Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

chase, nor use, any goods imported after that time, and to renounce all connexion with those who did, or refused to subscribe to this covenant; threatening to publish the names of the refractory; which at this time was a punishment too serious to be despised.

Agreements of a similar nature, were immediately en. tered into throughout all America. And although general Gage attempted 10 counteract the covenant by a proclamation, wherein it was declared an illegal and traiterous combination, threatening with the pains of the law, such as subscribed or countenanced it. But it was now loo late for proclamations to have any effect. The Americans retorted the charge of illegality on his own proclamation, and insisted, that the law allowed subjects to meet, in order to consider of their grievances, and associate for relief from oppression.

Preparations were now made for holding a general Congress. Philadelphia, as being the most centrical, and considerable town, was chosen as the place of its meeting.

The delegates of whom it was composed, were elected by the representatives of each province, and were in number from two to seven from each colony, though no province had more than one vote.

The first Congress, which met at Philadelphia, in the beginning of September 1774, consisted of fifty-one delegates. The novelty and importance of the meeting, excited universal attention ; and their transactions were such as rendered them respectable. The first act of Congress, was an approbation of the conduct of the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay, and an exhortation to continue in the same spirit which they had begun. Supplies for the suffering inhabitants were strongly recommended, as they were reduced to great distress by the operation of the Port-bill; and it was declared, that in case an attempt should be made to enforce the obnoxious acts by arms, all America should join to assist the town of Boston ; and should the inhabitants be obliged, during the course of hostilities, to remove further up into the country, the losses they might sustain should be repaired at the public expense.

They next addressed general Gage by letter ; in which, having stated the grievances of the people of Massachu

setts colony, thęy informed him of the fixed and unalterable deterininalion of all the other provinces, to support their brethren, and to oppose the cruel and oppressive British acts of parlianvent; that they were appointed to watch over the liberties of America ; and entréated him to desist from military operations, lesť such 'hostilities might be brought on, as would frustrate all hopes of conciliation with the parent state.

The next step was to publish a declaration of their rights. These they summed up in the rights belonging to Englishmen; and particularly insisted, that as their distance rendered it impossible for them to be represented in the British parliament, their provincial assemblies, with the governor appointed by the king, constituted the only legislative power within each province. They would how. ever, consent to such acts of parliament, as were evidently calculated merely for the regulation of commerce, and securing to the parent state the benefits of the American trade ; but would never allow that they could impose any tax on the colonies, for the purpose of raising a revenue, without their consent. They proceeded to reprobate the intention of each of the new acts of parliament ; and insisted on all the rights they had enumerated, as being unalienable ; and what none could deprive them of. The Canada act they particularly pointed out as being ex. iremely inimical to the colonies, by whose assistance it had been conquered ; and they térmed it, “ An act for establishing the Roman Catholic religion in Canada, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and establishing a tyranny there."

They further declared in favour of a non-importation and non-consumption of British goods, until the acts were repealed, by which duties were laid upon tea, coffee, wine, sugar, and molasses imported into America, as well as the Boston Port-act, and the three others passed in the pre: ceding session of Parliament.

The new regulations against the importation and consumption of British commodities, were then drawn up with great solennity; and they concluded with returning the warmest thanks, to those members of Parliament who had, with so much zeal, but without success, opposed the obnoxious acts of Parliament.

Their next proceedings were, to draw up a petition to the king, an address to the British Nation, and another to the colonies, all of which being in the usual strain of

American language, adopted for some time past, that a repetition is altogether unnecessary. It is sufficient to say, they were executed in a masterly manner, both with respect to the style, and composition, and ought to have impressed the people of England with more favourable septimeöts of the Americans, than they were at that time wil'ling to entertain.

All this time the disposition of the people had corresponded with the warmest wishes of congress. The first of June had been kept as a fast, not only throughout Virginia, where it' was first proposed, but through the whole continent. Contributions for the relief of the inhabitants of Boston were recommended, and raised throughout the country. Even those who were most likely to derive the greatest advantages from the Port bill, with a generosity unequalled, refused to enrich themselves at the expense of their suffering neighbours. "The inhabitants of Marblehead who were among the number, though situated in the neighbourhood of Boston, and most likely to receive bene'fit from the stoppage of their trade, did not attempt to avail themselves of it; but so far from it, that they generously offered the use of their harbour, w harves, and stores, rent free.

In the mean time the British forces at Boston were continually augmenting in number, which greatly increased the general jealousy and disaffection ; the country people were ready to rise at a moment's warning; and the experiment was tried, by giving a false alarm, that the communication was to be cut off between the town and country ; in order to reduce the former by famine to a compliance with the acts of parliament. On this intelligence, the country people assembled in great numbers, and could not be satisfied, till they had sent messengers into the city, to inquire into the truth of the report. These messengers were, enjoined to inform the people in Boston, that if they should be so pusillanimous as to make a surrender of their liberties, the province would not think it self bound by such examples; and that Britain, by break, ing their original charter, had annulled the contract subsist,

[ocr errors]

(ing between them, and left them to act as they thought proper.'

The people in every other respect manifested their inAexible determination to adhere to the plan they had so long followed. The new counsellors and judges were

obliged to resign their offices, in order to preserve their lives and properties from the fury of the multitude. In some places they shut up the avenues to the court houses; and when required to make way for the judges, replied, that they knew of none but such as were appointed by the ancient usage and custom of the province.

They'manifested in 'every place the most ardent desire of learning the art of war; and every one who could bear arms, was inost assiduous in procuring them, and learning the military exercise. Matters at last proceeded to such an height, that general Gage thought proper to fortify the neck of land which joins the town of Boston to the continent. This, though undoubtedly a prudent measure' in his situation, was exclaimed against by the Americans, in the most vehement manner ; but the general, instead of giving ear to their remonstrances, deprived them of all power of acting against himself, by seizing the provincial powder, ammunition, and other military stores, at Cambridge and Charlestown. This excited such indignation, that it was with the utmost difficulty the people could be restrained from marching to Boston, and attacking the troops. Even in the town itself, the company of cadets, that used to attend the governor, disbanded themselves, and returned the standard he had presented them with, on his accession to the government. This was occasioned by his having deprived the celebrated John Hancock (afterwards President of Congress) of his commission of colonel of the cadets, A similar instance happened of a provincial colonel having accepted a seat in the new council, upon which twenty four officers resigned their commissions in one day.

In the mean time a meeting was held of the principal inhabitants of the towns adjacent to Boston; the purport of which was, publicly to renounce all obedience to the late acts of parliament, and to enter into an engagement to indemnify such as should be prosecuted on that account; the members of the 'new council were declared violaters of the rights of their country; all ranks and degrees were ex

horted to learn the use of arms; and the receivers of the public revenue were ordered not to deliver it into the treas. ury, but to retain it in their own handz until the constitution should be restored, or a provincial congress dispose of it otherwise.

A remonstrance against the fortifications of Boston Neck was next prepared, in which, however, they still declared their unwillingness to proceed to hostilities; asserting as usual their determination not to submit to the acts of Parliament they had already so much complained of. The governor to restore tranquillity if possible, called a general assembly; but so many of the council had resigned their places, that he was induced to countermand its sitting by proclamation.

This measure, however, was deemed illegal ; the as. sembly met at Salem; and after waiting a day for the governor, voted themselves into a provincial congress, of which John Hancock was chosen president. A committee was instantly appointed, who waited on the governor concerning the fortifications on Boston Neck; but nothing of consequence took place, both parties mutually criminating each other.

The winter was now coming on, and the governor, to avoid quartering the soldiers on the inhabitants, proposed to erect barracks for them ; but the select men of Boston compelled them to desist, Carpenters were sent for to New York, but t they were refused, and it was with great difficulty that he could procure winter lodgings for his troops. Nor was it with less difficulty that he procured clothes ; as the merchants of New York told him “ that they would never supply any article for the benefit of, men sent as enemies to their country.” This disposition prevailing universally throughout ihe continent, was' highly gratifying to congress.

It was now generally expected that the ensuing spring would be the season of commencing hostilities, and the most indefatigable diligence was used by the colonies to be fully prepared against such a formidable enemy, Lists of all the fencible men were inade out in each colony, and especially of those who had served in the former, war; of whom they had the satisfaction to find two thirds were still alive, and able to bear arms. Magazines of arms

« PreviousContinue »