Imágenes de páginas

that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations, and popular vapour, will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider, before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrible struggle this country ever saw.

Their actions answered promptly this spirit-stirring appeal. When it was announced that the governor had refused the pass, they dissolved the meeting, and shortly afterwards, several parties of men, some of them disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded the ships, in the presence of thousands of spectators who lined the wharves, broke open the chests of tea, and emptied their contents into the bay. They then dispersed, peaceably, to their homes.

The destruction of the tea, formed a new and momentous crisis in the relations between America and Great Britain. It was the first open exercise of popular force against the authority of acts of parliament; a bold step towards resistance by force of arms to the British claims of supremacy. The timid were struck with dismay at the effects they anticipated, and few knew how to look steadily upon the future. Independence did not, as yet, form any consistent part of the designs, even of the leading patriots, and with the vast majority the return to a peaceful enjoyment of their rights under the British constitution, as they construed it to apply to America, was the most of their hopes. Not to submit to anything less, was the general determination ; and the ardor of the mass, and the confident zeal of heroic leaders, hurried the whole people onward to joint resolution, common objects, and finally to one single aim-that of complete emancipation from unrelenting tyranny. The events which followed in rapid succession, soon left no alternative, but unyielding resistance or unlimited submission.


[merged small][ocr errors]


PARLIAMENT met in January, but American affairs were not mentioned in the King's speech at the opening of the session.

A special message was laid before both Houses in March 7,1774. practices carried on in North America, and particularly of the violent and outrageous proceedings at Boston, with a view of obstructing the commerce of the kingdom, and upon grounds and pretences, immediately subversive of its constitution." In presenting these papers, the minister spoke vehemently of inflicting punishment” on this “ daring and criminal conduct," and vindicating the "dignity of the crown;" threats which were re-echoed by the addresses of both Houses. The measures which followed, showed the vindictive temper of parliament, and their determination to remove every obstruction of law, constitutions, charters, natural and vested rights, and common equity, in order to punish the audacity of the Bostonians, and the offending colony.

Three bills were introduced, and carried with little show of opposition-almost by acclamation.

The First-known in history as the Boston Port Bill, provided for the immediate removal of the officers concerned in the collection of customs from Boston, and discontinue the landing and discharging, lading and shipping of goods, wares, and merchandize, at Boston, or within the harbour thereof,” after the ensuing first June 3-to continue during his Majesty's pleasure. It also levied a fine, for the indemnification of the East India Company, and all others who had been injured in the "late riots.” The board of customs was removed to the town of Salem.

The Second-subverted the whole constitution and charter of the province, that all power out of the hands of the people, to vest it absolutely in the crown-deprived the lower house of their agency in the selection of counsellors, and of the privilege of appointing sheriffs, judges, and magistrates, both which it gave to the governor; and further suppressed all town-meetings, not sanctioned by his permission.

The Third Bill" for the impartial administration of jus

tice, in. Massachusetts Bay ;' authorized the removal to Eng. land, for trial, of any person indicted for murder, in the colonies, on the allegation that the act was committed in aid. ing the civil authorities in the execution of the laws; a provision designed for the protection of soldiers, whom it might be found necessary to employ in shooting the Americans.

Protests against these acts were entered on the journals of the House of Lords by eleven peers, as dangerous, unjust, and unconstitutional. The Earl of Chatham was unable to attend the House until they had been passed, but took occasion to raise a warning voice against them, on a subsequent agitation of the matter.

"I condemn,” said he, “ in the severest manner, the turbulent and unwarrantable conduct of the Americans, in some instances, particularly in the late riots at Boston; but, my lords, the mode which has been pursued to bring them back to a sense of their duty, is so diametrically opposite to every principle of sound policy, as to excite my utmost astonishment. You have involved the guilty and the innocent in one common punishment, and avenge the crime of a few lawless depredators upon the whole body of the inhabitants.”

My lords, it has always been my fixed and unalterable opinion, and I will carry it with me to the grave, that this country had no right under heaven, to tax America. It is contrary to all the principles of justice and civil policy: it is contrary to that essential, unalterable right in nature, ingrafted into the British Constitution as a fundamental law, that what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but which cannot be taken away from him, without his consent. Pass, then, my lords, instead of these harsh and severe edicts, an amnesty over their errors : by measures of lenity and affection allure them to their duty; act the part of a generous and forgiving parent. A period may arrive, when this parent may stand in need of every assistance she can receive from a grateful and affectionate offspring."

