Abbildungen der Seite



CHAP. III. was increased, by some letters, written by Lord Dunmore to the

secretary of state, containing sentiments thought hostile to America. These letters were made public about this time, and were very severely censured.

While the public mind was considerably irritated by these causes, Lord North's conciliatory proposition was received, and an assembly was suddenly called, to whose consideration it was submitted. The governor used all his address to produce, in the assembly, a disposition favourable to the acceptance of this proposition ; but it was rejected here as in the other colonies, because it obviously involved a surrender of the whole subject in contest *.

One of the first measures of the assembly was the appointment of a committee to enquire, generally, into the causes of the late disturbances, and, particularly, to examine the state of the CHAP. III: magazine. Although this building belonged to the colony, it was 1774. in the custody of the governor, who appointed the keeper, and to him it was necessary to apply in order to gain admittance. Before this was obtained, some persons of the neighbourhood broke into the magazine, one of whom was wounded by a spring gun; and it was found, that the powder, not carried away, had been buried and very much injured, and the guns deprived of their locks. This circumstance excited so great a ferment, that the governor thought proper privately to withdraw from the palace, and go on board the Fowey man of war, then lying at York town, twelve miles below Williamsburg. Several letters afterwards passed between him and the legislature, containing reciprocal complaints of each other, in the course of which they pressed his return to the seat of government, while he insisted on their coming on board the Fowey, They were content that he should, even there, give his assent to some material bills which were prepared; but he refused to do so, and the assembly dissolved itself, the members being generally chosen on a convention then about to meet at Richmond

* In the address of the house of Burgesses to the governor, in answer to his speech at opening the session, they say, in speaking of the conciliatory proposition of Lord North, which had been recommended to them; “ we examined it minutely, we viewed it in every point of light in which we were able to place it; and with pain and disappointment, we must ultimately declare it only changes the form of oppression without lightening its burden.” They closed with these expressive words:

_" We have decently remonstrated with parliament; they have added new injuries to the old. We have wearied our king with supplications; he has not deigned to answer us. We have appealed to the native honour and justice of the British nation; their efforts in our favour have been hitherto ineffectual. What then remains to be done? That we commit our injuries to the even-handed justice of that Being who doth no wrong; earnestly beseeching him to illuminate the councils, and prosper the endeavours of those to whom America hath confided her hopes, that, through their wise direction, we may again sce, re-united, the bleesings of liberty and property, and the most permanent harmony with Great Britain.” Gordon, vol. ii, page 90.


Thus terminated for ever the royal government in Virginia.

In South Carolina, a provincial congress was called by the committee of correspondence, so soon as intelligence of the battle of Lexington was received. An association was formed, the members of which pledged themselves to each other to repel force by force whenever the continental or provincial congress should determine it to be necessary, and declared that they would hold all those persons inimical to the colonies, who VOL. II.


[ocr errors]



should refuse to subscribe to it. They also determined immediately to put the town and province in a respectable posture of defence; in pursuance of which resolution, they agreed to raise two regiments of infantry, and one of rangers.

While this congress was in session, Lord William Campbell who had been appointed their governor, arrived in the province, and was received with all those demonstrations of joy which had been usual on such occasions. The congress waited on him with an address, in which they disclosed to him the true causes of their present proceedings; and declared, that no love of innovation, no desire of altering the constitution of government, no lust of independence, had the least influence upon their councils; but that they had been compelled to associate and take up arms, solely for the preservation, and in defence of their lives, liberties, and properties. They entreated his excellency to make such a representation of the state of the colony, and of their true motives, as to assure his majesty, that he had no subjects, who more desired sincerely to testify their loyalty and affection, or would be more willing to devote their lives and fortunes in his real service. His lordship returned a very mild and prudent answer *.

For some time Lord William Campbell conducted himself with so much apparent moderation, as to remain on good terms with the leaders of the opposition; but he was secretly exerting all the influence of his station in defeating their views, and was at length detected in carrying on some negociations with the In- CHAP. III: dians, and with the disaffected in the back country, who had re- 1774. fused to sign the association. These persons had been induced to believe that the inhabitants of the sea coast, in order to exempt their own tea from a trifling tax, were about to engage them in a contest, in which they would be deprived of their salt, osnaburgs, and other imported articles of absolute necessity. The detection of these intrigues excited such a ferment among the people that the governor was compelled to fly from Charleston, and take refuge on board a ship of war in the river. The government was then, as elsewhere, taken entirely into the hands of men chosen by the people, and a large body of troops was ordered into that part of the country, which adhered to the royal cause, where many of the people, contrary to the advice of governor Campbell, had risen in arms. Unable to collect a sufficient force to repel so formidable an invasion, the leaders were seized, and their followers dispersed.

* Gordon's History, Vol. II, page 82.


In North Carolina, governor Martin was also charged with fomenting a civil war, and exciting an insurrection among the negroes. Relying on the aid he expected from some of the back settlers, and from some highland emigrants, he made preparations for the defence of his palace ; but the people taking the alarm before the troops he counted on were raised, he was compelled to fly for safety on board a sloop of war in Cape Fear River; soon after which, the committee resolved, that " no person or persons whatsoever should have any correspondence with him, on pain of being deemed enemies to the liberties of America, and dealt with accordingly.” G g 2



1774 Meeting of Congress.

So soon as Congress was in readiness to enter upon the public business, Mr. Hancock laid before that body the depositions which had been taken for the purpose of shewing that, in the battle of Lexington, the king's troops were entirely the aggressors; together with the proceedings of the provincial assembly of Massachussets on that occasion.

They liad now arrived at the crisis to which things had for some time been rapidly tending; and it became necessary for the delegates of the other provinces finally to determine, either to embark with New England in actual war, or, by separating themselves from those colonies, to surrender the object for which they had so long jointly contended, and submit to that unlimited supremacy which was claimed by the British Parliament.

Even among the well-informed of the American people, the opinion that the contest between the mother country and her colonies would ultimately be decided by the sword, had not become general. The hope had been hitherto indulged by a great portion of the popular leaders, that the union of the colonies, the extent and serious aspect of the opposition, and the distress which their non-importation agreements would produce among the merchants and manufacturers of the parent state would induce the administration to recede from the high pretensions which had been insisted on, and would restore that harmony and free intercourse which had formerly subsisted between the two countries, and which they sincerely believed to be advantageous to both. This opinion had derived strength from the communications made to them by many of their


« ZurückWeiter »