact, it was not Henry who influenced the conservative leaders so much as it was the conservative leaders who furnished him with thunder. The orator began his career by putting into practice in his Hanover speech the arguments Richard Bland had introduced to the small reading public in the pamphlet of 1760. Henry's eloquence metamorphosed the reasoning of the constitutional lawyer into clear common speech. Again, in 1765, he endued with all the fire of his passion the protests which the House of Burgesses had made in 1764 in rather tame phraseology. In neither case was there a difference of principle; in both, all the difference in the world in power and effect.
The great crisis of 1765 did not, therefore, witness the beginning of the resistance to the British policy; that resistance had begun long before and was properly the result of the colony's rapid development into a strong and populous state. None the less, Henry's appearance on the stage was a momentous event in American history, for it marked the spread of the spirit of revolt from the assembly to the body of the people, and the rise of the Democratic Party. Henry was the inspirer and first leader of that party, which under Jefferson grew beyond the boundaries of Virginia and finally triumphed in the nation at large. Before 1765 tendencies existed in Virginia, but no parties - hardly even factions. Legislative action lay in the hands of a group of large planters, and such opposition as existed did little more than express the discontent of westerners and the protests of dissenter preachers against the order of society. After 1765 there were two more or less clearly defined parties - the conservatives headed by the old leaders, and the democrats, or more properly, the progressives, led by Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee. Party names did not exist, but there was true party action, and the opponents, though agreeing mainly in their constitutional views, differed widely as to ways and means. Accordingly as one faction or the other predominated, the Revolution in Virginia went forward rapidly or moved cautiously and in the hope of reconciliation with England.
Patrick Henry, who overthrew the old order and brought in the new, is the most striking figure in Virginia history. In a measure he was aided by circumstances, but the chief factor in the coup d'etat was his own overmastering personality. The hour and the man coincided. Henry con trolled a majority in the House of Burgesses, where inarticulate opposition to the "ring" had been powerless, and he became a rallying figure for all the elements of dissent and revolution. The council, which recruited its membership from a circle of families in the Williamsburg neighborhood, had drawn away in recent years from the House of Burgesses and the planter class in general. The "conciliar" families more and more tended to form a separate circle elevated above the other planters. Their sympathies were English, and they would have become active Tories if the great body of planters, who viewed them with jealousy and distrust, had not been in the saddle. As it was, they became lukewarm patriots and participated in the Revolution in order to save themselves.
We look back on this period with the knowledge of what happened. But the effect of Henry's stand against Parliament was not so striking as immediately to determine the public attitude on the issue. The courts practically negatived the Stamp Act by making various excuses for doing business without stamps and threatened to shut up shop altogether. Northampton Court even went so far as to declare the Stamp Act unconstitutional, the first instance in American history of such a declaration. The fate of the act depended, however, not upon court decisions, but upon popular opinion, and in the interim between the adjournment of the assembly and the date set for the new law to go into effect - November 1, 1765 quite a few Virginians applied for office under the tax commission in the impression that it would soon begin its work. No less a patriot than Richard Henry Lee had sought an appointment. This was an unfortunate step and one his friends were put to pains to explain, although Lee was really not so much to blame as might appear at first sight. The Burgesses had exhausted their resources of protest without impressing the British government, and the general belief in the summer of 1765 seems to have been that submission was inevitable. Benjamin Franklin thought so and made no effort to dissuade a kinsman who came to ask his advice about seeking a tax office. The crisis was indeed grave. If the colonists believed that acceptance of the Stamp Act was preferable to the risks of resistance, a loyalist party would have arisen in Virginia, as well as in other colonies, having the same interests as the British government. Signs are not wanting that many men in Virginia were willing to ally themselves with the royal government and prosper in its shadow. While the House of Burgesses had resisted every effort of the governor to increase his authority and had even asserted itself against the royal prerogative, these contests were only skirmishes compared to a clash with Parliament over the fundamental right of taxation.
