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CHAPI"- would ultimately be decided by the sword, had 1775. not yet become general. The hope had been hitherto indulged by a great portion of the popular leaders, that the union of the colonies, the extent and serious aspect of the opposition, and the distress which their non-importation agreements would produce among the merchants and manufacturers of the parent state, would induce the administration to recede from the high pretensions which had been insisted on, and would restore that harmony and free intercourse which had formerly subsisted between the two countries, and which they sincerely believed to be advantageous to both. This opinion had derived strength from the communications made them by many of their zealous friends in England. The divisions and discontents of that country had been represented as much greater than the fact would justify; and the exhortations transmitted to them to persevere in the honourable course which had been commenced with so much glory, had generally been accompanied with assurances that success must yet crown their patriotic labours. Very many had engaged with zeal in the resistance made by America, and had acted on a full conviction of the correctness of the principles for which they contended, who would very reluctantly have engaged in the measures which had been adopted, had they really believed that those measures would have issued in war. But each party counted too Chap.ih.
much on the divisions of the other, and each 1775. seems to have taken step after step, in the hope that its adversary would yield the point in contest without resorting to open force. Thus on both sides, the public feelings had been gradually conducted to a point, which would in the first instance have been thought of with horror, and had been prepared for events, the contemplation of which, in the beginning of the controversy, would have alarmed the most intrepid. The sentiment now prevailing in the middle and southern colonies was, that a reconciliation, on the terms proposed by America, was not even yet impracticable, and was devoutly to be wished; but that war with all its hazards and its horrors was to be preferred to a surrender of those rights for wThich they had contended, and to which they believed every British subject, wherever placed, to be unquestionably entitled.
They did not hesitate, therefore, which part of the alternative now offered them to embrace, and their delegates united cordially with those of their northern brethren in such measures as the present exigency required. It was unanimously determined that as hostilities had actually commenced, and as large re-enforcements to the British army were expected, these colonies should be immediately put in a state of defence, and that the militia of New York should be armed
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cHap,iiL and trained, and kept in readiness to act at a 1775. moment's warning. It was also determined to embody a number of men, without delay, for the protection of the inhabitants of that place, but they appear not to have been authorized to oppose the landing of any troops which might be ordered to that station by the crown. The convention of New York had already consulted congress, on the steps to be pursued by that colony in the event of the arrival of the troops daily expected at that place from Europe; and they had been advised to permit the soldiers to take possession of the barracks, and to remain there so long as they conducted themselves peaceably; but if they should commit hostilities, or invade private property, the inhabitants were then to repel force by force. Thus anxious was congress, even after a battle had been fought, not to widen still further the breach between the two countries. In addition to the real wish for reconciliation, much felt by a majority of this body, the soundest policy directed that the people of America should engage in the arduous conflict which was approaching, with a perfect conviction that it was forced upon them, and that it had been occasioned by no fault of theirs, and by no intemperate conduct on the part of their leaders. The divisions existing in several of the states suggested the propriety of this conduct, even to those who despaired of deriving any other benefit from it than a greater degree of union Chap.hl among their own countrymen. In this spirit, 1775. they mingled with their resolutions for putting the country in a state of defence, others expressive of their most earnest wish for reconciliation with the mother country; to effect which, they determined on addressing once more an humble and dutiful petition to the king, and on adopting measures for opening a negotiation in order to accommodate the unhappy disputes subsisting between Great Britain and the colonies!
As no great confidence could now be placed in the success of pacific propositions, the resolution for putting the country in a state of defence was accompanied with others rendered necessary by that undetermined state between war and peace, in which America was now placed. All exports to those colonies, which had not deputed members to congress, were stopped; and all supplies of provisions and of other necessaries to the British fisheries were prohibited. Though this resolution was only a further prosecution of the system of commer- y, cial resistance which had been adopted before the commencement of hostilities, and was evidently provoked by the late acts of parliament; yet it seems to have been entirely unexpected, and certainly produced very great distress. A few days after the adoption of this measure, it was resolved, that no bill of exchange drawn by any person belonging to the army or navy
Chap. in. should be negotiated, nor any money furnished 1775. to such person, by the inhabitants of the colonies. All supplies of provisions or other necessaries, to the army or navy in Massachussetts Bay, and to any vessel employed in transporting British troops to America, or from one colony to another, were prohibited.
Massachussetts having stated the difficulties resulting from being without any regular form of government, "at a time when an army was to be raised to defend themselves against the butcheries and devastations of their implacable enemies," and having declared a readiness to conform to such general plans as congress might direct for the colonies, and so to modify its particular government as to promote the inter
ests of the union and of all America; it was
ju"e9, resolved, that no obedience is due to the act of parliament for altering the charter of that colony, nor to officers who, instead of observing that charter, seek its subversion.
The governor and lieutenant governor were, therefore, to be considered as absent, and their offices vacant. To avoid the intolerable inconveniences arising from a total suspension of government, especially at a time when general Gage had actually levied war, and was carrying on hostilities against his majesty's peaceable and loyal subjects of that colony; and, at the same time, to conform as near as possible to the spirit and substance of the charter; it was