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1774. Samuel Adams and John Adams were there from Massachusetts; John Jay from New York; John Dickinson from Pennsylvania; George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee, from Virginia; Christopher Gadsden and John Rutledge from South Carolina. "If you speak of eloquence," said Patrick Henry, on being asked about the greatest man in Congress, "Mr. Rutledge is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor." It needed all that the leaders, all that the members as a body, could command, to meet the exigencies of the time. The Congress that met to reject the stamp act, nine years before, had but child's play to go through, compared with the work of the present Congress - the Continental Congress, as it was called.
Taxation had been the substance of three acts of There were Parliament, or, at the most, of four.* twice or thrice that number † upon other points to be opposed. Against all these provocations the Continental Congress put forth their declaration of colonial rights. In this, much the same ground as to the allegiance and the general rights of the colonies was taken as had been held by the earlier Congress. It is therefore a document of secondary importance in the progress of our history.
Not so the American Association. This was a Associa- body of articles, by which a stop was to be put, after certain dates, to all importation from or exportation
*The sugar, the stamp, and the tea acts, with the act creating revenue commissioners.
The quartering acts, the act suspending the New York assembly, the acts concerning trials for treason and incendiarism, the three acts against Massachusetts, the Quebec act, besides those portions of the stamp and tea acts relating to Admiralty Courts and royal salaries.
to Great Britain and its dependencies, so long as the oppressive acts of Parliament were not repealed. "We will neither import nor purchase any slaves imported after the first day of December next," was one of the articles; "after which time we will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures, to those who are concerned in it." Thus humane as well as bold, considerate for their inferiors as well as resolute towards their superiors, or those claiming to be such, the members of the Continental Congress signed the American Association. The date was October 20, 1774. It was the birthday of the nation.
Together with the Association and the declaraand ad- tion, there came from Congress a petition to the king and addresses to the people of Great Britain, British America, and Canada, besides letters to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the two Floridas. These various documents being adopted, and the debates on all the stirring questions of the time being concluded, not altogether with unanimity, Congress separated, (October 26,) having provided that another Congress should be convened, if necessary, in the ensuing spring.
"More blood,” wrote Washington, during the session of Congress, "will be spilled on this occasion, if the ministry are determined to push matters to extremity, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America." "After all," wrote Joseph Hawley from Massachusetts to John Adams in Congress,—" after all, we must fight." Adams read the letter to his colleague from Virginia, the fervid Patrick Henry, who burst out with the exclamation, "I am of that man's mind!" It was not the opinion of every one. Richard Henry Lee parted from Adams with the assurance that "all the offensive acts will be repealed. .. Britain will give up her foolish project.”
Come peace or come war, the Americans, as they tion. are hereafter to be called, were prepared. Not, it is true, with armies or fortresses, not with the material resources which they seemed to require, but with the spirit that was of far greater importance, the source of all outward strength and success. This spirit was not without its supports, intellectual or physical. The struggles with the mother country had called out orators and statesmen, whose minds were daily making some fresh contribution to the thought and the power of humanity. Physically, the Americans were increasing their stores and extending their domains. The road to the great west was opened with the first settlement made in the present Tennessee, (1768.) If old weaknesses lingered, if the disputes between colony and colony continued, now on a question of boundary, now on one of doctrine, they were lost in the union that had been achieved, in the nation that had been born.
THE very day that the Continental Congress of Massa- separated, October 26, 1774, — the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts took a step decisive of war. This was the organization of the militia, consisting of all the able-bodied men of the colony, one fourth of them being constituted minute men, bound to take up arms at a minute's warning. Soon afterwards, provision was made for supplying the equipments and munitions of an army. The whole was placed under the direction of a committee of safety, with John Hancock for a chairman.
The arming of the colony had not been unproNot un- voked. Two months before, General Gage, the or unan- commander-in-chief and the governor, had begun to fortify the land approach to Boston. He had also seized upon some stores of powder belonging to the province at Charlestown. Such was the temper excited against him, that Christopher Gadsden, the representative of South Carolina in the Continental Congress, proposed an immediate attack upon the British head quarters in Boston. Neither was the arming of Massachusetts altogether unanticipated. No colony, indeed, had gone so far; but many a town, many a band of individuals, was prepared for conflict. A rumor that Boston was bombarded by the British brought out numbers of the Connecticut militia to the rescue of their countrymen. Years before, when the stamp