This fall of 1765, when the question of the Stamp Act was decided, was the critical moment in the American Revolution; all that followed was the direct result of the stand then taken. And it soon became clear that Patrick Henry had done a greater work than inspire a party in a legislative chamber; he had fired the people of all the colonies into passionate resistance to the British government. When the commissioner convoying the first consignment of stamps, a Virginian named Mercer, arrived in Williamsburg, the populace rose and demanded that he resign his office. This was on October 30, 1765, just before the Stamp Act became operative, and the scene was the most memorable the little Virginia capital had ever witnessed. An excited crowd gathered before the coffee-house, which opened on the wide thoroughfare named, with such charming grandiloquence, "the Duke of Gloucester Street." The governor, accompanied by the speaker and other officials, went thither to greet the newly arrived stamp commissioner and found him on the point of being mobbed. A crowd composed of the best citizens of Williamsburg and planters of the neighborhood loudly threatened to "rush in," and the speaker interposed his ample person before the governor to ward off possible missiles from the representative of the majesty of England. Mercer was in actual danger for a time, but he promised to give a prompt answer to the demand for his resignation and Fauquier's coolness quieted the rioters, who finally allowed the stamp commissioner to go off under his guardianship. Next day the prudent Mercer resigned.
This outburst was no demonstration of the lower classes, but of the well-to-do and intelligent planters, who now definitely took sides against England. Owing to a similarity of feeling among the planters of eastern and southern Virginia, they acted unitedly, and because of their local power and influence they carried all classes with them into the Revolution. Henry had aroused the people generally; he had particularly stirred the younger and liberally inclined country gentlemen, and they were not afraid to use violence to gain their way.
The Williamsburg disturbance was followed by the organized and effective resistance of experienced politicians. Richard Henry Lee, who was astute enough to know that he had made a mistake almost as soon as he made it and quickly withdrew his application for a tax position, went to the extreme of opposition when he saw which way the wind blew. His excellent talents as a conspirator showed to advantage, when early in the next year, in February, 1766, he organized in his own county of Westmoreland the first "association," that form of boycott destined to give the British government endless trouble and to serve as the immediate forerunner of war in 1774. This "association" bound the subscribers to import no goods froth England until the Stamp Act had been repealed, and while it did not immediately prove useful because hardly needed under the circumstances, it remained a valuable precedent for future service.
Repeal quickly followed from the emphatic protests of the colonies. The Stamp Act could not have been enforced without troops and the British ministry had no wish to resort to extremities. This show of weakness was fatal to the authority of the government. The colonies had learned that Parliament could be intimidated into giving way and never forgot the lesson: they went on to resist all further assertions of the English right of taxing the colonies, no matter on what ground. A now definitely developed patriot party in Virginia had learned, too, that uniform action might be secured by exerting pressure on the individual counties, and for this reason there never was a Tory party in Virginia. The west was solidly patriotic because it was raw, democratic, and dissenter; the east was as solidly patriotic because the planter class, convinced that its welfare lay in opposition to England, overawed the considerable but widely scattered loyalist element, which was helpless in the face of a well-organized majority in every community.
The bonfires and bell-ringings over the repeal of the Stamp Act might have been spared. The English administration, though it had abandoned the attempt to enforce a truly burdensome, income-producing tax, was not prepared to renounce the principle of taxation. It substituted the Townshend Acts of 1767, which were based on the theory admitted by the colonists themselves of the Parliamentary right to regulate commerce; duties were laid on tea, glass, paper, and lead shipped into America. The struggle immediately recommenced, and the House of Burgesses, in April, 1768, adopted a complaint written by Richard Bland that the Townshend duties amounted to an exercise of "internal" control and so were unconstitutional, which was an extension of the doctrine of "internal" power to cover the whole field of taxation and a distinct advance over the former position of the provincials. But the Americans of those days were too English to be much disturbed by inconsistencies; with marvelous facility they contrived to raise constitutional objections to every new assertion of authority on the part of the ministry. Indeed, the colonists were so thoroughly aroused by the real menace of the Stamp Act that they were determined to submit to no new taxes of any kind. It is not for us to blame them. Liberty cannot be made strictly dependent on a series of constitutional precedents; law seldom measures the real issues at stake in history. However defective the fathers may have been in logic, -- and that they were sometimes defective we must admit, --nevertheless, they stood for the principle of selfgovernment against the worldold system of arbitrary rule.
