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Grenville. But there speedily gathered round himself a band of personal adherents, a band far from numerous, but strong in their leader's talents and their own. To this small band belonged Lord Camden, Lord Shelburne, and Lord Stanhope, Colonel Barré and Alderman Beckford, Mr. Calcraft and Mr. Dunning. Such was the state of parties when an attempt was made to remedy one of the most flagrant evils that party spirit had produced, and from which no party had stood clear. A Bill to regulate the trial of Controverted Elections was drawn up and brought in by Mr. Grenville. That able statesman, though not yet fifty-eight years of age, was already declining to his grave. It was observed of him during the debates of 1769 that on sitting down after an eager speech he spat blood. * Next winter he sustained a most grievous bereavement by the death of his wife, the daughter of Sir William Wyndham. Some time afterwards Mr. Knox, his former secretary, paid him a visit at Wotton, and, as Mr. Knox has recorded, was assured by him that he had given up all thoughts of office. “And indeed,” he continued with a deep sigh, and putting his hand upon his side, “I am no “longer capable of serving the public. My health and spirits “are gone. The only thing I have any intention of doing is “to endeavour to give some check to the abominable prosti“tution of the House of Commons in elections by voting for “whoever has the support of the Minister, which must end “in the ruin of public liberty if it be not checked.” “* In pursuance of this public-spirited design Mr. Grenville prepared a measure which, as is well known, transferred the trial of controverted elections from the House at large to a Select Committee, gave to that Committee the power of administering an oath, and bound the Members of that Committee by an oath of their own. The Bill encountered a zealous resistance from Mr. Rigby and Mr. Dyson, while
* Cavendish Debates , vol. i. p. 371. ** Extra- official State Papers by William Knox, Esq., 1789, vol. ii. p. 41.
1770. AFFAIRS OF AMERICA. 273
other Members more faintly expressed their doubts and objections to it *, but a majority declared in its favour; and in the other House Lord Mansfield, much to his honour, discarded all party ties to give it his support; by that support ensuring its success. No man in our own day will deny how great was the improvement wrought by this Bill. Yet even this Bill proved so inadequate to the demands of justice as to have been repeatedly altered and new modelled, so that now scarce a trace of the original remains. Thus manifold has been the endeavour to reconcile privilege with justice; so hard and well nigh hopeless the task to turn on each occasion warring partisans into impartial judges! In this state of parties also Lord North found it necessary, according to his pledge last Session, to deal with the difficult question of taxes in America. From that quarter the news had continued to be far from favourable. That rash and yet feeble course proposed by the Duke of Bedford and adopted by both Houses, – the appeal to an obsolete and arbitrary Act of Henry the Eighth, and the neglect of any measures to enforce it, — had produced the usual effect of empty threats, – to irritate rather than alarm. In May 1769 the House of Burgesses in Virginia voted some strong Resolutions against the policy lately pursued towards the Colonies, and also an Address to the King praying him on no account to revive the statute of Henry the Eighth against them. Upon this they were dissolved in displeasure by their newly appointed Governor, Lord Bottetort. But the principal members immediately repaired to “the Apollo” (a tavern room), and formed, what they had hitherto forborne to do, an association engaging upon their honour to import no British merchandize so long as the duties laid on in 1767
* Compare the fuller and better report in the Parl. Hist., vol. xvi. p. 907–924. with that in the Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 513. and 514. Mr. Dunning. still Solicitor General, declared that as the law of Election Petitions had lately been administered, “decisions in Turkey would in my “apprehension be far preferable !” The first fruit of Mr. Grenville's Bill in the ensuing year was the exposure of those corrupt practices at Shoreham to which I have elsewhere referred.
