« PreviousContinue »
1770. LoRD NORTH ON THE AMERICAN REVENUE, 277
“their friends, will not pay a regard to such advice, and “more particularly in a matter of taxation?”* Under such circumstances, and on the 5th of March 1770, Lord North brought forward his motion on the subject of American Revenue. His speech was temperate and able. He declared himself ready to abide by the terms of Lord Hillsborough's letter, and to propose the repeal of all the duties laid on in 1767, except only the duties on Teas. “Would to “God,” he added, “I could see any reason from the subse“quent behaviour of the Americans to grant them further in“dulgence, and extend the proposal to the removal of the “other duties which it was my intention at that time to do!” But from what had lately passed at Boston and elsewhere it was scarcely prudent, he argued, may scarcely even possible, for the Government to make any further concession. In truth they were not called on to redress a grievance, but only to relinquish a right. For the whole probable amount of these duties on Tea was no more, according to Lord North's estimate, than eleven or twelve thousand pounds a year. Nor was even this small amount in reality any additional charge on the Americans. The Colonial tax of three pence a pound had been laid upon this article of Tea at the very time when Parliament had taken off the English duty of twenty-five per cent. upon Teas exported to America. Under the whole transaction therefore, — such a duty taken off in England, and such a tax laid on in America, – it was clear that Tea might be sold to the colonists even cheaper than before. ** The remission of the English duty to which Lord North referred, - that is, a drawback to the full amount on all the Teas belonging to the East India Company, and exported to the American Colonies, – had been granted in 1767, as part of the agreement between the administration of that day and * Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 493. ** See further on this point Mr. Strahan's Queries to Dr. Franklin, November 21. 1769. Franklin fairly admits in his reply: “It is not the sum
“paid in that duty on Tea that is complained of as a burthen, but the “principle of the Act expressed in the preamble.” (Works, vol. iv. p. 262.)
the East India Company. But it might be described as resembling an experiment rather than a full concession. The period of the Act was limited to five years, and by one of its clauses the Company undertook to make good the consequent deficiency in the revenue, should any such be found to have arisen on an average of the annual returns within that period.* Against Lord North's proposal, as stated to the House of Commons, there appeared two opposite classes of objections. Mr. Welbore Ellis and Lord Barrington, though holding office under him, declared that they could not support his scheme, mor, after the recent behaviour of the Americans, allow them any, even the smallest, indulgence. On the other hand, Burke, Barré, Dowdeswell, Governor Pownall, and General Conway, and the whole force of Opposition (excepting only Mr. Grenville who spoke irresolutely and did not vote at all), declared in favour of including the article of Teas, and repealing the entire Act of 1767. For how mere a trifle, it was urged, was the Government then struggling! Such had been the effect of the non-importation agreements, or such the prevalence of smuggling, that the whole receipt from the Tea duties in America during the last financial year, was less than three hundred pounds. ** Thus the right was but a shadow, and the profit but a peppercorn. How much wiser, if conciliation were attempted at all, to conciliate clearly, finally, and fully! Arguments such as these wrought so far with the House that the usual majority of Ministers was greatly lessened in this vote; they carried the partial as against the entire repeal by only 204 against 142. The same day on which the question of American taxes had been discussed and decided in the House of Commons
* Act 7. Geo. III. c. 56. ** Alderman Beckford said, April 19. 1769: “This duty upon tea has “produced in the southern part of America only 295l. 14s. ; in the northern “part, nothing; and all this with a great army to collect it!" (Cavendish “Debates, vol. i. p. 400.) Yet Franklin writes in 1773: “It is supposed “that at least a million of Americans drink tea twice a day.” (Works, vol. iv. p. 385.) -
1770. AFFRAY AT BOSTON. •' 279
was marked by a painful and long remembered affray at Boston. To that town the stationing of the regiments, now again reduced to two, had been hitherto, to say the least, no unmitigated evil. Upwards of 60,000l. had been spent by them, and many a farmer was heard to exult that he could now get ready money for his goods; while, on the other hand, they had cost the province nothing or next to nothing. No other provision had been made for them by the Assembly beyond straw, wood, and candles, and a barrack, which, as one of their officers afterwards said in Parliament, was a building “in which no gentleman of this House would keep “his hounds!”* Unhappily on political grounds the troops were most obnoxious to many of the upper class, and to all the lower, in the town. A man in a red coat could scarcely go through some of the streets without being insulted; nor could discipline always prevent retaliation. On Saturday the 3d of March a quarrel took place at a rope-walk between some soldiers and towns-people. The latter were the aggressors, but were beaten and pursued, and though much incensed allowed the Sunday to intervene between them and their revenge. But at nightfall on Monday the 5th a large crowd, armed with sticks and staves, assailed the main guard; pelting the soldiers with snowballs, lumps of ice, and logs of wood, and not sparing abuse and execrations at the “lobster scoundrels.” The commanding officer, Captain Preston, showed an humane and soldier-like forbearance; and the men for a long time remained steady to their arms; but at length were provoked to fire without orders, when three persons were killed, and several others (one mortally) wounded. To prevent any further bloodshed, and at the earnest desire of a deputation, Governor Hutchinson and Colonel Dalrymple removed all the troops from the town to Castle William. Meanwhile every effort was made by the popular leaders to magnify and distort the late transaction, which they insisted on calling “the Massacre;” and represented as a * Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 493.