Colonel Barrè failed not to enforce the same views, but in vain. The ministry were doomed to slight every counsel in which safety for British interests could have been found.

The Port Bill passed in March, the other bills in May;l. and in the latter month, General Gage, the commander-inchief of the royal forces in North America, arrived in Bosiot

5 60 127

ton, with a commission to supersede Mr. Hutchinson as governor of the province. He was received personally with courtesy, by the people; but the measures he was appointed to enforce, were met by unflinching opposition. A meeting was instantly held, to consider the Port Bill, then the only one received, at which it was

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this town, that if the other colonies come into a joint resolution to stop all importation from and exportation to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the act be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties; and that the impolicy, injustice, inhumanity, and cruelty of the act, exceed all our powers of expression. We therefore leave it to the just censure of others, and appeal to God and the world,"

Virginia again nobly came to the succor of Massachusetts in her adversity. The house of burgesses appointed the 1st of June, the day on which the Port Bill was to go into effect, as á day of “ fasting, humiliation, and prayer,” in consideration of the" hostile invasion of the city of Boston, in our sister colony of Massachusetts"-"devoutly to implore the divine interposition for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruc

tion to our civil rights, and the evils of civil war; May 27.

to give us one heart and one mind, firmly to oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American

Governor Dunmore resenting this proceeding, dissolved the assembly, who instantly reassembled to the number of eighty-nine, and formed themselves into a non-importing association, including in their agreements, one not to use any East India productions whatever except spices and salt-petre, until the wrongs of America were redressed. The Port Bill they pronounced a "most dangerous attempt to destroy the liberty and rights of all North America." They concluded with proposing a "general Congress" of the colonies, “to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America may, from time to time, require."

The Massachusetts assembly, which met by aajournment at Salem, on the 7th of June, voted to send deputies to a general Congress, at Philadelphia, on the first Monday of September; and by degrees, the same measure was adopted in every colony except Georgia. When Governor Gage learned what the House of Representatives were doing on this occasion,


he sent to dissolve them; but they, with equal alertness, being informed of his design, closed their doors. Samuel Adams secured the key; and they finished their proceedings, while the proclamation of dissolution was read upon the stairs. Every where in assenting to these movements, the liveliest sympathy was expressed for the dangers and distresses of the devoted people of Boston, and the suffering colony of Massachusetts. Pennsylvania, in addition, resolved to break off all commercial intercourse whatever with every town, city, colony, or individual,' which should fail to go thoroughly with the cause of liberty. The several assemblies and conventions of the colonies were instructed by popular meetings, and in every form by which the public will could be expressed, to go to the last extremity in support of Massachusetts.

The day on which the Port Bill was appointed to go into operation was observed, generally, according to the recommendation of Virginia, as a day of fasting and prayer. Business was arrested, houses were closed, and a deep sorrow manifested everywhere, for the sufferings of the patriotic Bostonians, and the threatened subversion of colonial liberties. The character of that atrocious bill cannot be more briefly described than it was by Josiah Quincy, in his celebrated essay. We copy the passage as one illustrating the common estimation of the act which pervaded the resolutions and addresses with which the whole continent abounded.

“The Boston Port Bill, condemns a whole town unheard, nay, uncited to answer; involves thousands in ruin and misery, without the suggestion of any crime by them committed ; and it is so constituted, that enormous pains and penalties must ensue, notwithstanding the most perfect obedience to its injunction. The destruction of the tea, which took place without any illegal procedure of the town, is the only alleged ground, consigning thousands of its inhabitants to ruin, misery, and despair. Those charged with the most aggravated crimes, are not punishable till arraigned before disinterested judges; heard in their own defence, and found guilty of the charge. But here a whole people are accused, prosecuted by, they know not whom; tried, they know not where; proved guilty, they know not how; and sentenced to suffer inevitable ruin. Their hard fate cannot be avoided by the most servile submission, the most implicit obedience to the statute. The first intimation of it was on

I 2

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »