« PreviousContinue »
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, as was 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 harhour. 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 rèmonstrance 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 without the governor, was not sufficient authority. This did not allay the feriment; 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 dread. ful 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 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 behaviour of the colony of Massachusetts Bay was set forth
in the most ample manner, and vigorous measures recom mended for reducing them to obedience. The Americans however, continued stedfasť in the ideas they had adopted.
Though the troops had for some time quieted the dis. turbances, yet the calm continued no longer than they were formidable on account of their number, but as soon as they were separated by the departure of a large detach. ment, 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 scufile happened between the soldiers, 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 10 act with vigour,, and, at the same time, with as much con descension as was consistent with its dignity, without abardoning 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 alfair of very little moment; the produce of which was not expected to exceed sixteen thousand pounds sterling,
The opposition, however, werc strenuous in their ende: vours to get this tax repealed ; insisting, that the Ameri. cans would consider it as an inlet to others; and, that the repeal of all the rest, without 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 off the judge of the superior court of Boston, the governor was addressed on the subject; the measure was con. demned 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 man- ner 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 Jiberty.
These disturbances were also greatly heightened 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 aniong other things, asserting, that, there must be an abridginent 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 Fery mortifying situation.
Losing every idea of respect or friendship for him, as their governor, they instantly dispatched a petition to the king, requesting him to remove the governor, and deputygovernor from their places : but to this they not only re. ceived an unfavourable answer, but the petition itself was declared groundless and scandalous.
Matters were now nearly ripe for the utmost exiremities on the part of the Americans ; and they were precipitated in the following manner. Though the colonies bad entered into a non-importation agreement against tea, as well as all other commodities from Biitain, it had neverheless 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 innually' to government; in recompense for which comliance, and to make up their losses in other respects, they were empowered to export their tea free from any duty pay.. able 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 mani. fested the same resolution to oppose this invasion of their rights.
In the midst of this confusion, three ships laden with tea, arrived at Boston ; but so much were the captains alarmed at the diposition 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 se. crecy. The very evening after the above-mentioned dis. charges 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