Page images

governor to direct the attorney general to pro- CHAP. II. secute all persons concerned in the riot. They 1768. also requested that a proclamation might be issued, offering a reward to any person who should make discoveries by which the rioters or their abettors might be brought to condign punishment.

This report, however, seems to have been rather intended to save appearances, than to have produced any real effect corresponding with the sentiment it expressed. It was perfectly understood that no person would dare to inform, or even to appear as a witness in any prosecution which might be instituted by the attorney general; and as if completely to prevent further proceedings, several persons, who had been active in producing the riots, were placed on the grand jury for the succeeding term. Suits were afterwards institated against mr. Hancock and others, owners of the vessel and cargo; but, as it was thought unsafe to hazard the trial of them, they were never prosecuted to a final decision.

This riot, which completely demonstrated the impracticability of executing, by ordinary means, the obnoxious laws which government seemed determined to enforce, though it might not occasion, certainly accelerated a measure,

& Minot.


CHAP. II. which tended, in no inconsiderable degree, to 1768. irritate still further the angry dispositions

already so prevalent in Boston.

Representations had already been made by the governor to administration, stating the necessity of stationing a military force in the province for the protection of the officers employed in collecting the revenue, and of the magistrates in preserving the public peace ; and orders to detach at least one regiment, on that service, had already been given to general Gage, who was directed to select for the command of it, an officer, on whose prudence, resolution, and integrity he could entirely rely. The transactions respecting the seizure of the sloop Liberty rendered any attempt to produce a countermand of these orders entirely abortive, and probably was the cause that two regiments instead of one, were detached by general Gage.

Before the arrival of this military force, the governor had used expressions intimating that it might be expected; in consequence of which a committee of the inhabitants was deputed in

a town meeting to wait on his excellency, and September. know on what the suspicions he had expressed

were founded, and also to pray him to convene another general assembly.

The answer of the governor confirmed their fears respecting a military force, though he assured them that he had no official communication on the subject; and contained also the information, that no other assembly could be CHAP. II. convoked, until his majesty's commands for 1768. that purpose should be received. .

It seems to have been supposed that a disso. lution of the assembly of Massachussetts would dissolve also the opposition to the measures of administration; and that the people, having no longer constitutional leaders, being no longer excited and conducted by their representatives, would gradually become quiet, and return to, what was termed, their duty to government. But the opinions expressed by the house of representatives were the opinions of the great body of the people, and had taken too deep root to be so readily suppressed. The most active and energetic part of society had embraced them with enthusiasm and the dissolution of the assembly only created a necessity for devising others, perhaps more efficient expedients; and hastened a mode of conducting their opposition, which was after. wards universally adopted.

The answer of the governor to their message being reported, the meeting immediately proceeded to resolve, “ that to levy money within that province by any other authority than that of the general court, was a violation of the royal charter, and of the undoubted natural rights of British subjects.

That the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Boston would, at the peril of


CHAP. II. their lives and fortunes, take all legal and 1768. constitutional measures to defend all and

singular the rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities, granted in their royal charter.

" That, as there was an apprehension in the minds of many of an approaching war with France, those inhabitants, who were not provided with arms, should be requested duly to observe the laws of the province, which required that every householder should furnish himself with a complete stand.”

They further resolved, “ that as the governor did not think proper to call a general court for the redress of their grievances, the town would then make choice of a suitable number of persons to act for them as a committee in a convention, to be held at Faneuil hall in Boston with such as might be sent to join them from the several towns in the province.”

These votes were, at the desire of the meeting, communicated by the select men in a circular letter to the other towns in the province which were invited to concur in them, and to elect committee men who should meet those

of Boston, in convention. A convention The measure was very generally adopted, Faneuil hall. and a convention assembled, which was re.

garded with all the respect that could have been paid to a legitimate assembly.

The country in general, though united on the great constitutional question of taxation,

asseinbles at

of its

was probably not exasperated to the same point CHAP. II. with the people of Boston; and the convention 1768. appears to have acted with unexpected mode. Možderation ration. They disclaimed all pretensions to any proceedings. other character than that of mere individuals, assembled by deputation from the towns to consult and advise on such measures as might tend to promote the peace and good order of his majesty's subjects in the province, but without power to pass any authoritative, or governmental acts.

They petitioned the governor to assemble the general court, and addressed a letter to the agent for the province in England, stating the character in which they met, and the motives which brought them together. After expressing their opinions with temper and firmness, on the subjects generally complained of, and recommending to the people patience, and regard to good order, they dissolved themselves and returned to their respective homes.

The report that the two regiments were ordered to Boston had spread through the country, and some hints which had been thrown out seem to have created an apprehension, that the more violent part of the town would oppose their landing, and precipitate the province into a civil war.

The day before the convention rose, two British regiments, commanded by colonel Dalrymple, arrived under convoy in Nantasket

« PreviousContinue »