The passions of the British Ministry
aged by the British
people, who resented the denial of its supremacy and made the cause of Parliament its own.1
The current ran against the Americans
; and the Ministry, overruling the lingering scruples of Dartmouth and Lord North, decided that there existed a rebellion which required not conciliation but coercion.
Inquiries were made with the object of enabling the King
to proceed in ‘England
against the ringleaders,’ and inflict on them immediate and exemplary punishment.
But after laborious examinations before the Privy Council, and the close attention of Thurlow and Wedderburn
, it appeared that British law and the British Constitution set bounds to the anger of the Government
, which gave the first evidence of its weakness by acknowledging a want of power to wreak its will.
During the delay attending an appeal to Parliament,
pains were taken to quiet the Bourbon powers.
The Secretary of State
would speak with the French Minister
of nothing but harmony.
‘Never,’ said he in like manner to Pignatelli,2
, ‘never was the union between Versailles
, so solid; I see nothing that can shake it.’
Yet the old distrust lurked under the pretended confidence.3
The Government at the time encountered no formidable opposition.
One day in February, Charles James Fox
, who was of the Treasury Board, severely censured Lord North for want of decision and courage.
was ‘greatly incensed at his presumption.’
‘That young man,’ said the King
, ‘has so thoroughly cast off every principle of common honor and honesty, that he must become as contemptible as he is odious.’
He was therefore dismissed from office at this critical moment in American affairs; and being unconnected, he was left free to follow his own bold and generous impulses.
He was soon ‘to discover powers for regular debate, which neither his friends hoped nor his enemies dreaded.’
He could not only take the vast compass of a great question, but with singular and unfailing sagacity, could detect the decisive point on which it turned.
In his habits, he delighted in excess; he squandered recklessly at the gaming table, what his father had taken anxious years to hoard; but with all his vices and extravagance, ‘perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or falsehood.’
observers already predicted, that he would one day
be classed among the greatest statesmen of his country.4
The cause of liberty obtained in him a friend who was independent of party allegiance and traditions, just at the time when the passion for ruling America by the central authority was producing anarchy in the Colonies.
In South Carolina
, whose sons esteemed themselves disfranchised on their own soil by the appointment of strangers to every office, the Governor
had for four years negatived every taxbill in the hope of controlling the appropriations.
In North Carolina
, the law establishing courts of justice had expired; in the conflict of claims of power between the Governor
and the Legislature, every new law on the subject was negatived, and there were no courts of any kind in the Province.5
The most orderly and best governed part of Carolina
was the self-organized Republic of Watauga
, beyond the mountains, where the settlements were extending along the Holston
, as well as south of the Nollichucky.
Every where an intrepid, hardy and industrious population, heedless of proclamations, was moving westward through all the gates of the Alleghanies
seating themselves on the New River
and the Green
Briar, on the branches of the Monongahela
, or even making their way to the Mississippi
; accepting from nature their title-deeds to the unoccupied wilderness.
kept in mind, that its Charter bounded its territory by the Pacific
Its daring sons held possession of the Wyoming Valley
; and learned already to claim lands westward to the Mississippi
, ‘seven or eight hundred miles in extent of the finest country and happiest climate on the Globe
In fifty years,’ said they, ‘our people will be more than half over this tract, extensive as it is; in less than one century, the whole may become even well cultivated.
If the coming period bears due proportion to that from the first landing of poor distressed fugitives at Plymouth
, nothing that we can in the utmost stretch of imagination fancy of the state of this country at an equally future period, can exceed what it will then be. A commerce will and must arise, independent of every thing external, and superior to any thing ever known in Europe
, or of which a European can have an adequate idea.’
Thus the statesmen of Connecticut
pleased themselves with pictures of the happiness of their posterity; and themselves enjoyed a vivid vision of ‘the glory of this New World.’6
Already the commerce of Philadelphia
had outgrown the laws of trade; and the Revenue officers in those places, weary of attempts to enforce them, received what duties were paid almost as a favor.
Nor was the spirit of independence confined to the western woodsmen; the New England
who dwelt on each side of the Green Mountains
resisted the jurisdiction which the Royal
Government of New-York
would have enforced even at the risk of bloodshed; and administered their own affairs by means of permanent Committees.
The people of Massachusetts
knew that ‘they had
passed the river and cut away the bridge.’7
Voting the Judges
of the Superior Court ample salaries from the colonial treasury, they called upon them to refuse the corrupting donative from the Crown.
Four of them yielded; Oliver
the Chief Justice
alone refused; the House
, therefore, impeached him before the Council, and declared him suspended till the issue of the impeachment.
They began also to familiarize the public mind to the thought of armed resistance, by ordering some small purchases of powder on account of the Colony, to be stored in a building of its own; and by directing the purchase of twelve pieces of cannon.
‘Don't put off the boat till you know where you will land,’ advised the timid.
‘We must put off the boat,’ cried Boston
patriots, ‘even though we do not know where we shall land.’8
‘God will bring us into a safe harbor,’ said Hawley
‘Anarchy itself,’ repeated one to another, ‘is better than tyranny.’10
The proposal for a General Congress was deferred to the next June; but the Committees of Correspondence were to prepare the way for it.11
A circular letter
explained why Massachusetts
had been under the
necessity of proceeding so far of itself, and entreated for its future guidance the benefit of the councils of the whole country.
The firmness was contagious.
, on the fifth of March, spoke to a crowded audience in Boston
: ‘Permit me to suggest a general Congress of deputies from the several Houses of Assembly on the Continent, as the most effectual method of establishing a union for the security of our rights and liberties.’
‘Remember,’ he continued, ‘from whom you sprang.
Not only pray, but act; if necessary, fight and even die for the prosperity of our Jerusalem
;’ and as he pointed out Samuel Adams
, the vast multitude seemed to promise that in all succeeding times the great patriot's name, and ‘the roll of fellow-patriots, should grace the annals of history.’
Nor did a doubt exist that ‘the present noble struggle would terminate gloriously for America
‘We must not boast, as he who putteth off the harness,’ said Samuel Adams
‘It is our duty at all hazards to preserve the public liberty;’ and in the name of Massachusetts
, he prepared her last instructions to Franklin
‘It will be in vain,’ such were his solemn words officially pronounced, ‘for any to expect that the people of this country will now be contented with a partial and temporary relief; or that they will be amused by Court promises, while they see not the least relaxation of grievances.
By means of a brisk correspondence among the several towns in this Province, they have wonderfully animated and
enlightened each other.
They are united in senti-
ments, and their opposition to unconstitutional measures of Government is become systematical.
Colony begins to communicate freely with Colony.
There is a common affection among them; and shortly the whole Continent will be as united in sentiment and in their measures of opposition to tyranny, as the inhabitants of this Province.
Their old good will and affection for the parent country are not totally lost; if she returns to her former moderation and good humor, their affection will revive.
They wish for nothing more than a permanent union with her upon the condition of equal liberty.
This is all they have been contending for; and nothing short of this will or ought to satisfy them.’
Such was the ultimatum of America
, sent by one illustrious son of Boston
for the guidance of another.
But the Ministry would not be warned.
The sense of the English
people was manifestly with them;13
they were persuaded that there was no middle way, that procrastination and irresolution had produced numberless evils, but never yet cured one;14
that the American Continent
would not interpose to shield Boston
from the necessity of submission.15
On the seventh of March Dartmouth and North presented to the two Houses a message from the King
‘Nothing,’ said Lord North, ‘can be done to reestablish peace without additional powers from Parliament.’—‘The question now brought to issue,’
, on moving the Address, which was to
pledge Parliament to the exertion of every means in its power, ‘is, whether the Colonies are or are not the Colonies of Great Britain
, now Lord Clare, entreated that there might be no divided counsels.
‘On the repeal of the Stamp Act,’ said Dowdeswell, ‘all America
was quiet; but in the following year you would go in pursuit of a pepper-corn, —you would collect from pepper-corn to pepper-corn, —you would establish taxes as tests of obedience.
Unravel the whole conduct of America
; you will find out the fault is at home.’
‘The dependence of the Colonies is a part of the Constitution
,’ said Pownall
, the former Governor of Massachusetts
. ‘I hope, for the sake of this country, for the sake of America
, for the sake of general liberty, that this Address will go with a unanimous vote.’
As nothing was proposed but to carry out the Declaratory Act
, no man in England
could so little find fault with the principle of the proposed measures, as Edmund Burke
; he only taunted the Ministry with their wavering policy.
Lord George Germain
derived all the American
disturbance from the repeal of the Stamp tax. Conway
pleaded for unanimity.
‘I speak,’ said William Burke
, ‘as an Englishman; we applaud ourselves for the struggle we have had for our Constitution; the Colonists are our fellowsub-jects; they will not lose theirs without a struggle.’
applauded the good temper with which the subject had been discussed, and refused to make any opposition ‘The leading question,’ said Wedderburn
, who bore the principal part in the debate, ‘is the dependence or independence of America
The Address was adopted without a division.
The next day letters arrived from America
testing no change in the conduct of the Colonies.
Calumny, with its hundred tongues, exaggerated the turbulence of the people, and invented wild tales of violence.
The jests of the Crown officers among one another were repeated as solemn truths.
It was said at the palace, and the King
believed, that there was in Boston
a regular Committee for tarring and feathering; and that they were next, to use the King
's expression, ‘to pitch and feather’ Hutchinson
The press was also employed to rouse the national pride, till the zeal of the English
people for maintaining English supremacy became equal to the passions of the Ministry.
Even the merchants and manufacturers were made to believe that their command of the American
market depended on the enforcement of the British
claim of authority.
It was, therefore, to a Parliament and people as unanimous as when in Grenville
's day they sanctioned the Stamp Act, that Lord North, on the fourteenth of March, reserving the measures of a more permanent character, opened the first branch of his American plan, for the instant punishment of Boston
The privilege of its harbor was to be discontinued; and the port closed against all commerce, not merely till it should have indemnified the East India Company, but until the King
should be satisfied that for the future it would obey the laws.
He invited all branches of the Government
, all political parties, alike those who denied and those who asserted the right to tax,—Members of Parliament, Peers, Merchants, all
ranks and degrees of people,—to proceed steadily
and universally in the one course of maintaining the authority of Great Britain
Yet it was noticed, that he spoke of the indispensable necessity of vigorous measures with an unusual air of languor and moderation.17
This appeal was successful.
Of the few who belonged to the Rockingham
approved the measure, which was but a corollary from their own Declaratory Act. ‘After having weighed the noble Lord
's proposition well,’ said even Barre
, ‘I cannot help giving it my hearty and determinate affirmative.
I like it, adopt and embrace it for its moderation.’
‘There is no good plan,’ urged Fox
, ‘except the repeal of the taxes forms a part of it.’
‘The proposition does not fully answer my expectations,’ said John Calvert
; ‘seize the opportunity, and take away their Charter.’
On the eighteenth Lord North by unanimous consent presented to the House
To its second reading, George Bynge
was the only one who cried no. ‘This Bill,’ said Rose Fuller
, in the debate on the twenty-third, ‘shuts up one of the ports of the greatest commerce and consequence in the English Dominions
The North Americans
will look upon it as a foolish act of oppression.
You cannot carry this Bill into execution but by a military force.’
‘If a military force is necessary,’ replied Lord North, ‘I shall not hesitate a moment to enforce a due obedience to the laws of this country.’
, seizing the very point of
the question, would have softened the Bill by open-
ing the port on the payment of indemnity to the East India Company; and he took care that his motion should appear on the journal.
‘Obedience,’ replied Lord North, ‘obedience, not indemnification, will be the test of the Bostonians.’
‘The offence of the Americans
is flagitious,’ said Van. ‘The town of Boston
ought to be knocked about their ears and destroyed.
Delenda est Carthago.
You will never meet with proper obedience to the laws of this country, until you have destroyed that nest of locusts.’
The clause to which Fox
had objected, was adopted without any division, and with but one or two negatives.
The popular current, both within doors and without, set strongly against America
It was only for the acquittal of their own honor and the discharge of their own consciences,18
that two days later, on the third reading, Dowdeswell and Edmund Burke
, unsupported by their former friends, spoke very strongly against a Bill, which punished the innocent with the guilty, condemned without an opportunity of defence, deprived the laborer and the sailor of bread, injured English creditors by destroying the trade out of which the debts due them were to be discharged, and ultimately oppressed the English
‘You will draw a foreign force upon you,’ said Burke
; ‘I will not say where that will end, but think, I conjure you, of the consequences.’
‘The Resolves at Boston
,’ said Gray Cooper
, ‘are a direct issue against the Declaratory Act
;’ and half the Rockingham
party went with him. Rose Fuller
opposed the Bill, unless the tax on tea were also
was convinced that the time was not proper for a repeal of the duty on tea. ‘This is the crisis,’ said Lord North, who had by degrees assumed a style of authority and decision.
‘The contest ought to be determined.
To repeal the tea duty or any measure would stamp us with timidity.’
‘The present Bill,’ said Johnstone
, late Governor
of West Florida
, ‘must produce a Confederacy and will end in a general revolt
But it passed without a division, and very unfairly went to the Lords
as the unanimous voice of the Commons.
cheered his Minister on by sneers at ‘the feebleness and futility of the Opposition.’19
In the midst of the general anger, a book was circulating in England
, on the interest of Great Britain
in regard to the Colonies, and the only means of living in peace and harmony with them, which judged the past and estimated the future with contemplative calmness and unerring sagacity.
Its author Josiah Tucker
, a most loyal churchman, though an apostle of Free Trade, saw clearly, that the reduction of Canada
had put an end to the sovereignty of the Mother Country
; that it is in the very nature of all Colonies, and of the Americans
more than others, to aspire after independence.
He would not suffer things to go on as they had lately done, for that would only make the Colonies more headstrong; nor attempt to persuade them to send over a certain number of deputies or representatives to sit in Parliament, for the prosecution of that scheme
could only end in furnishing a justification to the
Mother Country for making war against them; nor have recourse to arms, for the event was uncertain, and England
if successful, could still never treat America
as an enslaved people, or govern them against their own inclinations.
There remained but one wise olution; and it was to declare the North American Colonies
, to be a free and independent people.
‘If we separate from the Colonies,’ it was objected, ‘we shall lose their trade.’
‘The Colonies will trade even with their bitterest enemies in the hottest of a war, provided they shall find it their interest so to do. The question before us will turn on this single point: Can the Colonists, in a general way, trade with any other European State to greater advantage than they can with Great Britain
If they cannot, we shall retain their custom;’ and he demonstrated that England
was for America
, the best market and the best storehouse; that the prodigious increase of British trade was due not to prohibition, but to the suppression of various monopolies, and exclusive companies for foreign trade; to the repeal of taxes on raw materials; to the improvements, inventions and discoveries for the abridgment of labor; to roads, canals, and better postal arrangements.
The measure would not decrease shipping and navigation, or diminish the breed of sailors.
But ‘if we give up the Colonies,’ it was pretended, ‘the French
will take immediate possession of them.’
,’ resumed Tucker
, ‘cannot brook our Government; will they glory in being numbered among the slaves of the grand Monarch
‘Will you leave the Church of England in America
to suffer persecution?’
asked the Churchmen.
America independent,’ replied Tucker
, ‘and all their fears of ecclesiastical authority will vanish away; a Bishop will be no longer looked upon as a monster but as a man; and an Episcopate may then take place.’
No Minister, he confessed, would dare, as things were then circumstanced, to do so much good to his country; neither would their opponents wish to see it done; and ‘yet,’ he added, ‘measures evidently right will prevail at last.’
An honest love of liberty revealed the same truth to John Cartwright
The young enthusiast was firmly persuaded that the species, as well as individuals of mankind, obtains knowledge, wisdom, and virtue progressively, so that its latter days will be more wise, peaceable, and pious, than the earlier periods of its existence.
He was destined to pass his life in efforts to purify the British Constitution, which, as he believed, had within itself the seeds of immortality.
With the fervid language of sincerity he now advocated the freedom of his American kindred; and proclaimed American independence to be England
's interest and glory.20
Thus spoke the forerunners of free trade and reform.
But the infatuated people turned from them to indulge unsparingly in ridicule and illiberal jests on the Bostonians, whom the iron hand of power was extended to chastise and subdue.
At the meeting of the Commons, on the twenty-eighth, Lord North asked leave to bring in a Bill for regulating the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay
On this occasion, Lord George Germain
self anxious to take a lead.
‘I wish,’ said he, ‘to see the Council of that country on the same footing as that of other Colonies.
Put an end to their Town Meetings.
I would not have men of a mercantile cast every day collecting themselves together and debating about political matters.
I would have them follow their occupations as merchants, and not consider themselves as Ministers
of that country.
I would wish that all corporate powers might be given to certain people in every town, in the same manner that corporations are formed here.
Their grand juries, their petty juries, require great regulation.
I would wish to bring the Constitution
, as similar to our own as possible; to see the Council of that country similar to a House of Lords in this; to see Chancery suits determined by a Court of Chancery.
At present their Assembly is a downright clog; their Council thwart and oppose the security and welfare of that Government.
You have, sir, no Government, no Governor; the whole are the proceedings of a tumultuous and riotous rabble, who ought, if they had the least prudence, to follow their mercantile employment, and not trouble themselves with politics and government, which they do not understand.
Some gentlemen say, “Oh, don't break their charter; don't take away rights granted them by the predecessors of the Crown.”
Whoever wishes to preserve such Charters, I wish him no worse than to govern such subjects.
By a manly perseverance, things may be restored from anarchy and confusion to peace, quietude, and obedience.’
‘I thank the noble Lord
,’ said Lord North, ‘for every one of the propositions he has held out; they
are worthy of a great mind; I see their propriety,
and wish to adopt them;’ and the House
, Thurlow, and Wedderburn
to prepare and bring in a bill accordingly.
On the twenty-ninth of March, the Boston
Port Bill underwent in the House of Lords a fuller and fairer discussion.
The rightness of mind of Rockingham
impelled him to resist it with firmness, and the Duke
ardently supported him. ‘Nothing can justify the Ministers
hereafter,’ said Temple
, ‘except the town of Boston
proving in an actual state of rebellion.’
The good Lord Dartmouth, who sincerely desired to see lenient measures adopted, showed his disposition by calling what passed in Boston
commotion, not open rebellion.
Lord Mansfield, a man ‘in the cool decline of life,’ acquainted only with the occupations of peace, a civil magistrate, covered with judicial purple and ermine that should have no stain of blood, with eyes broad open to the consequences, rose to take the guidance of the House
out of the hands of the faltering Minister.
‘What passed in Boston
,’ said he, ‘is the last overt act of High Treason, proceeding from our over lenity and want of foresight.
It is, however, the luckiest event that could befall this country, for all may now be recovered.
Compensation to the East India
Company I regard as no object of the Bill.21
The sword is drawn,22
and you must throw away the scabbard.23
Pass this Act, and you will be passed the Rubicon.24
will then know that we shall temporize
no longer; if it passes with tolerable unanimity, Boston
will submit, and all will end in a victory without carnage.’25
In vain did Camden meet the question fully, and return very nearly to his former principles; in vain did Shelburne prove the tranquil and loyal condition in which he had left the Colonies on giving up their administration.
There was no division in the House of Lords, and its Journal, like that of the Commons, declares that the Boston
Port Bill passed unanimously.
in person made haste to give it his approval.
has now no option but to claim entire independence, or to approach the throne as a penitent, and promise for the future passive ‘obedience’ to British
‘laws’ in all cases whatsoever.
The immediate repeal of the tax on tea and its
Preamble remained the only possible avenue to conciliation.
It was moved by Rose Fuller
on the nineteenth of April, and gave rise to a long and animated debate.
The subject in its connections was the gravest that could engage attention, involving the prosperity of England
, the tranquillity of the British
empire, the principles of colonization, and the liberties of mankind.
, speaking for the ministers, stated the question to be simply, ‘whether the whole of British authority over America
should be taken away.’
On this occasion, Edmund Burke
, indignant at the tyranny that was menaced, pronounced an oration such as had never been heard in the British Parliament.
His boundless stores of knowledge came obedient at his command; and his
thoughts and arguments, the facts which he cited,
and his glowing appeals, fell naturally into their places; so that his long and elaborate speech seemed to burst from his mind as one harmonious and unbroken emanation.
He first demonstrated that the repeal of the tax would be productive of unmixed good; he then surveyed comprehensively the whole series of the Parliamentary proceedings with regard to America
, in their causes and their consequences.
After exhausting the subject, he entreated Parliament to ‘reason not at all,’ but to ‘oppose the ancient policy and practice of the empire, as a rampart against the speculations of innovators on both sides of the question.’
‘Again and again,’ such was his entreaty, ‘revert to your old principles-seek peace and ensue itleave America, if she has taxable matter, to tax herself.
Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their trade.
Do not burden them by taxes; you were not used to do so from the beginning.
Let this be your reason for not taxing.
These are the arguments of states and kingdoms.
Leave the rest to the schools.
The several provincial Legislatures ought all to be subordinate to the Parliament of Great Britain.
She, as from the throne of Heaven, superintends and guides and controls them all. To coerce, to restrain and to aid, her powers must be boundless.’
Such was the adjustment which was advocated by Burke
He left questions of right to the schools, and proposed to conform Colonial Government to the facts of the past.
It was all that America
had been for ten years soliciting; it was advice to which despotism
itself might have listened, for it contained a
sanction of all established power.
It might at once have been received by the New Tory party, the conservative party of England
They must soon make it their own, and one day must accept its author as their champion against revolution and reform.
But at the moment his heart gained a partial victory over his theories.
During the long debate the young and fiery Lord Carmarthen had repeated what so many had said before him. ‘The Americans
are our children, and how can they revolt against their parent?
If they are not free in their present state, England
is not free; because Manchester
, and other considerable places, are not represented.’—‘So then,’ retorted Burke
, ‘because some towns in England
are not represented, America is to have no Representative at all. They are “our children;” but when children ask bread, we are not to give a stone.
Is it because the natural resistance of things and the various mutations of time hinders our Government, or any scheme of Government, from being any more than a sort of approximation to the right, is it therefore that the Colonies are to recede from it infinitely?
When this child of ours wishes to assimilate to its parent, are we to give them our weakness for their strength?
our opprobrium for their glory?
and the slough of slavery which we are not able to work of, to serve them for their freedom?’
The words fell from him as burning oracles.
It appeared as if he was lifted upward to gaze into futurity, and while he spoke for the rights of America
, he seemed to prepare the way for renovating the Constitution
Yet it was not so. Though more than half a century had
would not be wiser than the whigs
of the days of King William.
It was enough for him if the Aristocracy applauded.
He did not believe in the dawn of a new light, in the coming on of a new order, though a new order of things was at the door, and a new light had broken.
He would not turn to see, nor bend to learn, if the political system of Somers
, and Walpole
, and the Pelhams, and their adherents was to pass away; if it were so, he himself was determined not to know it, but ‘rather to be the last of that race of men.’
is the poet who sums up the civilization of his times, so that the departed spirit of the Middle Age
seems still to live in his immortal verse, so Burke
portrays in his pages all the lineaments of that Old Whig Aristocracy which in its day had achieved mighty things for liberty and for England
He that will study under its best aspect the enlightened character of England
in the first half of the eighteenth century, the wonderful intermixture of privilege and prerogative, of aristocratic power and popular liberty, of a free Press and a secret House of Commons, of an established church and a toleration of all Protestant sects, of a fixed adherence to prescription and liberal tendencies in administration, must give his days and nights to the writings of Edmund Burke
But time never keeps company with the mourners; it flies from the memories of the expiring past, though they may be clad in the brightest colors of imagination; it leaves those who stand still to their despair; and itself hurries on to fresh fields of action and scenes for ever new.
Resuming the debate, Fox
said earnestly, ‘If you
persist in your right to tax the Americans
, you will
force them into open rebellion.’
On the other hand, Lord North asked that his measures might be sustained with firmness and resolution; and then, said he, ‘there is no doubt but peace and quietude will soon be restored.’
‘We are now in great difficulties,’ said Dowdeswell, speaking for all who adhered to Lord Rockingham; ‘let us do justice before it is too late.’
But it was too late.
's object had been only ‘to refute the charges against that party with which he had all along acted.’
After his splendid eloquence no more divided with him than forty-nine, just the number that had divided against the Stamp Act, while on the other side stood nearly four times as many.
‘The repeal of the tea tax was never to be obtained, so long as the authority of Parliament was publicly rejected or opposed.’
“With ten thousand regulars,” said the creatures of the Ministry, ‘we can march through the Continent.’
To bring Boston
on its knees and terrify the rest of America
by the example, Gage
, the military Commander-in-Chief
for all North America
, was commissioned as the civil Governor
also, and was sent over with four regiments to enforce submission.
He was directed to shut the port of Boston
, and having as a part of his instructions the opinion of Thurlow and Wedderburn
that acts of High Treason had been committed there, he was directed to take measures for bringing the ringleaders to condign punishment.
Foremost among these, Samuel Adams
was marked out for sacrifice as the chief of the revolution.
‘He is the most elegant writer, the most sagacious politician, and celebrated patriot, perhaps
of any who have figured in the last ten years,’26
is the contemporary record of John Adams
‘I cannot sufficiently respect his integrity and abilities,’ said Clymer
; ‘all good Americans
should erect a statue to him in their hearts.’27
Time proved that he had been right, even where his conduct had been questioned; and many in England
‘esteemed him the first politician in the world.’28
He saw clearly that ‘the rigorous measures of the British
administration would the sooner bring to pass’ the first wish of his heart, ‘the entire separation and independence of the Colonies, which Providence
would erect into a mighty empire.’29
Indefatigable in seeking for Massachusetts
the countenance of her sister Colonies,30
he had no anxiety for himself; no doubt of the ultimate triumph of freedom; but as he thought of the calamities that hung over Boston
, he raised the prayer, ‘that God would prepare that people for the event, by inspiring them with wisdom and fortitude.’
The members of the Committee
knew how momentous was the revolution which they were accomplishing.
‘We have enlisted,’ they said, ‘in the cause of our country, and are resolved at all adventures to promote its welfare; should we succeed, our names will be held up by future generations with that unfeigned plaudit, with which we now recount the great deeds of our worthy ancestors.’31
gave proof that the union
was perfect; on the nineteenth, while the House of Commons was voting not to repeal the duty on tea, its people sent back the tea-ship which had arrived but the day before; and eighteen chests of tea, found on board of another vessel, were hoisted on deck and emptied into ‘the slip.’
America had chosen her part, so too had the British Ministry
The second penal Bill for the Government
of Massachusetts Bay
, which was introduced into Parliament on the twenty-eighth, without any hearing or any notice to the Province, abrogated so much of its Charter as gave to its Legislature the election of the Council; abolished Town Meetings except for the choice of town officers, or on the special permission of the Governor
; conferred on the executive the power of appointing and removing the Sheriffs at pleasure; and transforming the trial by jury into a snare for the people, it intrusted the returning of juries to the dependent Sheriff
This Bill, too, notwithstanding the earnest resistance of Dunning
, passed the Commons by a vote of more than three to one.