deliberate and concerted scheme of slaughter by the troops. “The Murderers” was now the common term applied by them and their correspondents to all the King's troops at Boston *; and no pains were spared to agitate and inflame the minds of the people from whom the Jury in the trial of Captain Preston must be chosen. When, however, that trial did take place, in due course of law a few months afterwards, it was conducted with perfect fairness. At first indeed Captain Preston had great difficulty in obtaining Counsel. Many, either from popular principles, or in personal terror, refused their aid. Finally, one of his friends, Mr. Forrest, waited upon Mr. John Adams, a young lawyer of great ability then first rising into fame. With tears streaming from his eyes Mr. Forrest said: “I am come with a very solemn message “from a very unfortunate man, Captain Preston, in prison. “He wishes for Counsel, and can get none. I have waited “on Mr. Quincy, who says he will engage if you will give “him your assistance; without it he positively declines. “Even Mr. Auchmuty declines, unless you will engage.” Mr. Adams was warm and zealous on the popular side, and on that side all his ambitious hopes depended. Yet with a noble spirit, and without any hesitation, he answered Mr. Forrest that Counsel ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should want in a free country, and that the Bar ought, in his opinion, to be independent and impartial at all times and in every circumstance. Upon this Mr. Forrest offered him as a retaining fee, a single guinea, which Mr. Adams cheerfully accepted.* As he had foreseen, there immediately arose a violent Glamour against him among his political friends. But it did not long endure. Ere long his upright conduct was acknowledged and respected; and in later years, after many other public services, John Adams became the second President of the United States. At this trial the skill of the young advocate, supported
* See Franklin's Works and Correspondence, vol. vii. p. 478, &c. ** See the Autobiography of John Adams, as recently printed from the MS. in his Works (vol. ii. p. 280, ed. 1850).
1770. TRIAL OF CAPTAIN PRESTON. 281
by a host of witnesses, established beyond dispute the true facts of the case; and a verdict of Not Guilty was returned. All the four Judges present expressed their concurrence with that verdict, and by one of them the entire case was summed up as follows: “Happy I am to find that after such strict “examination the conduct of the prisoner appears in so fair “a light; yet I feel myself deeply affected that this affair “turns out so much to the disgrace of every person concern“ed against him, and so much to the shame of the town in “general.” The soldiers of Captain Preston being in like manner brought to trial were also acquitted, excepting the two who had first fired without orders, and who were found Guilty of Manslaughter only. But neither the evidence adduced, nor the verdicts returned, wrought any change in the feelings or the language of the popular leaders on this question. During several successive years they observed with much solemnity the anniversary of “the massacre,” as they continued to call it, employing their ablest spokesmen to deliver annual harangues, by which the public resentment might be stirred, and the irritating remembrance kept alive. From these trials there may justly, as I conceive, be deduced two general and not immaterial considerations. In the first place, the perfect fairness with which they were conducted, and the satisfactory verdicts with which they closed, afford the best reply to that most unjust and most impolitic proposal of the Duke of Bedford in the preceding year that American prisoners should be brought before Juries in England. Secondly, however good may have been upon the whole the conduct of Captain Preston and his soldiers, a heavy responsibility seems to rest upon the Government at home for having sent them without absolute necessity into the very streets and lanes of these exasperated townsmen. The probability of some such collision should certainly have been foreseen, and might perhaps have been averted. Notwithstanding both the untoward events on March the