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1769. THE MASSACHUSETTS ASSEMBLY. 247
mob, consisting chiefly of boys and negroes, but urged on by Malcolm, a captain in the smuggling trade; and they assaulted the custom-house officers with the utmost violence. On the ensuing day the tumult was renewed. The houses of the Commissioners and other officers of the customs were attacked and their windows broken, and their collector's boat was dragged through the town to the Common, where it served for a bonfire. Meanwhile the Commissioners in terror for their lives fled for refuge to Castle William, a fortress at the mouth of the harbour. Neither the Assembly, which was still sitting at the time, nor yet the leading merchants of the town, appear to have shown any great zeal to check the riot or chastise the rioters. They were far more ready to complain of the insult which they said they had sustained by the removal of the sloop from the wharf, since this removal implied the apprehension or allowed the possibility that such good worthy men as they were could ever be guilty of a rescue. They offered areward, however, for the discovery of the ringleaders in the affray, and some of the lower orders were pointed out as such, but Malcolm himself, the chief abettor of these riots, and other men like Malcolm sat upon the Grand Jury and prevented true bills being found. It was in the midst of the twofold agitation arising from the seizure of the sloop and the dissolution of the Assembly that a fresh source of difference unhappily sprung forth. Governor Bernard and the Board of Commissioners at Boston had for some time past represented to the Ministry their apprehension of disturbance, and their desire of an armed force for their support. Lord Hillsborough had taken measures accordingly; he informed Governor Bernard that orders had been sent to General Gage as Commander-inchief for North America to despatch from Halifax to Boston two regiments and four ships of war. It so chanced that Lord Hillsborough had sat down to write that letter at St. James's on nearly the same day that Hancock's sloop — the cause of so grievous riots — had anchored at Boston. But the subsequent experience of these riots did not serve as any justification of that letter in the eyes of the New Englanders. The utmost irritation prevailed at Boston at the news, early in September, that troops were coming. A meeting of the inhabitants was immediately summoned. There a Committee of management was appointed, and a Resolution was passed: “That as there is an apprehension in the minds of many of “an approaching war with France, those inhabitants who “are not provided be requested to furnish themselves forth“with with arms.” It is scarcely needful to add that no such idea of a war with France was really entertained, and that arms were desired with a wholly different view. Even amidst the irritation of that time there were not wanting many loyal men in Boston to reprobate loudly both the factiousness of the proposal and the falsehood of the plea.* In a more peaceful spirit the Boston meeting desired the Ministers of the town to set apart an early day for fasting and prayer throughout the province. They also addressed a petition to the Governor, referring to his dissolution of the late Assembly, and requesting him to call another forthwith. Mr. Bernard in reply declined to do so unless he should receive His Majesty's commands to that effect. The petitioners were well aware that according to the terms of their Charter a new Assembly could not be postponed beyond the month of May ensuing. Such delay, however, in their then excited state seemed to them intolerable. They resolved to hold an Assembly through their own act and by another name. A “Convention” was summoned to meet at Boston before the close of the month, to consist of deputies, or, as they were termed, “Committee-men,” from the several districts and towns in Massachusetts. Elections accordingly ensued, and on the 22d of September the Members sent to this Convention met in Faneuil Hall, so called from Peter Faneuil, a wealthy citizen, who had built and bequeathed it to the town.** On their meeting the Governor addressed to them a 1769. THE “sons of LIBERTY.” 249
letter in a firm yet temperate tone; he told, them that as a friend to the province he must warn them of the perilous and illegal path they were about to tread. Either his firmness or their own returning sense of moderation (to say nothing of the daily expected arrival of the troops) caused them, it would seem, to falter and recede from their first design. After only five or six days of sitting, several communications with the Governor, and one petition to the King, they quietly dissolved themselves. On the very day of this Dissolution the ships of war from Halifax cast anchor in the port; and the soldiers — seven hundred in number, commanded by Colonel Dalrymple, – prepared to come on shore. Great difficulty was made by the Council in providing them quarters,” and great dissatisfaction was expressed by the inhabitants at the unhallowed sound of many a fife and trumpet, which even on the Sunday did not wholly cease its clangour. Thus did Boston from a mart of commerce bear for a while the aspect of a garrisontown; and other detachments speedily arriving, no less than four regiments were mustered within its walls. Quiet was maintained, but content was not restored. It is not to be supposed that the ferment in any other Colonies of North America, – and in some there was, it may be said, no ferment at all, - bore any proportion to that in Massachusetts. In no other had the King's Representative given so much provocation. In no other was there the same Cromwellian leaven at work. Yet still the Circular from Boston of February 1768 found an echo, though a fainter one, in many places. Non-importation agreements were formed far and wide by the “Sons of Liberty,’” for thus did the Opposition parties in America continue since 1765 to call themselves. Even ladies, assuming the name of “Daughters “of Liberty,” combined among themselves to refrain from the use of tea. Such merchants as hung back and refused to take part in these associations were in many cases goaded forwards and compelled to sign by threats or even deeds of violence. In several Colonies, moreover, dissensions arose and grew between the Governor and the Assembly, — not always prudently conducted by the former. Indeed the illchoice of such officers in England deserves to be noted as among the secondary causes of the Revolution which ensued. On this point no testimony given on either side since the commencement of the troubles can be deemed wholly free from suspicion. But here are some words from a private letter, written by a meritorious officer, General Huske, so far back as 1758: “As to the civil officers appointed for “America, most of places in the gift of the Crown have been “filled with broken Members of Parliament of bad, if any, “principles, valets-de-chambre, electioneering scoundrels, “and even livery servants. In one word, America has been “for many years made the hospital of England.”* I may add, that even at the present time abuses of this kind have not altogether ceased. At the meeting of Parliament in November 1768 the news from America, and above all from Massachusetts, could not fail to engage the earnest attention of both Houses. On Lord Hillsborough's motion they passed votes of censure on several measures of the late Assembly and of the Meetings of Boston. That censure on their part might be just, but whether it was also politic may be fairly questioned. Such as it was, it proved by no means sufficient to satisfy the more eager opponents of the American pretensions. Foremost among these was the Duke of Bedford. It seemed to his Grace, as to many others besides, that the partiality of the Boston jury to the rioters had been so flagrant and so
* Bernard's despatches on this subject were communicated from England to the Members of the Council, and by them were published, with a very able counter-statement of their own, dated April 15, 1769. In this they observe: “It hath been the happiness of His Majesty's Council from “the grant of the Charter till lately to be on the best terms with the King's “Representative. There have indeed been frequent disputes between the “Governor and the House of Representatives, but never that we know of “between the Governor and the Council till now. That it is so at this day “is our unhappiness, not our crime.”
* This remarkable letter is published in Mr. Phillimore's Memoirs of Lord Lyttleton, vol. ii. p. 604.
1769 TYRANNICAL STATUTE IREVIVED. 251
heinous that no juries in that whole Colony could hereafter be relied on. Accordingly he proposed and carried through both Houses a joint Address to the King, entreating His Majesty to obtain the fullest information respecting the actors in the late outrages, so that His Majesty might then, if he saw sufficient grounds for such a course, set in force against them a statute passed in the thirty-fifth year of King Henry the Eighth, and under that statute direct them to be brought over to England and tried before a Special Commission. Thus was it designed to draw forth the mouldering edict of a tyrant from the dust where it had long lain, and where it ever deserved to lie, and to fling it — instead of bread, a stone, – not merely at the guilty, but also at the innocent, whom it equally despoiled of their rightful native Juries! Such a proposal, made at such a time, to me at least appears utterly unjustifiable. Well and truly and almost prophetically might Burke exclaim in these debates: “If your remedy is such as “is not likely to appease the Americans, but rather to “exasperate them, you fire a cannon upon your enemy which “will recoil upon yourselves. And why take such a course? “Because, as you say, you cannot trust a Jury of that coun“try. Sir, that word must convey horror to every feeling “mind. If you have not a party among two millions of peo“ple, you must either change your plan of government or “renounce your Colonies for ever.”* In pursuance of the same views of policy it was thought proper to reward Governor Bernard, and the King at this very period was advised to bestow the dignity of Baronet upon him, - a most ill-timed favour surely when he had so grievously failed in gaining the affections or the confidence of any order or rank of men within his province; when even the Council, that steady friend of all former Governors, had become his enemy; when even Members of that Council had sent home a petition for his reeall. — Success is indeed no unerring test of merit, but for promotions it is probably the surest guide. * Speech, January 26. 1769. Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 199.