« ZurückWeiter »
liberty. The whole was concluded by a list of accusations against their governor, representing him as unfit to continue in his station, and petitioning the king for his removal from it.
These proceedings were followed by a violent tumult at Boston. A vessel belonging to a capital trader, had been seized in consequence of his having neglected some of the new regulations, and being taken under the protection of a man of war, at that time lying in the harbour ; the populace attacked the houses of the Excise officers, broke their windows, destroyed the collector's boats, and obliged the custom-house officers, to take refuge in Castle William, on an island situated at the entrance of the harbour. The governor now took the last step in his power to put a stop to the violent proceedings of the assembly, by dissolving it entirely ; but this was of little moment. Their behaviour had been highly approved of by the other colonies, who had written letters to them, expressive of their approbation.
After the dissolution of the assembly, frequent meetings were held by the people in Boston, which ended in a remonstrance to the governor, to the same purpose as some of the former ; but con. cluding with a request, that he would take upon him to order the king's ships out of the harbour. While the disposition of the Bostonians was thus going on from bad to worse, news arrived that the agent of the colony, had not been allowed to deliver their petition to the king ; it having been objected, that the assembly without the governor, was not sufficient authority. This did not allay the ferment; it was further augmented, by the news that a number of troops had been ordered to repair to Boston, to keep the inhabitants in awe. A dreadful alarm now ensued ; the people called on the governor to convene a general assembly, in order to remove the fears of the military ; who they said were to be as. sembled to overthrow their liberties, and force obedience to laws to which they were entirely averse. The governor replied, it was no longer in his power to call an assembly, having in his last instructions from England, been required to wait the king's orders; the matter being then under consideration there.
Thus refused, the people took upon themselves to call an assembly, which they termed a Convention. The proceedings and resolutions of this body, partook of the temper and disposition of the late assembly; but they went a step farther ; and having voted “ That there is apprehension in the minds of many, of an approaching rupture with France,” requested the inhabitants to put themselves in a posture of defence, against any sudden attack of an enemy; and circular letters were directed to all the towns in the province, acquainting them with the resolutions, that had been taken in the capital, and exhorting them to proceed in the
The town of Hatfield alone refused its concurrence. The convention thought proper however, to assure the governor of their pacific intentions, and renewed their request that a general assembly might be called ; but being refused an audience, and threatened to be treated as rebels, they at last thought, VOL. II.
proper to dissolve themselves, and sent over to Britain a circumstantial account of their proceedings, with the reason for baving assembled in the manner already mentioned.
On the very day the convention broke up, the troops arrived, and houses in the town were fitted up for their reception. Their arrival had a considerable influence on the people, and for some time put a stop to the disturbances, but the seeds of discord had taken such deep root, that it was impossible to quench the flame. The outrageous behaviour of the people of Boston, had given great offence in England : and, notwithstanding all the efforts of opposition, an address from both houses of Parliament was presented to the king ; in which the behaviour of the colony of Massachusetts Bay was set forth in the most ample manner, and vigorous measures recommended for reducing them to obedience. The Americans however, continued stedfast in the ideas they had adopted.
Though the troops had for some time quieted the disturbances, yet the calm continued no longer than they were formidable on account of their rumber, but as soon as they were separated by the departure of a large detachment, the remainder were treated with contempt, and it was even resolved to expel them altogether. The country people took up arms for this purpose, and were to have assisted their friends in Boston ; but before the plot could be put in execution, an event happened which put an end to every idea of reconciliation betwixt the contending parties,
On the 5th of March 1770, a scuffle happened between the sola diers, and a party of the town's people; the inhabitants poured in to the assistance of their fellow-citizens ; a violent tumult ensued, during which the military fired upon the populace, killed and wounded several of them.
The whole province now rose in arms, and the soldiers were obliged to retire to castle William to prevent their being cut to pieces. Let it be remembered, however, that on the trial, notwithstanding popular prejudice and apprehension, the captain and six of the men were acquitted : two men only being found guilty of man-slaughter.
In other respects, the determinations of the Americans gained strength; until at last, government determining to act with vigour, and, at the same time, with as much condescension as was consistent with its dignity, without abandoning their principles, repealed all the duties laid ; that on tea alone excepted: and this, it was thought could not be productive of any discontent in America, as being an affair of very little moment ; the produce of which was not expected to exceed sixteen thousand pounds sterling.
The opposition, however, were strenuous in their endeavours to get this tax repealed ; insisting, that the Americans would con. sider it as an inlet to others; and, that the repeal of all the rest, witliout this, would answer no good purpose : the event shewed that their opinion was well founded. The Americans opposed the
tea tax with the same violence, as they had done all the rest; and at last, when they were informed, that salaries had been settled on the judge of the superior court of Boston, the governor was addressed on the subject; the measure was condemned in the strongest terms; and a committee selected out of the several districts of the colony to enquire into it.
The new assembly proceeded in the most formal manner to disavow the supremacy of the British legislature; and accused the parliament of Great Britain of having violated the natural rights of the Americans, in a number of instances. Copies of the transactions of this assembly, were transmitted to every town in Massachusetts, exhorting the inhabitants to rouse themselves, and exert every nerve in opposition to the iron hand of oppression, which was daily tearing the choicest fruits from the fair tree of liberty.
These disturbances were also greatly beightened by an accidental discovery, that governor Hutchinson had written several confidential letters to persons in power in England, complaining of the behaviour of the people of the province, recommending vigorous measures against them; and among other things, asserting, that, there must be an abridgment of what is called British liberty." Letters of this kind, had fallen into the hands of the agent for the colony at London. They were immediately transmitted to Boston, where the assembly was sitting, by whom they were laid before the governor, who was thus reduced to a very mortifying situation.
