Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

II.]

Destruction of the Gaspee.

65

The Tea

develop into a complete organization, for, by combining the Virginia colonial committees with committees of local divisions as in Samuel Adams's plan, an extra-legal, yet not illegal, organization might be formed capable of exercising all the functions of the State. The attempt to compel the colonists to purchase tea on which the Parliamentary tax had been paid brought all the colonies into this revolutionary union.

The English East India Company had never controlled the colonial tea market. The reason was, that in addition to the original cost and freight charges, to which all tea was liable, English tea was further liable to an inland duty of twelve-pence per pound to be paid on with

Duty. drawal from the warehouses for consumption in England, or for export to the colonies. Under the Townshend Acts it was still further burdened with a customs duty of threepence per pound when landed in the colonies. In these circumstances, the Dutch East India Company provided nearly all the tea consumed in America, which was smuggled in free of duty.

The English company was now in severe financial straits. To help it out of its difficulties, the government proposed to permit it to send tea to the colonies without payment of the twelve-penny inland duty, but still liable to the threepenny Townshend tax.

Friends of the government, and, it is stated, the company also, suggested that the latter tax should be paid by the company in England and added to the price of the tea without anything being said about it. But the government was immovable on that point. They were anxious to establish a precedent, and to accomplish that the tax must be paid in America. The colonists, regarding the whole business as an attempt to bribe them into surrender, by giving them tea cheaper than the people of England could buy it, refused from North to South, apparently without any urging from the Committees of Correspondence, to have anything whatever to do with it. Large quantities were at once despatched to C. A.

5

"The Boston

Dec. 1773

Philadelphia, Charleston (South Carolina), New York, and Boston. The consignees at the two first-named ports resigned when requested by the people. No tea was landed at Philadelphia and New York, the collectors of those ports allowing the vessels to clear without breaking bulk. At Charleston the collector insisted upon the tea being landed. It was stored in a damp cellar and soon spoiled. At Boston, however, a combination of circumstances brought on an explosion. Among the consignees were the sons of Governor Hutchin

son. They refused to resign. The collector of Tea Party," the port refused to allow the vessels to clear out

ward until the tea had been landed in conformity to law. The governor declined to grant a permit to the vessels to pass the fort until they were properly cleared. The only way to cut the knot was to destroy the tea, and it was thrown into the harbour by a mob. These occurrences at once aroused great excitement on

both sides of the Atlantic. Six more colonies The Repres

chose Committees of Correspondence, Pennsyl

vania alone refusing. Unmindful of these things and of the action of Virginia on the occasions of the Stamp Act and the Gaspee Commission, the English government determined to isolate Massachusetts, and to crush out the spirit of resistance in that Province. Parliament speedily suspended, by statute, the operation of the Charter of Massachusetts, closed the port of Boston to commerce, and provided that persons accused of crimes, alleged to have been committed while putting down riots, should be transported for trial with the necessary witnesses to some place outside the colony. General Gage, the commander-in-chief of the British army in America, was commissioned governor with very extensive powers. At nearly the same time, the Quebec Act extended the limits of the Province of Quebec to include the country west of the Alleghanies, as far south as the Ohio River.

sive Acts of 1774.

11.]

The Acts of 1774.

67

The colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia all claimed rights in

The Quebec this territory. The third and fourth clauses of

Act, 1774. the act reserved the rights of holders of grants from the Crown. It is impossible to say precisely what this reservation meant, as no case involving these points has ever been decided by the courts. It is probable that the titles of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania would have been recognized. These “ saving clauses” do not seem to have been widely known in America. Quebec was largely inhabited by Roman Catholics, and was governed as a conquered province. This act was understood by the colonists to evince a disposition on the part of the English government to limit the selfgoverning colonies to the seaboard, to establish the Roman Catholic Church in a large portion of British America, and to extend the use of the civilas distinguished from the common law. For these reasons its passage aroused feelings of bitter resentment among the colonists, whose passions were already excited by the harsh treatment measured out to the town of Boston.

The people of the other colonies made the cause of Massachusetts their own. Washington offered to raise,

Jefferson's arm, and equip a thousand men at his own ex Summary

View, 1774. pense, and to march at their head to the defence of the people of Boston. From all parts of the continent came supplies of food, clothing, and other necessaries for the poor of the closed seaport. Jefferson, in his Summary View, boldly set forth the theory that Parliament had no authority whatever over the colonies, not even as to the regulation of the external trade of the colonies. This theory speedily found favour among a people who until 1774 had expressly admitted the legislative supremacy of the British Parliament in all cases whatsoever, excepting that of taxation. Everywhere the opposition party became bolder; everywhere it acquired increased strength. On the 17th of June, 1774, the Massachusetts legislature

A Continen.

summoned.

First Conti. nental Con. gress, 1774.

was in session at Salem, the new capital of the province. The

doors of the room, in which the Representatives tal Congress were in session, were locked. Samuel Adams

moved a resolution providing for a Continental Congress to be held at Philadelphia on September ist next ensuing. The two Adamses and two other persons were then chosen to represent Massachusetts in the Congress. While this debate was in progress, the Secretary of the Province, standing on the staircase, just without the Representatives' door, read a proclamation from the governor, dissolving the assembly. This time the call for a congress was responded to most

heartily. The First Continental Congress assembled at the appointed day, all the colonies

except Georgia being represented. It was distinctly in the control of those who advocated moderation, and were not prepared to go to the lengths advocated by Jefferson in the Summary View. This was recognized by the New Englanders, who kept as much as possible in the background. The Declaration of Rights, voted by this Congress, was mild in tone, and the same criticism applies to the memorials, petitions, etc. published by it. The one important measure initiated by this body was the “Association " to secure the carrying out of a new non-importation and non-consumption agreement. The Congress recommended that committees should be elected by each town, county, or other administrative unit, by whatever name it was called, to oversee the execution of the non-intercourse policy. These committees were supervised by the legislative Committees of Correspondence. The names of offenders against the Association were to be published, and any colony refusing to enter the Association should be regarded as inimical to “the liberties of this country,” and denied all intercourse with the members of the Association. Thus the colonies were for the first time united into one political organization, apart from the British Empire. Moreover, the organi

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Gage, Governor of Massa

zation was so perfect that it controlled the movements of the humblest individual. Having set this machinery in motion, the Congress adjourned, not without providing, however, for the assembling of a new Congress in the following May (1775), in case the grievances of the colonists should not be redressed before that time. There probably were not a dozen men in all the colonies at that time (October, 1774) who wished for independence. Furthermore, probably not a dozen men in all the colonies supposed that the breaking out of civil war was only a matter of a few months. Had there been a strong, wise, and prudent man at the head of affairs at Boston the rupture might have been postponed for many years.

General Gage, now civil and military governor of Massachusetts, was neither wise, nor prudent, nor strong. He had at his disposal a small veteran

chusetts, 1774. army, supposed to be adequate to cope with any force likely to be brought against it. As the result proved, this army was powerless in his hands to do more than maintain itself in Boston. Moreover, Gage annoyed the colonists by petty reprisals whose complete success could have had slight influence on the impending crisis, but whose failure meant certain disaster and rebellion.

In September, he issued precepts for the election of Representatives to a General Court to be held at Salem in October, 1774. The situation of affairs became so threatening before that time that he Congress, prorogued the assembly before it met. The Representatives assembled at the appointed time, however, formed themselves into a Provincial Congress, and adjourned to Cambridge. The theory which they advanced was that Gage, refusing to govern in accordance with the Charter of Massachusetts, had abdicated his authority: there was therefore no longer any properly constituted authority in the province, and the people must look to their own safety. This theory

The Massachusetts Provincial

Oct. 1774

« AnteriorContinuar »