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in most of the towns of the colony—which plan formed the germ of that continental union of counsels, which carried the colonies forward together to the declaration of Independence.
The appointment of these committees, created a long ang able controversy between the Governor and the House of Representatives; in which it was plainly to be seen, that the coercive measures of the British government, so far from breaking the spirit, or lessening the demands of the Americans, had only served to elevate both. The House of Representatives unhesitatingly concluded, that parliament had no claim to bind the colonies in any case whatsoever. “If," said they, “there have been any late instances of submission to acts of parliament, it has been, in our opinion, rather from inconsideration, or reluctance at the idea of contending with the parent state, than from a conviction or acknowledgmenty of the supreme legislative authority of parliament.”
In June of that same year, the opposition of Rhode Island to the revenue acts was manifested in a daring manner.
The British armed schooner Gaspee in pursuing a packet sloop that had refused to lower her colors as a salute, run aground. A party of the citizens of Providence, headed by John Brown, a wealthy merchant, boarded the schooner at night, and burnt her, with all her stores. The British government offered a reward of five hundred pounds sterling for the perpetrators, and appointed a commissioner to try them, but no evidence could be obtained. Another tyrannical act was the consequence. Burning the royal stores was made felony, for which the culprit could be tried in any county in Great Britain.
Active resistance and remonstrance for the years 1771 and 1772 were confined to New England, and chiefly to Massachusetts. The ill-omened presence of the troops quartered there, and the particular sufferings of a commercial people under the restrictions upon trade, threw them in advance of the other colonies during that time, in the great struggle of rights. The spring of 1773 was signalized by a union of interests and action in all the colonies by the establishment of standing committees of correspondence. The plan was formed, and proposed, nearly at the same time in Virginia and Massachusetts, by Richard Henry Lee and Samuel Adams. The resolutions of Virginia were introduced March, 1773.
on the 12th of March, 1773, by Dabney Carr, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.: ir
After reciting the prevalence of rumors of proceedings tending to deprive them of their "ancient, legal and constitutional rights ;"—and reciting further, that the affairs of Virginia, were very frequently connected with those of Great Britain and the other colonies, rendering a "communication of sentiment” necessary to "remove the uneasiness and quiet the minds of the people,” they appointed a committee of eleven to obtain intelligence of all proceedings in England relative to America, and maintain a communication with the other provinces concerning them: and particularly to inquire into the recent act constituting the court of inquiry in Rhode Island, with power to transport Americans to Great Britain for trial. These were accompanied by a proposition to the other colonies, to join in the same measure.
So nearly contemporaneous were the resolutions of Massachusetts that, in the opinion of Mr. Jefferson, the messengers who carried the intelligence crossed each other on the road. Thence forward the proceedings of the colonists assumed a consistency and uniformity of activity eminently favourable to success, and highly instrumental in producing the revolution. Occasions were not wanting for calling these committees into immediate duty. The first subject after the organization was a contested question between the assembly of Massachusetts and the governor, concerning the salaries of the judges—he refusing to approve a grant they had made for that purpose, on the allegation that the king had taken the support of the colonial judiciary into his own hands. “The assembly remonstrated, and four of the judges disclaimed the governor's views; the fifth, however, adhered, and they voted to impeach him, which the governor refused to sanction, and the impeachment accordingly failed—but the controversy formed an agitating subject of discussion throughout the country. The attempt to make the judges dependent upon the ministry was considered a violent assault upon the liber ties of the colony.
But another circumstance occurred shortly after, which carried the hostility of the people of Massachusetts against the governor, to a height of greater exasperation. This was the publication of certain private letters, written by him and lieutenant-governor Oliver, to England, during the years 1768 and 1769, on the subject of American affairs. They recommended violent measures to reduce the colonies, especially Massachusetts, to subjection, and represented the
June 2d, 1773.
views and characters of the patriots in the blackest colors Their advice seems to have been powerful in England; and many of the measures adopted there, hostile to the colonies, were in accordance with their suggestions. They went even farther than the ministry had yet gone, in urging alterations or suspensions of the charters—the institution of a privileged order of nobility—the enactment of severe penal laws, and the execution of some of the “principal incendiaries.” These letters were obtained in England by Dr. Franklin, and confidentially transmitted to some of his friends at Boston for their information. They were of so alarming a tenor that
they were brought before the House of Repre
sentatives, sitting with closed doors, by Samuel Adams, and afterwards ordered, by them, to be published in self-defence. When they were read in secret session, the House unanimously voted that their tendency was to overthrow the constitution of this government, and to introduce arbitrary power into the province.” They next adopted a petition to the king, “to remove the governor Hutchinson, and the lieutenant-governor Oliver for ever from the government of the province." In favor of this petition, there were eighty-two out of ninety-four voices.
Dr. Franklin was instructed to present this petition to Lord Dartmouth, who had succeeded Lord Hillsborough as secretary to the colonies, in the autumn of the preceding year. By him it was laid before the king in council, where Dr. Franklin was summoned to support it. It was on that occasion that Mr. Wedderburn-afterwards Lord Loughborough, as counsel in opposition to the petition, poured out that memorable volley of insult and vituperation, upon Dr. Franklin, as the alledged author of the disturbances in America. The philosophic patience with which this was borne by the venerable Franklin, is reported to have given way in but one significant whisper to the attorney general, "I will make
your master a little king for this.” The petition was dismissed, and the odious officers left in command of the discontented province.
At this critical juncture, the British ministry, with the aid of the East India Company, undertook to effect, by policy, what had in the stamp act, and other acts of that nature, heen previously attempted by open measures, accompanied by coercion. The tea duty had been reserved as a mere assertion of supremacy-being too trifling in amount to be
t ce regarded for the sake of revenue. The Americans had, na nowever, by their non-importation agreements, effectually
resisted its collection for several years. It was now conDe trived, by concert between the British government and
the Directory of the East India Company, that tea should be introduced into America, at very low prices, by a relaxation
of the duties in England, still retaining the duty on importa
tion into America. A naked question of principle, on taxEation, was thus presented—and it remained to be seen,
whether the colonies would, without the allegation of oppresi sive taxation, encounter the whole force of the mother country. It was an insidious plan; but the virtue and energy of the Americans foiled it most signally. Three pence a pound upon tea, accompanied with drawbacks of duty at the place of exportation more than compensating for the tax, was in itself insignificant as a burden; but the principle of tyranny was strong in it, and resistance was as instantaneous and unyielding, as though it had been an act of confiscation.
The non-importation agreements, so faithfully observed,
had deprived the East India Company of an extensive market == for their tea. The exports from Great-Britain had diminished,
until it was computed that at least seventeen millions of pounds of tea had accumulated in the company's warehouses. Anxious to reduce this quantity, and secure some portion of their commercial profits, the company at first urged the repeal of the tea duty, levied in America.
This being refused, a compromise was agreed upon, by which they were authorized to export their tea from England duty free, paying the tax in the colonies; by which means the price would have been lower in America than on the repeal of the American duty, without the drawback at home. Vast quantities were accordingly freighted to America, and agents appointed to dispose of it, on the faith that no obstruction would be offered. The shipments were principally to New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Boston.
There was not, however, a moment's hesitation in America, on the question. The first tidings of the scheme produced a universal determination to defeat it. · The committees of correspondence became active, and mutual pledges were soon obtained from every port, that the tea should not be landed. These were easily redeemed in Philadelphia and New York, at which places the consignees were intimidated, and the sale of the tea prevented, or the ships com:
pelled to return without breaking bulk-"and they sailed up the Thames,” in the language of John Adams, “to proclaim to all the nation that New York and Pennsylvania would not be enslaved.” In Charleston it was landed, indeed, but the agents were not permitted to offer it for sale, and it was in consequence stored in cellars, where it finally perished. In Boston, however, the inveterate obstinacy of Governor Hutchinson, and of the board of customs under his direction, prevented so peaceable a termination of the affair. The courage of the town-people was more than equal to his obstinacy; and town-meeting after town meeting was held to reiterate their firm resolution that the tea should not be landed, nor duty paid, and that they would maintain this position at the "risk of life and property." Still the authorities refused to give clearances, and Admiral Montague, who commanded on the station, was directed to prevent all vessels, except coasters, from passing out, without a written permit from the governor. Night after night the Bostonians kept guard upon the wharves, to obstruct any attempt to land privately; and in this state of excitement the controversy continued till the middle of December. The
patriot leaders, the Adamses, Otis and Quincy,
and the rest, were indefatigable in stimulating the people to perseverance, and finally urged the daring feat of destroying the tea. On the 19th of that month, all things were prepared, and a messenger was despatched to the governor for his final reply. During his absence, Josiah Quincy warned them of the consequences of the contemplated act, while he roused their courage in the following nervous style :
“ It is not,” said he, “Mr. Moderator, the spirit that vapours within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth events, which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Whoever supposes, that shouts and hosannas will terminate the trials of the day, entertains a childish fancy. We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend; we must be equally ignorant of the power of those who have combined agair st us; we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy, and insatiable revenge, which actuate our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, to hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest--the sharpest: conflicts to flatter ourselves