Virginia Consolidates Union.
on the sixth of January, the day on which the
Legislature of Massachusetts assembled at Boston
, the affairs of America
were under consideration in England
, who read even the semi-official letters in which Hutchinson
described the Boston
Committee of Correspondence as in part composed of ‘deacons’ and ‘atheists,’ and ‘blackhearted fellows whom one would not choose to meet in the dark,’1
‘very much approved the temper and firmness’ of his Governor, and was concerned lest ‘the inhabitants of Boston
should be deluded into acts of disobedience, and the most atrocious criminality towards individuals;’ he found ‘consolation’ in the assurance, that ‘the influence of the malignant spirits was daily decreasing,’ and ‘that their mischievous
tenets were held in abhorrence by the generality of
But already eighty towns or more,3
including almost every one of the larger towns, had chosen their Committees; and Samuel Adams
was planning how to effect a union of all the Colonies in Congress.4
When the Assembly met,5
transmitted the proceedings of the Town of Boston
for organizing the provincial Committees of Correspondence to Richard Henry Lee
The Governor, in his Speech to the two Houses, with calculating malice summoned them to admit or disprove the supremacy of Parliament.
The disorder in the Government
he attributed to the denial of that supremacy, which he undertook to establish by arguments derived from the history of the Colony, its Charter, and English law. ‘I know of no line,’ he said, ‘that can be drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total Independence of the Colonies.
It is impossible there should be two independent Legislatures in one and the same State.’
And ‘is there,’ he asked, ‘any thing which we have more reason to dread than Independence?’
He therefore invited the Legislature to adhere to his principles or convince him of his error.
Elated with vanity,
he was sure in any event of a victory; for if they
should disown the opinions of the several towns, he would gain glory in England
; if they should avow them, then, said he in a letter which was to go straight to the King
, ‘I shall be enabled to make apparent the reasonableness and necessity of coercion, and justify it to all the world.’7
The speech was printed and industriously circulated in England
; and for a short time made an impression on the minds of many not well acquainted with the dispute.
His hearers in Boston
saw his indiscretion, and Samuel Adams
prepared to ‘take the fowler in his own snare.’
No man in the Province had reflected so much as he on the question of the legislative power of Parliament; no man had so early ar ived at the total denial of that power.
For nine years he had been seeking an opportunity of promulgating that denial as the opinion of the Assembly; and caution had always stood in his way. At last the opportunity had come, and the Assembly with one consent, placed the pen in his hand.
Meantime, the towns of Massachusetts
were still vibrating from the impulse given by Boston
‘The swords which we whet and brightened for our enemies are not yet grown rusty,’ wrote the town of Gorham
‘We offer our lives as a sacrifice in the glorious cause of Liberty;’ was the response of Kittery
‘We will not sit down easy,’ voted Shirley
, ‘until 9
our rights and liberties are restored.’10
The people of Medfield
would also ‘have a final period put to that most cruel, inhuman and unchristian practice, the Jan. Slave-trade.’11 Acton
spoke out concisely and firmly.
‘Prohibiting slitting-mills,’ said South Hadley
, ‘is similar to the Philistines prohibiting smiths in Israel
, and shews we are esteemed by our brethren as vassals.’
‘We think ourselves obliged to emerge from our former obscurity, and speak our minds with freedom,’ declared Lunenburg
, ‘or our posterity may otherwise rise up and curse us.’
‘We of this place are unanimous,’ was the message from Pepperell
; ‘our resentment riseth against those who dare invade our natural and constitutional rights.’
With one voice they named Captain William Prescott
, to be the chief of their Committee of Correspondence; and no braver heart beat in Middlesex
than his. Lynn
called for a Provincial Convention; Stoneham
invited the sister Colonies to harmony; Danvers
would have ‘strict union of all the Provinces on the Continent.’
‘Digressions from compacts,’ said the men of Princetown
, ‘lessen the connection between the Mother Country
and the Colonies.’
, too remote for immediate concert, was engaged in the same cause.
They marked their affection for Rawlins Lowndes
, one of their discarded Judges, and ‘in great esteem throughout the Province,’ by electing him the Speaker
of their Assembly.
The Governor ‘directed the Assembly to return to their House
and choose another;’ but they
persisted in their first choice.
In consequence Mon-
tagu prorogued them, and did it in so illegal a manner, that as a remedy, he dissolved them by a proclamation, and immediately issued writs for choosing a new House
thus carrying the subject home to the thoughts of every voter in the Province.
This controversy was local; the answers of the Legislature of Massachusetts to its Governor
's challenge would be of general importance.
That of the Council, drafted by Bowdoin
, clearly traced the existing discontents to the Acts of Parliament, subjecting the Colonies to taxes without their consent.
The removal of this original cause, would remove its effects.
Supreme or unlimited authority can with fitness belong only to the Sovereign
of the universe; from the nature and end of government, the supreme authority of every government is limited; and from the laws of England
, its Constitution and the Provincial Charter
, it was shown that the limits of that authority did not include the levying of taxes within the Province.
Thus the Council conceded nothing, and at the same time avoided a conflict with the opinions of Chatham
, Camden and Shelburne.
, in their reply, which Samuel Adams
, familiar with the opinions of lawyers, and specially aided by the sound legal knowledge of Hawley
, had constructed with his utmost skill at sarcasm, and which, after two days debate,13
was unanimously adopted and carried up by its author, chose a different
mode of dealing with the Governor
Like the Council, they traced the disturbed state of Government to taxation of the colonists by Parliament; but as to the supremacy of that body, they took the Governor
at his word.
‘It is difficult, perhaps impossible,’ they agreed, ‘to draw a line of distinction between the universal authority of Parliament over the Colonies, and no authority at all;’ and laying out all their strength to prove the only point that Hutchinson
's statement required to be proved, that that authority was not universal, they opened the door to his own inference.
‘If there be no such line,’ said they, ‘between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the Colonies, then, either the Colonies are vassals of the Parliament, or they are totally independent.
As it cannot be supposed to have been the intention of the parties in the compact, that one of them should be reduced to a state of vassalage, the conclusion is, that it was their sense, that we were thus independent.’
‘But it is impossible,’ the Governor
had insisted, ‘that there should be two independent Legislatures in one and the same State.’
‘Then,’ replied the House
, ‘the Colonies were by their Charters, made distinct States from the Mother Country
‘Although there may be but one head, the King
had said, ‘yet the two legislative bodies will make two governments as distinct as the kingdoms of England
before the union.’
‘Very true, may it please your Excellency
,’ replied the House
; ‘and if they interfere not with each
other, what hinders but that, being united in one
head and Sovereign, they may live happily in that connection, and mutually support and protect each other?’
‘But is there any thing,’ the Governor
had asked, ‘which we have more reason to dread than Independence?’
And the House
answered, ‘There is more reason to dread the consequences of absolute uncontrolled power, whether of a nation or of a Monarch.’
‘To draw the line of distinction,’ they continue, ‘between the supreme authority of Parliament, and the total independence of the Colonies would be an arduous undertaking, and of very great importance to all the other Colonies; and, therefore, could we conceive of such a line, we should be unwillng to propose it, without their consent in Congress.’
Having thus won an unsparing victory over the logic of Hutchinson
by accepting all his premises and fitting to them other and apter conclusions, they rebuked the Governor
for having reduced them to the alternative, either of appearing by silence to acquiesce in his sentiments, or of freely discussing the supreme authority of Parliament.
The Governor was overwhelmed with confusion.
He had intended to drive them into a conflict with Parliament; and they had denied its supremacy by implication from his own premises, in a manner that could bring censure on no one but himself.
During this controversy a Commission composed of Admiral Montagu
, the Vice-Admiralty Judge
, the Chief Justices
and New Jersey
, and the Governor
of Rhode Island
, met at Newport
to inquire into the affair of the Gaspee
Deputy Governor Sessions
, formerly Governor, now Chief Justice
the two pillars on which Rhode Island
They notified the Commissioners
that there had been no neglect of duty or connivance on the part of the Provincial Government
; from which it followed that the presence of the special Court was was unnecessary as it was alarming.
The Assembly having met at East Greenwich
to watch the Commissioners
, the Governor
laid before it his instructions to arrest offenders and send them for trial to England
The order excited general horror and indignation.
The Chief Justice
asked directions how he should act. The Assembly referred him to his discretion.
‘Then,’ said Hopkins
in the presence of both Houses, ‘for the purpose of transportation for trial, I will neither apprehend any person by my own order, nor suffer any executive officers in the Colony to do it.’15
—‘The people would not have borne an actual seizure of persons;’ which ‘nothing but an armed force could have effected.’
The attempt would have produced a crisis.16
The Commissioners elicited nothing and adjourned with bitterness in their hearts.
, the Chief Justice
of New Jersey
, who had just been put on the civil list, threw all blame on the popular Government of Rhode Island
advised to take away the Charter
of that Province, and of Connecticut
also; and consolidate the ‘twins
in one royal Government.’18
land of steady habits, was, at that day, the most orderly and quietly governed people in the world; and the Charter
of Rhode Island
, in spite of all its enemies, had vitality enough to outlast the unreformed House of Commons.
The bold doctrines of Massachusetts
, gained ground, and extended to other Colonies.19 Hutchinson
was embarrassed by the controversy, which he had provoked, and would now willingly have ended.
Meantime the House
made the usual grants to the Justices
of the Superior Court; but20
refused his assent because he expected warrants for their salaries from the King
who has a due regard to justice, or even to his own character, would choose to be placed under such an undue bias, as they must be under by accepting their salaries of the Crown.
We are more and more convinced, that it has been the design of Administration, totally to subvert the Constitution
, and introduce an arbitrary Government into this Province; and we cannot wonder that the apprehensions of this people are thoroughly awakened.’
The towns of Massachusetts
were all the while continuing their meetings.
‘The Judges,’ said the men of Eastham
‘must reject the detestable plan with abhorrence, if they would have their memories blessed.’
‘We deny the Parliamentary power of taxing us, being without the realm of England
represented there;’ declared Stoughtenham.24
the Colonies stand firm as one man,’ voted Winchendon
‘Divine Providence and the necessity of things may call upon us and all the Colonies to make our last Appeal;’26
wrote the farmers who dwelt on the bleak hills of New Salem.
seemed compelled to renew his discussion with the Legislature, and in a long argument, which contained little that was new, endeavored to prove that the Colony of Massachusetts
was holden as feudatory of the imperial Crown of England
, and was therefore under the Government
of the King
's Laws and the King's Court
for the Council, with still greater clearness, affirms that Parliamentary taxation is unconstitutional, because imposed without consent; again Samuel Adams
for the House
, aided briefly, in Hawley
's temporary absence, by the strong natural powers and good knowledge of the laws of John Adams
, proves from the Governor
's own premises, that Parliament has no supremacy over the Colony, because the feudal system admits no idea of the authority of Parliament.
At the same time both parties looked beyond the Province for aid. Hutchinson
sought to intimidate his antagonists, by telling them ‘that the English Nation
would be roused, and could not be withstood,’ that ‘Parliament would, by some means or other, maintain its supremacy.’27
To his correspondents in England
he sent word what measures should be chosen; advising a change in the political organization of towns;28
a prohibition of the commerce of Boston
and the option to the Province between sub-
mission and the forfeiture of their rights.30
‘I wish,’ said he, ‘Government may be convinced that something is necessary to be done.’
‘We want a full persuasion that Parliament will maintain its Supremacy at all events.’
‘Without it, the opposition here will triumph more than ever.’
The people on their part drew from their institu-
tion of Committees of Correspondence throughout the Province, the hope of a union of all the Colonies.
‘Some future Congress,’ said they, ‘will be the glorious source of the salvation of America
; the Amphictyons of Greece
, who formed the Diet or great Council of the States, exhibit an excellent model for the rising Americans
Whether that great idea should become a reality depended on Virginia
Its Legislature came together on the fourth of March, full of the love of country.
Its Members had authentic information of the proceedings of the town of Boston
; and public rumors had reached them of the Commission for inquiry into the affairs of Rhode Island
They had read and approved of the answers which the Council and the House
had made in January to the speech of Hutchinson
They formed themselves, therefore, into a Committee of the whole House on the state of the Colony; and in that Committee Dabney Carr
, of Charlotte
, a young statesman of brilliant genius as well as of fervid patriotism, moved a series of resolutions for a system of intercolonial
Committees of Correspondence.
His plan included
a thorough union of Councils throughout the Continent.
If it should succeed and be adopted by the other Colonies, America would stand before the world as a Confederacy.
The measure was supported by Richard Henry Lee
, with an eloquence which ever passed away from the memory of his hearers; by Patrick Henry
with a still more commanding majesty.32
The Assembly was of one mind; and no person appropriated to himself praise beyond the rest.
They did what greatness of mind counselled; and they did it quietly, as if it were but natural to them to act with magnanimity.
On Friday the twelfth of March, the Resolutions were reported to the House
, and unanimously adopted.
They appointed their Committee on which appear the names of Bland
, of Henry, and Carr
, and Jefferson
Their Resolves were sent to every Colony, with a request that each would appoint its Committee to communicate from time to time with that of Virginia
In this manner, Virginia
laid the foundation of our union.34 Massachusetts
organized a Province; Virginia
promoted a confederacy.
Were the several Committees but to come together, the world would see an American Congress.
The associates of Dabney Carr
were spared for still further service to humanity.
He himself was cut down in his prime; and passed away like a shadow; but the name of him, who at this moment of crisis, beckoned the Colonies onward to union, must not perish from the memory of his countrymen.
The effect of these Resolutions of the Old Domin-
Chap. XLIX.} 1773.
ion was decisive.35
they gladdened every heart.
and South Carolina
by their steady perseverance,’ inspired the hope, that the fire of Liberty would spread through the Continent.36
‘A Congress and then an Assembly of States,’ reasoned Samuel Adams
, is no longer ‘a mere fiction in the mind of a political enthusiast.’
What though ‘the British
nation carry their liberties to market, and sell them to the highest bidder?’
‘America,’ said he, repeating the words of Arthur Lee
, ‘America shall rise full plumed and glorious from the mother's ashes.’37
A copy of the proceedings of Virginia
was sent to every town and district in Massachusetts
, that ‘all the friends of American Independence and freedom,’38
might welcome the intelligence; and as one Meeting after another echoed back the advice for a Congress, they could hardly find words to express how their gloom had given way to light, and how ‘their hearts even leapt for joy.’
‘We trust the day is not far distant,’ said Cambridge
by the hand of Thomas Gardner
, ‘when our rights and liberties shall be restored unto us, or the Colonies, united as one man, will make their most solemn appeal to Heaven, and drive tyranny from these northern climes.’39
‘The Colonies must assert their liberties whenever
Chap. XLIX.} 1773.
the opportunity offers;’ wrote Dickinson
The opportunity was nearer than he thought; in England Chatham
saw plainly, that ‘things were hastening to a crisis at Boston
, and looked forward to the issue with very painful anxiety.’41
It was the King
who precipitated the conflict.
He had no dread of the interposition of France
, for that power, under the Ministry of the day, feared lest the enfranchisement of the Anglo-American Colonies
should create a dangerous rival power to itself,42
and was eager to fortify the good understanding with England
by a defensive treaty, or at least by a treaty of commerce.43
Louis the Fifteenth was resolved at all events to avoid war.44
From the time therefore that the Representatives
avowed their legislative Independence, the King
dismissed the thought of obtaining obedience ‘by argument and persuasion.’45
The most thorough search was made into every Colonial law that checked or even seemed to check the Slave-trade; and an Act of Virginia
, which put no more obstructions upon it, than had existed for a generation, was negatived.46
Parliamentary taxation was also to be enforced.
The continued refusal of North America
to receive tea from England
, had brought distress upon the
East India Company, which had on hand wanting a
Chap. XLIX.} 1773.
market great quantities imported in the faith that that agreement could not hold.
They were able to pay neither their dividends, nor their debts; their stock depreciated nearly one half; and the Government
must lose their annual payment of four hundred thousand pounds. The bankruptcies, brought on partly by this means, gave such a shock to credit, as had not been experienced since the South Sea
year; and the great manufacturers were sufferers.47
The directors came to Parliament with an ample confession of their humbled state, together with entreaties for assistance and relief; and particularly praying that leave might be given to export teas free of all duties to America
and to foreign ports.
Had such leave been granted in respect of America
, it would have been an excellent commercial regulation, as well as have restored a good understanding to every part of the empire.48
Instead of this, Lord North proposed to give to the Company
itself the right of exporting its teas.
The existing law granted on their exportation to America
a drawback of three fifths only of the duties paid on importation.
Lord North now offered a drawback of the whole.
Trecothick in the Committee
also advised to take off the import duty in America
of three pence the pound, as it produced no income to the revenue; but the Ministry would not listen to the thought of relieving America
‘Then,’ added Trecothick in behalf of the East India Company,
‘as much or more may be brought into the revenue
Chap. XLIX.} 1773.
by not allowing a full exemption from the duties paid here.’
But Lord North refused to discuss the right of Parliament to tax America; insisting that no difficulty could arise, that under the new regulation America would be able to buy tea from the Company
at a lower price than from any other European Nation, and that men will always go to the cheapest market.49
The Ministry was still in its halcyon days; no opposition was made even by the Whigs
; and the mea-
sure which was the King
and was designed to put America
to the test, took effect as a law from the tenth day of May.51
It was immediately followed by a most carefully prepared answer from the King
to Petitions from Massachusetts
, announcing that he ‘considered his authority to make laws in Parliament of sufficient force and validity to bind his subjects in America
in all cases whatsoever, as essential to the dignity of the Crown, and a right appertaining to the State
, which it was his duty to preserve entire and inviolate;’ that he, therefore, ‘could not but be greatly displeased with the Petitions and Remonstrance in which that right was drawn into question;’ but that he ‘imputed the unwarrantable doctrines held forth in the said Petitions and Remonstrance, to the artifices of a few.’52
All this while, Lord Dartmouth ‘had a true desire to see lenient measures adopted towards the Colonies,’53
not being in
the least aware, that he was drifting with the Cabinet
towards the very system of coercion against which he gave the most public and the most explicit pledges.
men began to prepare for extreme measures.
, a British Officer on half-pay, resolved to devote himself ‘to the cause of mankind and of liberty now attacked in their last and only asylum.’54
,’ cried the Legislature of Rhode Island
, glowing with admiration for ‘its patriotic and illustrious House of Burgesses;’ and this New England
Province was the first to follow the example of the Old Dominion, by electing its Committees and sending its Circular through the land.55
, so soon as the Government
for the year was organized, the House
on the motion of Samuel Adams
, and by a vote of one hundred and nine to four, expressed its gratitude to the Burgesses of Virginia
for their uniform vigilance, firmness and wisdom, and its hearty concurrence in their judicious and spirited Resolves.
And then it elected its Committee of Correspondence, fifteen in number.
did the same, so that all New England
were now one political body, with an organization inchoate, yet so perfect, that, on the first emergency, they could convene a Congress.
Every other Colony on the Continent was sure to follow their example.56
While the patriot party was cheered by the hope
of union, the letters of Hutchinson
had sent over to the Speaker
of the Massachusetts
Assembly, destroyed their moral power by
exposing their duplicity.
‘Cool, thinking, deliberate villains; malicious and vindictive, as well as ambitious and avaricious,’ said John Adams
, who this year was chosen into the Council but negatived by the governor.
‘Bone of our bone; flesh of our flesh; born and educated among us,’ cried others.
, who was angry at being named in the correspondence, determined to lay bare their hypocrisy; and Cooper
from the pulpit preached of ‘the old Serpent, which deceiveth the whole world; but was cast out into the earth and his angels with him.’
The letters had circulated privately in the Province for more than two months, when on Wednesday the second of June, Samuel Adams
read them to the House
in secret session.
They were by no means among the worst which their authors had written, but they showed a thorough complicity with Bernard
and the Commissioners
of the Customs, to bring military sway into the Province, and to abridge Colonial liberties by the interposition of Parliament.
, after a debate, voted by one hundred and one against five, ‘that the tendency and design of the letters was to subvert the Constitution
of the Government
, and to introduce arbitrary power into the Province.’
‘I have never wrote any public or private letter that tends to subvert the Constitution
,’ was Hutchinson
's message the next day.
, on the fourth, sent him a transcript of their proceedings, with the date of his letters that were before them; and asked for copies of these and such others, as he should think proper to communicate.
‘If you desire copies with a view to make them public,’ answered Hutchinson
after five days
reflection, ‘the originals are more proper for that
purpose, than the copies;’ and he refused to communicate other letters, declaring that it had not been the design of them ‘to subvert the constitution of the Government
, but, rather to preserve it entire.’57
Then conscious of guilt, he by the very next packet sent word to his confidential friend in London
, to burn such of his letters as might raise a clamor, for, said he, “I have wrote what ought not to be made public.”
He had written against every part of the Constitution
, the elective character of the Council, the annual choice of the Assembly, the New England
organization of the towns; had advised and solicited the total dependence of the judiciary on the Crown, had hinted at making the experiment of declaring Martial Law
, and of abrogating English liberty; had advised to the restraint of the commerce of Boston
and the exclusion of the Province from the fisheries; had urged the immediate suppression of the Charter
of Rhode Island
; had for years ‘been begging for measures to maintain the supremacy of Parliament,’ by making the denial of that supremacy a capital felony; and all for the sake of places for his family and a salary and a pension for himself.
To corrupt pure and good and free political institutions of a happy country, and infuse into its veins the slow poison of tyranny, is the highest crime against humanity.
And how terribly was he punished!
what is life without the esteem of one's fellow-men!
Had he been but honest, how New England
would have cherished his memory!
Now his gray hairs, which should ever be kept purer than the ermine, were covered with shame; his ambition was defeated, and he suffered all the tortures of avarice trembling or the loss of place.
It was Hancock
who, taking advantage of the implied permission of Hutchinson
, produced to the House
copies of the letters, which were then published and scattered throughout New England
and the Continent.
A series of Resolves was adopted, expressing their true intent, and was followed by a Petition to the King
, that he would remove Hutchinson
for ever from the Government
The Council in like manner, after a thorough analysis of the real intent of the correspondence, joined in the same prayer.
So great unanimity had never been known.
Timid from nature, from age, and from an accusing conscience, Hutchinson
bowed to the storm; and expressed his desire to resign.
‘I hope,’ he said, ‘I shall not be left destitute, to be insulted and triumphed over.
I fall in the cause of Government; and whenever it shall be thought proper to supersede me, I hope for some appointment;’60
and calumniating Franklin
as one who wished to supplant him in the Government
, he himself made interest for Franklin
's desirable office of Deputy Postmaster General
All the summer long the insidious letters, that
had come to light, circulated through the Province,
and were discussed by the single-minded country people during the week, as they made hay or gathered in the early harvest; on Sundays, the ministers discoursed on them, and poured out their hearts in prayers for the preservation of their precious inheritance of liberty.
‘We devote not only what little we have in the world,’ said the people of Pearsontown, ‘but even our lives to vindicate rights so dearly purchased by our ancestors.’62
The town of Abington
became convinced that the boasted connection with Great Britain
was ‘not worth a rush.’63
The natural right of mankind to improve the form of Government under which they live,64
was inculcated even from the pulpit; and at the time when the Pope
was abolishing the order of the Jesuits, some of the clergy of Boston
predicted that ‘in fifteen years,’65
the people of America
would mould for themselves a new Constitution.