Mahon, History, W. 18
should continue unrepealed. Among the names put down to this agreement were some still obscure, but destined to become illustrious on the side of American independence. It bears the signatures of Patrick Henry and Peyton Randolph, of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In several more of the Colonies similar irritation was displayed at the announcement of the Parliamentary proceedings. In Massachusetts, according to the terms of the Charter, the new Assembly was convened in the same month of May. They met in no complying humour. Nearly their first business was to complain of the King's ships and the King's troops which had come among them, and to apply to Governor Bernard that he would give orders for the removal of both. The Governor answered drily: “Gentle“men, I have no authority over His Majesty's ships in this “port, or over his troops within this town.” Hereupon the House of Representatives refused to transact any further business, surrounded as they were, and threatened as they alleged themselves to be, by an armed force. Sir Francis hoped to remove this objection by adjourning them to Cambridge, a town divided from Boston by an arm of the sea, and in which there were no troops. But their resentful spirit still continued; they refused to make any, even the smallest, provision for the soldiers; and at last there appearing no prospect of any reconcilement they were prorogued by the Governor, not to meet again until January 1770. At this period, and after so many provocations given and received, Sir Francis Bernard was most judiciously summoned back to England. He was not indeed formally recalled, but sent for partly to answer the charges brought against him, and partly on the honourable plea of consulting him in person; and he continued nominally Governor of Massachusetts two years more. Still, however, he was never permitted to return to his province; and the government was administered in his place by Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson. Great hopes were entertained that on his departure greater concord and cordiality might prevail in his province.
1770. TARRING AND FEATHERLNG. - 275
Such hopes were not fulfilled. The leaders of the non-importation movement were more vehement than ever. They were far from trusting solely to persuasion or argument upon their fellow-citizens; they set on foot a system of terror against the disinclined. It was not even permitted to the merchants to keep the goods they had imported in store, as if bonded, until the duties should be repealed in England. One merchant bolder than the rest who had so far presumed was waited upon by a chosen Committee with an axeman and a carpenter in their front-rank, - as though ready to cut off his head or to make his coffin'! They told him that there were a thousand men close by awaiting his answer, and that if he did not comply they could not answer for the consequences. Such cogent logic was decisive; the unlucky merchant sent back his goods to those who had shipped them, and much against his will was enrolled as an eminent member of the patriot band. But while the patriot chiefs were thus inflexible to strangers, they are accused of showing undue favour to their own especial friends, allowing some of these to sell the prohibited articles in secret, and in fact to set their own prices upon them since the articles could not be obtained elsewhere. All informers, and indeed all such as gave any aid or support to the Government, were seized upon by the populace to be tarred and feathered. This process was to strip the patient naked, bedaub his body with tar, and roll him round in feathers, and then turn him out into the streets. Such a process may be treated as a jest, and indeed was sometimes talked of as such in England *; but attended as it was too commonly with blows and violence, it put its victims to considerable suffering as well as to shame. * The tarring and feathering at Boston is humorously referred to by Foote in his play of the Cozeners. There the Cozener, Mr. Flaw, promises to the Irishman, O'Flanagan, “a tide-waiter's place in the inland parts of “America.” — And he adds, “a word in your ear! if you discharge well “ your duty you will be found in tar and feathers for nothing. . . . . When “properly mixed they make a genteel kind of dress, which is sometimes
“worn in that climate; it is very light, keeps out the rain , and sticks ex“tremely close to the skin?”
Tarring and feathering although the most effectual were not the only methods by which the good men of Massachusetts manifested their displeasure. Another favourite device with any obnoxious person was to smear over his whole house with pitch or filth, so as to render it for a time almost uninhabitable.
It was natural and just that respectable Americans should disavow any share in such outrages, and impute them solely to the rabble in the streets. No doubt in a large majority of cases these disavowals were perfectly wellfounded; still however the suspicion remains that the rabble on these occasions was set in movement and directed by some persons of higher rank and larger views of mischief than themselves. Even if we avert our eyes altogether from such acts of violence, and look only to the votes of formal meetings and legislative assemblies at that period, even then in more than one of the Colonies, and above all in Massachusetts, we shall still find scope for censure and complaint. We shall find that even the statesmen in England most zealous for the rights of that Colony, and most mindful of the provocations it had received, - we shall find that even Lord Chatham, staunch friend as he was to America, – felt it a duty to express public and strong disapprobation of the language there used, and of the tendency there displayed. *
It must be confessed, however, that some encouragement from England was not wanting even for the most antiEnglish of these men. Colonel Mackay, who had just returned from his regiment at Boston, declared in the House of Commons: “I have read letters from England advising “them to persevere, and they would be sure to obtain their “ends. And can you suppose that men at that distance, “having such advice given to them by men pretending to be
* See in the Appendix to this volume an extract of Lord Chatham's speech, March 2, 1770, as reported at the time by Mr. Johnson, agent for Connecticut.