A third penal measure, which had been questioned by Dartmouth, and recommended by the King
, transferred the place of trial of any magistrates, Revenue officers, or soldiers, indicted for murder or other capital offence in Massachusetts Bay
, to Nova Scotia32
or Great Britain
As Lord North brought forward this wholesale Bill of indemnity to the Governor
and soldiers, if they should trample upon the people of Boston
and be charged
with murder, it was noticed that he trembled and
faltered at every word; showing that he was the vassal of a stronger will than his own, and vainly struggled to wrestle down the feelings which his nature refused to disavow.
‘If the people of America
,’ said Van, ‘oppose the measures of Government that are now sent, I would do, as was done of old, in the time of the ancient Britons
; I would burn and set fire to all their woods, and leave their country open.
If we are likely to lose it, I think it better lost by our own soldiers, than wrested from us by our rebellious children.’
‘The Bill is meant to enslave America,’ said Sawbridge with only forty to listen to him. ‘I execrate the present measure,’ cried Barre
; ‘you have had one meeting of the Colonies in Congress; you may soon have another.
will not abandon their principles; for if they submit they are slaves.’
Yet the Bill passed the Commons by a vote of more than four to one.
But evil when it comes, is intermixed with good; the ill is evanescent, the good endures.
The British Government inflamed the passions of the English
people against America
, and courted their sympathy; as a consequence, the secrecy of the debates in Parliament came to an end; and this great change in the political relation of the Legislature to public opinion, was conceded by a Tory Government, seeking strength from popular excitement.
The concession was irrevocable.
A fourth measure legalized the quartering of troops within the town of Boston
The fifth statute professed to regulate the Government
of the Province of Quebec
The nation which would not so much as legally recognise the existence of a Catholic in Ireland
from political considerations sanctioned on the Saint Lawrence
‘the free exercise of the religion of the Church of Rome, and confirmed to the clergy of that Church their accustomed dues and rights.’
So far the act was merciful; but it extended the boundaries of the Government
to the Ohio
and the Mississippi
, and over he vast region, which included, besides Canada
, the area of the present States of Ohio
, and Wisconsin
, it decreed an arbitrary rule.
The establishment of Colonies on principles of liberty is ‘the peculiar and appropriated glory of England
rendering her venerable throughout all time in the history of the world.
The office of peopling a Continent with free and happy commonwealths was renounced.
The Quebec Bill which quickly passed the House of Lords, and was borne through the Commons by the zeal of the Ministry and the influence of the King
, left the people who were to colonize the most fertile territory in the world without the writ of Habeas Corpus
to protect the rights of persons, and without a share of power in any one branch of the Government
In this manner Great Britain
, allured by a phantom of absolute authority, made war on human freedom.
The liberties of Poland
had been sequestered, and its territory began to be parcelled out among the usurpers.
The aristocratic privileges of Sweden
had been swept away by treachery and usurpation.
The Free Towns
, which had preserved in that empire the example of Republics, were, ‘like so many dying sparks that go out one after another.’
had stifled the spirit of indepen-
dence in their prodigal luxury.
was ruinagainst ously divided against itself.
In Great Britain
the House of Commons had become so venal, that it might be asked, whether a body so chosen and so influenced was fit to exercise legislative power even within the realm.
If it shall succeed in establishing by force of arms its ‘boundless’ authority over America
, where shall humanity find an asylum?
But this decay of the old forms of liberty was the symptom and the forerunner of a new creation.
The knell of the ages of servitude and inequality was rung; those of equality and brotherhood were to dawn.
As the fleets and armies of England
went forth to consolidate arbitrary power, the sound of war every where else on the earth died away.
sat still in awe, and nations turned to watch the issue.