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of Parliament "for the better securing and preserving His Majesty's dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores,” which threatened with the penalty of death any one who should destroy the least part of His Majesty's naval equipment, even to a brass button on an officer's coat, and gave the court of inquiry in Rhode Island the power to send the accused to England for trial.
Indignant at this monstrous disproportion between the punishment and the crime, the "bolder spirits” among the burgesses, Patrick Henry, the Lees, Jefferson, and his brilliant brother-in-law, Dabney Carr, held a private evening meeting at the Raleigh Tavern and prepared resolutions censuring the retaliatory act against Rhode Island, and calling for the establishment of a standing committee of correspondence and inquiry, whose business it should be to keep informed of important matters going on in all the American colonies and of the measures taken by Parliament for their regulation. The resolutions were adopted unanimously on March 12, 1773, and a committee of eight, including Jefferson and Carr, was appointed. Governor Dunmore, like Governor Botetourt before him, dissolved the house. But the committee met in the famous Apollo Room the next day and sent their resolutions out to the sister colonies, with the invitation to each to appoint a similar committee to correspond “on any measures or rumors of proceedings tending to de
prive them of their ancient, legal, and constitutional rights."
Still a third time New England provoked the British Parliament to punitive measures, and a third time Virginia stood by the northern colonies. The English Government, “blundering into a policy one day and backing out of it the next, seeking fresh principles of action with every fresh mail from America," as Edmund Burke tauntingly put it, had repealed the Townshend duties, leaving only the trifling tax of threepence a pound on tea to maintain the principle of Parliament's right to tax the colonies' trade. In 1773 the British East India Company, in financial straits, and with a glut of millions of pounds of unsold tea in its English warehouses, applied to the government for relief. Here was a rare opportunity for George III to accomplish two desirable objects by a single stroke. By remitting the shilling duty payable in England he could allow the East India corporation to dispose of its tea in America at a lower price, even including the threepenny tax, than the colonists had to pay for their smuggled cargoes from European ports; and at the same time he could tempt the Americans to take the tea at the good bargain offered and, by paying the duty, indorse the principle, so dear to his heart, of Parliament's right to tax them."
1 Figures from the office of the inspector of imports and exports show that the importation of tea from English ports into the Ameri
So the late autumn of 1773 saw several ship-loads of the East India Company's tea on the way to American ports. But the clever trick did not work. The people of Charleston got the consignees of the cargo destined for that port to resign, and eventually sold the tea at auction for the benefit of the revolutionary government. Public opinion in Philadelphia and New York prevailed with the consignees and customs officers to send the tea ships back to England without unloading. But in Boston, where the consignees would not resign, nor the customs officers give clearance papers for a return voyage without unloading, nor the governor sign a pass permitting the ships to sail without clearance papers, there seemed but one way left to prevent the tea from being landed and the duties paid. On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of citizens dressed like Indians boarded the ships at Long Wharf, and ripping open the chests with their tomahawks dumped the tea into Boston harbor.
The punishment which Parliament meted out for this defiance of royal authority and wanton destruction of property was swift and sure. The whole province was chastised for the act of a few score men. The charter was revised in such a way as to throw almost despotic power into the hands of the royal governor; town meetings, those nurseries of independence, were forbidden, except for the annual election of officers; public buildings were designated as barracks for the King's troops; and the port of Boston was closed by British war-ships, except for "fuel or victual ... for the necessary use and sustenance of the inhabitants of the said town," from June 1, 1774, until the tea should be paid for.
can colonies had fallen off from 877,193 pounds, paying a duty of £9,723, in 1768–9, to 237,062 pounds, paying a duty of only £1,677, in 1772–3. Yet no one could believe that the Americans were drinking only one-quarter as much tea in the latter as in the former year. The King believed, with apparent good reason, that the virtual monopoly which he granted the East India Company would put an end to smuggling and restore the British tea trade to its normal figures.
When the news of the punishment of Boston reached the Virginia Burgesses in their spring session of 1774, the same group of “bolder spirits" who. had taken the lead from the older members in 1769, agreeing with Jefferson that they "must take an unequivocal stand in the line with Massachusetts," voted a resolution to observe the 1st of June as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, “to implore heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King and Parliament to moderation and justice.” The reply to such insolence could not be in doubt. “The governor dissolved us as usual," is Jefferson's laconic comment. And, as usual, again the members' "retired to the Apollo,” where they adopted resolutions boycotting British goods, declaring that an attack on one colony was an attack on all, and instructing their committee of correspondence to sound the other colonies on the advisability of general annual congresses, the first to be held at Philadelphia in the following September. They further agreed that a convention should meet at Williamsburg on August 1 to appoint delegates to the Philadelphia Congress if the colonies reported favorably on the plan.
Albemarle County designated its newly elected burgesses, Jefferson and Walker, as delegates to the convention at Williamsburg. Their instructions, drawn up by Jefferson himself, contained resolutions asserting that the natural and legal rights of the colonists had been invaded by Parliament in frequent instances, and pledging the co-operation of the Virginians “with their fellow-subjects in every part of the Empire for the reëstablishment and guaranteeing such their constitutional rights, when, where, and by whomsoever invaded." These instructions, more radical than those of any other county,' more defiant even than the Stamp Act resolutions of Patrick Henry, were only the text of a most remarkable
1 The resolutions of the Fairfax County meeting, for example, over which George Washington presided, acknowledged Parliament's power, "directed with wisdom and moderation," to regulate American trade and commerce. All the Virginia patriots, except George Wythe, says Jefferson in his Memoir, "stopped at the half-way house of John Dickinson, who admitted that England had a right to regulate our commerce, and to lay duties on it for the purpose of regulation, but not of raising revenue.” Jefferson took the ground from the beginning that our connection with England was simply the personal union of the American and British parts of the Empire under the same sovereign.