« PreviousContinue »
were empowered to export their tea free from any duly payable in England ; and, in consequence of this permission, several ships freighted with this commodity, were sent to North America, and proper agents appointed for taking charge, and disposing of it.
The Americans now perceiving that the tax was thus likely to be enforced, whether they would or not, determined to take every possible method to prevent the tea from being landed; well knowing that it would be impossible to hinder the sale, should the commodity once be brought on shore. For this purpose the people assembled in great numbers, forcing those to whom the tea was consigned, to resign their offices; and to promise solemnly, never to resume them; and committees were appointed to examine the accounts of merchants, and make public tests, declaring such as would not take them, enemies to their country. Nor was this behaviour confined to the colony of Massachusetts Bay ; the rest of the provinces entered into the contest, with the same warmth; and manifested the same resolution to oppose this invasion of their rights.
In the midst of this confusion, three ships laden with tea, arrived at Boston ; but so much were the captains alarmed at the disposition of the people, that they offered, providing they could get the proper discharges from the téa consignees, custom house, and governor, to return to Britain without landing their cargoes. The parties concerned, however, though they durst not order the tea to be landed, refused to grant the discharges required. The ships, therefore, would have been obliged to remain in the harbour ; but the people, apprehensive th:t if they remained there, the tea would be landed in small quantities, and disposed of in spite of every endeavour to prevent it; resolved to destroy it at once.
This resolution was executed with equal speed and secrecy. The very evening after the above-mentioned discharges had been refused, a number of people dressed like Mohock Indians boarded the ships, and threw into the sea their whole cargoes, consisting of three hundred and forty chests of tea; fter which, they retired without making any further disturbance, or doing any other damage. No
tea was destroyed in other ports, but the same spirit was manifested.
At Philadelphia the pilots were enjoined not to conduct the vessels up the river; and at New York, though the governor caused some tea to be landed, under the protection of a man of war, he was obliged to deliver it up to the people, to prevent its being sold.
The destruction of the tea at Boston, which happened in 1773, was the immediate prelude to the disasters attending civil discord. Government finding themselves every where insulted and despised, resolved to enforce their authority by all possible means; and as Boston had been the principal scene of the riots and outrages, it was determined to punish that city in an exemplary manner. Parliament was acquainted, by a message from his majesty, with the undutiful behaviour of the inhabitants of Boston, as well as of all the colonies, recommending at the same time the most vigorous and spirited exertions to reduce them to obedience. The parliament in its address promised a ready compliance ; and the Americans now seemed to have lost many of their partizans.
It was proposed to lay a fine on the town of Boston, equal to the price of the tea which had been destroyed, and to shut up its port by armed vessels, until the refractory spirit of its inhabitants was subdued; which, it was thought must quickly yield, as a total stop would thus be put to their trade.
The bill was strongly opposed on the same ground that the other had been ; and it was predicted, that instead of having any tendency to reconcile or subdue the Americans, it would infallibly exasperate them beyond any possibility of reconciliation.
The petitions against it were presented by the colony's agent, who pointed out the same consequence in the strong. est terms, and in the most positive manner declared the Americans never would submit to it; but such was the infatuation attending every rank and degree of men, that it never was imagined the Americans would dare to resist the parent state openly ; but would in the end, submit implicitly to her commands. In this confidence a third bill was proposed, for the impartial administration of justice, by such persons as might be employed in the suppression of riots and tumults in the province of Massachusetts Bay.
By this act it was provided, “That should any person act, ing in that capacity be indicted for murder, and not be able to obtain a fair trial in the province, they might be sent by the governor to England, or to some other colony, if necessary, to be tried for the supposed crime.
These three bills having passed so easily, the ministry proposed a fourth, relative to the government of Canada; which it was said, had not yet been settled upon any proper plan. By this bill the extent of that province, was greatly enlarged; its affairs were put under the direction of a council, in which Roman Catholics were to be admitted; the Roman Catholic clergy were secured in their possessions, and the usual perquisites from those of their own profession. The council above-mentioned, were to be appointed by the crown ; to be removable at its pleasure, and to be invested with every legislative power, except that of taxation.