Losing every idea of respect or friendship for him, as their go. vernor, they instantly despatched a petition to the king, requesting him to remove the governor, and deputy-governor from their places: but to this they not only received an unfavourable answer, but the petition itself was declared groundless and scan. dalous.
Matters were now nearly ripe for the utmost extremities on the part of the Americans, and they were precipitated in the following manner. Though the colonies had entered into a nonimportation agreement against tea, as well as all other commodities from Britain, it had nevertheless found its way into America, though in smaller quantities than before. This was sensibly felt by the East India company, who had now agreed to pay a large sum annually to government; in recompense for which compliance, and to make up their losses in other respects, they were empowered to export their tea free from any duty payable in England : and, in consequence of this permission, several ships freighted with this commodity, were sent to North America, and proper agents appointed for taking charge, and disposing of it.
The Americans now perceiving that the tax was thus likely to be enforced, whether they would or not, determined to take every possible method to prevent the tea from being landed ; well knowing that it would be impossible to hinder the sale, should the commodity once be brought on shore. For this purpose the people assembled in great numbers, forcing those to whom the tea was consigned, to resign their offices; and to promise solemnly, never to resume them; and committees were appointed to examine the accounts of merchants, and make public tests, declaring such as would not take them, enemies to their country. Nor was this behaviour confined to the colony of Massachusetts Bay"; the rest of the provinces entered into the contest, with the same warmth; and manifested the same resolution to oppose this invasion of their rights.
In the midst of this confusion, three ships laden with tea, arriv. ed at Buston ; but so much were the captains alarmed at the disposition of the people, that they offered, providing they could get the proper discharges from the tea consignees, custom-house, and governor, to return to Britain without landing their cargoes. The parties concerned, however, though they durst not order the tea to be landed, refused to grant the discharges required. The ships, Therefore, would have been obliged to remain in the harbour; but the people, apprehensive that if they remained there, the tea would be landed in small quantities, and disposed of in spite of every endeavour to prevent it; resolved to destroy it at once.
This resolution was executed with equal speed and secrecy. The very evening after the above-mentioned discharges had been refused, a number of people dressed like Mohock Indians boarded the ships, and threw into the sea their whole cargoes, consisting of three hundred and forty chests of tea ; after which, they retired without making any further disturbance, or doing any other damage. No tea was destroyed in other ports, but the same spirit was manifested.
At Philadelphia the pilots were enjoined not to conduct the veso sels up the river; and at New-York, though the governor caused some tea to be landed, under the protection of a man of war, he was obliged to deliver it up to the people, to prevent its being sold.
The destruction of the tea at Boston, which happened in 1773, was the immediate prelude to the disasters attending civil discord. Government finding themselves every where insulted and despi. sed, resolved to enforce their authority by all possible means; and as Boston had been the principal scene of the riots and outrages, it was determined to punish that city in an exemplary manner: Parliament was acquainted, by a message from his majesty, the undutiful behaviour of the inhabitants of Boston, as well as of all the colonies, recommending at the same time the most vigor. ous and spirited exertions to reduce them to obedience. The parliament in its address promised a ready compliance; and the Americans now seemed to have lost many of their partizans.
It was proposed to lay a fine on the town of Boston, equal to the price of the tea which had been destroyed, and to shut up its port by armed vessels, until the refractory spirit of its inhabitants was subdued ; which, it was thought must quickly yield, as a total stop would thus be put to their trade. The bill was strongly opposed
on the same ground that the other had been ; and it was predicted, that instead of having any tendency to reconcile or subdue the Americans, it would infallibly exasperate them beyond any possi. bility of reconciliation.
The petitions against it were presented by the colony's agent, who pointed out the same consequence in the strongest terms, and in the most positive manner declared the Americans never would submit to it; but such was the infatuation attending every rank and degree of men, that it never was imagined the Americans would dare to resist the parent state openly ; but would in the end, submit implicitly to her commands. In this confidence a third bill was proposed, for the impartial administration of jus. tice, by such persons as might be employed in the suppression of riots and tumults in the province of Massachusetts Bay. By this act it was provided, “That should any person acting in that capacity be indicted for murder, and not be able to obtain a fair trial in the province, they might be sent by the governor to England, or to some other colony, if necessary, to be tried for the supposed crime.
These three Bills having passed so easily, the ministry proposed a fourth, relative to the government of Canada; which it was said, had not yet been settled upon any proper plan. By this bil? the extent of that province was greatly enlarged ; its affairs were put under the direction of a council, in which Roman Catholics were to be admitted ; the Roman Catholic clergy were secured in their possessions, and the usual perquisites from those of their own profession. The council above-mentioned, were to be appointed by the crown ; to be removed at its pleasure, and to be invested with every legislative power, except that of taxation.
No sooner were these laws made known in America, than they cemented the union of the colonies, beyond the possibility of dissolving it. The Assembly of Massachusetts Bay had passed a vote against the judges accepting salaries from the crown, and put the question, Whether they would accept them as usual, from the general assembly? Four answered in the affirmative, but Peter Oliver, the chief justice, refused. A petition against him, and an accusation, were brought before the governor ; but the latter refused interfering in the matter ; but as they still insisted for justice against chief justice Oliver, the governor thought proper to dissolve the assembly.
In this situation of affairs, a new alarm was occasioned by the port bill. This had been totally unexpected; and was received with the most extravagant expressions of displeasure among the people ; and while these continued, the new governor, general Gage, arrived from England.
He had been chosen to this office on account of his being weil acquainted in America, and generally agreeable to the people ; but human wisdom could not now point out a method, by which the flame could be allayed. The first act of his office, as goverhor, was to remove the assembly to Salem, a town seventeen