In the following year, in May, 1769, the House of Burgesses again protested against the British policy, with the result that Lord Botetourt, the governor, immediately dissolved it. The members nominally obeyed; in reality they merely adjourned to a private house, where they elected Speaker Randolph chairman and performed the first act of real rebellion. Borrowing Richard Henry Lee's scheme of three years earlier, they adopted a non-importation agreement which specifically boycotted slaves, wines, and British manufactures. George Mason, who was not then a member of the assembly, drew this paper and George Washington presented it. Peyton Randolph, who had led the fight against Patrick Henry over the Stamp Act resolutions, acted as ringleader in this conspiracy against the home government. It is true that the nonimportation agreement adopted then did not have any marked immediate effect, but the boycott method of resistance was carried a point further in Tune, 1770, when an "association" was formed between the Burgesses and the leading merchants of Virginia. At this stage of the taxation controversy, the economic interests of the colony, commercial as well as agricultural, stood in united opposition to the British policy. This association bound subscribers not to import from Great Britain, after September 1, 1770, spirits, foodstuffs, certain manufactures, oils and paints, or to receive into keeping any of the prohibited imports after June 25, 1770. Goods imported in conformity with the association might be sold, but prices were not to be advanced because of restrictions laid on trade. In order to carry it into effect committees of five should be chosen in each county, with authority to publish the names of violators of the agreement and to examine the books of offending merchants. The first name signed to the as sociation was that of Peyton Randolph; the next, that of Andrew Sprowle, of Norfolk, chairman of the trade and leading merchant of the colony. Then followed Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard Bland, Edmund Pendleton, Archibald Cary, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., and many others. At the same time the Virginia traders formed an organization at Williamsburg to further the association. A committee of 125 business men from all parts of the colony was appointed for the purpose of deliberating on the political situation.
While planters and traders thus joined hands in support of colonial liberties, one order of men remained somewhat in sympathy with the British government. The clergy had been disheartened by the Privy Council's abandonment of their cause in the Twopenny case. They had yielded to their fate without resignation, because they felt they were in the right, but their evident helplessness did not tend to encourage them to engage in other disputes with the assembly. Nevertheless, a few irreconcilable spirits, led by John Camm, president of William and Mary College, had the courage to defy public sentiment in an other issue. Virginia was still mainly Anglican in religion, though dissent was rapidly growing at the expense of the establishment, but the Anglicans quite as much as dissenters opposed the foundation of a colonial episcopate, that scheme of the northern Anglican clergy. Opposition to an episcopate on the part of Virginia Episcopalians was political, of course, not ecclesiastical; they feared that an official like a bishop might lend a dangerous support to the ministerial plan to control the colonies. Under Camm's influence, James Horrocks, the commissary in Virginia, called a convention of ministers to debate the episcopate, but only a handful responded and their interest was obviously lukewarm. Camm's desire to strengthen the movement for a bishop therefore came to naught. He had, however, displayed his own Tory and High Church principles and his action subjected the Episcopal ministers in Virginia to the suspicions of a part of the populace, when, as a matter of fact, many of them were patriots and a few were Revolutionary leaders. This abortive attempt to draw the clergy into an ill-timed movement strikingly illustrated the unanimity of public opinion in the colony at that time; Anglicans joined hands with dissenters in opposing a political scheme masquerading under the name of religion.