Page images
PDF
EPUB

(hat they behaved in a less friendly manner towards the natives of England than before, considering the whole nation as conspiring against their liberty, and the parliament as more willing to oppress than to assist and support them. America in fact, did not stand in any need of British manufactures, having already began to construct such as might be deemed absolutely necessary, and that with such success, as left no doubt of their arriving in a short time at perfection. The elegancies of dress had already been renounced for American manufactures, though much inferior, and the bulk of the people consisting of farmers, were such as could in no way be affected by the want of British commodities, as having every necessary within themselves, materials of all kinds were to be had in plenty: the wool was fine, flax grew in great abundance, and iron was every where to be met with." The Doctor also insisted, that" the Americans had been greatly misrepresented; that they had been traduced as void of gratitude and affection to the parent state; than which nothing could be more contrary to truth. In the war in 1755, they had at their own expense raised an army of 25,000 men; and that they assisted the British expeditions against South America, with several thousand men; and had made many brave exertions against the French in North America.

It was said that the war of 1755 had been undertaken in defence of the colonies; but the truth was, that it originated from a contest about the limits between Canada and Nova-Scotia, and in defence of the English rights to trade on the Ohio. The Americans, however, would still continue to act with their usual fidelity; and were any war to break out in which they had no concern, they would be as ready as ever to assist the parent state to the utmost of their power, and would not fail to manifest their ready acquiescence in contributing to the emergencies of government, when called to do so in a regular and constitutional manner."

The ministry were conscious that in repealing this obnoxious act, they yielded to the Americans; and therefore, to support as they thought, the dignity of Great Britain, it was judged proper to publish a declaratory bill, setting forth the authority of the mother countrv, over her colonies, and her power to bind them by Iaw9 and statutes in all cases whatsoever. This much diminished the joy with which the repeal of the stamp act was received in America. It was considered a proper reason to enforce any claims equally prejudicial with the stamp act, which might hereafter be setup; a spirit of jealousy pervaded the whole continent, and a strong party was formed, determined to guard against the supposed encroachments of British power.

It was not long before an occasion offered, in which the Americans manifested a spirit of absolute independency; and, that instead of being bound by the British legislature in all cases whatsoever, they would not be controlled by it in the most trivial affairs. The Rockingham ministry had passed an act, providing the troops stationed in different parts of the colonies with such accommodations as were necessary for them. The assembly of New York however, took upon them to alter the mode of execution prescribed by the act of Parliament, and to substitute one of their own.

This gave very great offence to the new ministry, and rendered them, though composed of those who had been active against the stamp bill, less favourable to the colonies in all probability, than they would otherwise have been. An unlucky circumstance at the same time occurred, which threw every thing once more into confusion. One of the new ministry, Charles Townshend having declared that he could fma a way of taxing America, without giving offence; was called upon to propose his plan. This was by imposing a duty upon tea, paper, painter's colours, and glass imported into America. The conduct of the New York assembly, respecting the troops, and that of Boston, which had proceeded in a similar manner, caused this bill to meet with less opposition than otherwise it might have done. As a punishment to the refractory assemblies, the legislative power was taken from New York, until it should fully comply with the terms of the act. That of Boston at last submitted with reluctance. The bill for the new taxes quickly passed, and was sent to America in 1768. A ferment much greater than that occasioned by the Stamp-act, now took place throughout the 'continent. The populace renewed their outrages, and those of superior stations, entered into regular combinations against it.

Circular letters were sent from Massachusetts colony to all the others, setting forth the injustice and impropriety of the behaviour of the British legislature. Meetings were held in all the principal towns. It was proposed to lessen the consumption of all foreign manufactures, by giving proper encouragement to their own. Continual disputes ensued betwixt the governors and general assemblies, which were aggravated by a letter from lord Shelburne, to governor Barnard of Massachusetts Bay, containing complaints of the people he governed. The assembly, exasperated to the highest degree, charged their governor with having misrepresented them at the court of Britain; required him to produce copies of the letters he had sent; and on his refusal, wrote letters to the English ministry, accusing him of misrepresentation and partiality, complaining at the same time most grievously of the proceedings of parliament, as utterly subversive of the liberties of America, and the rights of British subjects. The governor, at a loss how to defend himself, prorogued the assembly, and in his speech on the occasion, gave a loose to his resentment, accusing the members of ambitious designs, incompatible with those of dutiful and loyal subjects. To counteract the circular letter of the province of Massachusetts Bay, lord Hillsborough, secretary for the American department, sent another to the governors of the different colonies, reprobating that sent by the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay, as full of misrepresentation, and tending to excite a rebellion against the parent state.

Matters were now drawing to a crisis. The governor had been ordered to proceed with vigour, and by no means gbow any disposition to yield to thepeople as formerly. In particular they were required to rescind that resolution by which they had written the circular letter above mentioned; and in case of a refusal, it was told them that they would be dissolved. As this letter had been framed by the resolutions of a former house, they desired after a week's consultation, that a recess might be granted to consult with their constituents; but this being refused, they came to a determination 92 against 17, to adhere to the resolution which produced the circular letter.

At the same time a letter was sent to lord Hillsborough, and a message to the governor, in justification of their proceedings. In both, they expressed themselves with such freedom, aswas by no means calculated to accord with the views of those in power. They insisted they had a right to communicate their sentiments to their fellow subjects, upon matters of importance, complained of the requisition to rescind the circular letter, as unconstitutional and unjust: and particularly insisted, that they were represented as harbouring seditious designs, when they were doing nothing but what was lawful and right. At the same time they condemned the late acts of Parliament as highly oppressive, and subversive of 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 concluding 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 withoutthe 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 repairto Boston, to keep the inhabitants in awe. A dreadful alarm now ensued; thepeople called on the governor to convene a general assembly, in order to remove the fears of the military; who they said were to be assembled 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 same manner. 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 proper to dissolve themselves, and sent over to Britain a circumstantial account of their proceedings, with the reason for having 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 bthaiour of the colony of Massachusetts Bay was set forth

« PreviousContinue »