No sooner were these laws made known in America, than they cemented the union of the colonies, beyond the possibility of dissolving it. The Assembly of Massachusetts Bay had passed a vote against the judges accepting salaries from the crown, and put the question, Whether they would accept them as usual, from the general assembly? Four answered in the affirmative, but Peter Oliver, the chief justice, refused. A petition against him, and an accusation, were brought before the governor; but the latter refused interfering in the matter; but as they still insisted for justice against chief justice Oliver, the governor thought proper to dissolve the assembly.
In this situation of affairs, a new alarm was occasioned by the port bill. This had been totally unexpected ; and was received with the most extravagant expressions of displeasure aniong the people; and while these continued, the new governor, general Gage, arrived from England.
He had been chosen to this office on account of his being well acquainted in America, and generally agreeable to the people; but human wisdom could not now point out a method, by which the flame could be allayed. The first act of his office, as governor, was to remove the assembly to Salem, a town seventeen miles distant from Boston, in consequence of the late act. When this was intimated to the assembly, they replied by requesting
him to appoint a day of public humiliation, for deprecating the wrath of heaven, but met with a refusal. When the assembly met at Salem, they passed a resolution, declaring the necessity of a general Congress, composed of delegates from all the provinces; in order that they might take the affairs of the colonies at large, under their consideration; and five gentlemen, who had been remarkable for their opposition, were chosen to represent that of Massachusetts Bay. They then proceeded, with all expedition, to draw up a declaration, containing a detail of the grievances, which they laboured under, and the necessity of exerting themselves against lawless power; they set forth the disregard that had been paid to their petitions, and the attempts of Great Britain to destroy their ancient constitution, and concluding with exhorting the inhabitants of the colony to obstruct, by every method in their
power, such evil designs, recommending, at the same time, a total renunciation of every thing imported from Great Britain, until a redress of grievances could be procured.
Intelligence of this decláration was carried to the governor on the very day that it was completed ; on which he dissolved the assembly. This was followed by an address from the inhabitants of Salem, in favour of those of Boston, and concluding with these remarkable words, " By shutting up the port of Boston some imagine that " the course of trade might be turned hither, and to our "benefit; 'but nature, in the formation of our harbour, " forbids our becoming rivals in commerce to that conve"nient märt; and were it otherwise, we must be dead "to every idea of justice, lost to all feelings of humanity, "coult'we' indulge one thought to seize on wealth, and “raise our fortunes on the ruin of our suffering neigh« bours."
It had been fondly hoped by the ministerial party in England, that the advantages which other towns might derive from the annihilation of the trade of Boston, would make them readily acquiesce in the measure of shutting up that port, and rather rejoice in it, than otherwise ; but the words of the address above-mentioned, seemed to preclade all hope of this kind; and subsequent transactions soon manifested it to be altogether vain.
No sooner did intelligence arrive of the bills, passed in the session of 1774, than the cause of Boston became the cause of al} the colonies. The port-bill had already occasioned violent commotions throughout them all. It had been reprobated in provincial meetings, and resistance to the last, had been recommended, against such oppression. In Virginia, the first of June, 1774, the day on which the port of Boston was to be shut up, was held as a day of humiliation, and a public intercession, in our of America, was recommended. The style of the prayer enjoined at this time, was, that "God would give the people one heart and one mind, firmly lo oppose every invasion “ of the American rights.”
The Virginians, however, did not content themselves with acts of religion, only; they recommended, in the strongest manner, a general congress of all the colonies ; as fully persuaded that an attempt to tax any colony in an arbitrary manner, was, in reality, an attack upon them all. The provinces of New York and Pennsylvania, were, however, less sanguine than the rest, being so closely connected in the way of trade with Great Britain, that the giving it up entirely, appeared a matter of the most serious magnitude, and not to be thought of but after every other method had failed.
The intelligence of the remaining bills, respecting Boston, spread a fresh alarm through the continent, and fixed those who had appeared the most wavering. The proposal of giving up all commercial intercourse with Great Britain was again proposed ; contributions for the relief of the inhabitants of Boston, were raised in every quarter; and they received addresses from the other provinces commending them for the heroic courage with which they sustained their calamity.
The Bostonians, thus supported, did every thing in their power to promote the general cause. An agreement was framed, which, in imitation of former times, was called A solemn league and covenant. By this, the subscribers most religiously bound themselves to break off all communication with Great Britain after the expiration of the month of August ensuing, until the obnoxious acts were repealed ; at the same time they engaged neither to pure