An American empire is in the Divine decrees—Hillsbo-rough's Administration of the Colonies continued.
the day after the Circular was adopted, the
Board of Commissioners of the Revenue met at Boston
, and with the utmost secrecy, addressed to their superiors in England
a memorial which, in connection with the reports of Bernard
, was designed to effect a fatal change in the policy of England
Expressing apprehensions for their own safety, they complained against the American Press
, especially against the seeming moderation, parade of learning, and most mischievous tendency of the Farmer
's Letters; against New England
Town Meetings, ‘in which,’ they said, ‘the lowest mechanics discussed the most important points of government with the utmost freedom;’ against Rhode Island
, as if it had even proposed to stop the Revenue money; against Massachusetts
, for having invited every Province to discountenance the consumption of British manufactures.
‘We have every reason,’ they added, ‘to expect that we shall find it impracticable to enforce the execution of the Revenue Laws
, until the hand of Government is properly
At present there is not a ship
of war in the Province, nor a company of soldiers, nearer than New-York
The alternative was thus presented to the Ministry and the King
On the one side Massachusetts
asked relief from taxation without representation, and invited the several Colonies to unite in the petition; the Crown officers, on the other, sent their memorial for a fleet and regiments.
But what could an armed force find to do?
The system of opposition was passive.
left no doubt of its purpose not to arrest the execution of any law; and, on the twenty-sixth of February, by a vote of eighty-one to the one vote of Timothy Ruggles
, discouraged the use of superfluities, and gave a preference to American manufactures in Resolves,2
which, said Bernard
, ‘were so decently and cautiously worded, that at another time they would scarcely have given offence.’3
Could an army compel a colonist to buy a new coat instead of continuing to wear an old one?
or force the consumption of tea?
or compel any one to purchase what he was resolved to do without?
Every one in England
, North, even Hillsborough
, professed to disapprove of Townshend
's Revenue Act. Why will they not quiet America by its revocation?
Sending regiments into Boston
will be a summons for America
to make the last appeal.
and his friends4
insisted on declaring
meetings and associations like those of Boston
illegal and punishable; and advised some immediate chastisement.
‘I wish,’ said he, ‘every American in the world could hear me. I gave the Americans
bounties on their whale fishery, thinking they would obey the Acts of Parliament;’ and he now spoke for a prohibition of their fisheries.5
Some of the Ministry went far beyond him, and were ready to proceed against Massachusetts
with immediate and extreme severity.6
was mentioned, nothing could be heard but the bitterest invectives of its enemies.
That it must submit, no one questioned.
While Hillsborough was writing7
encomiums on Bernard
, praising his own ‘justice and lenity,’ and lauding the King
as the tender and affectionate father of all his subjects, the superior discernment of Choiseul
was aware of the importance of the rising controversy; and that he might unbosom his thoughts with freedom, he appointed to the place of ambassador in England
his own most confidential friend, the Count du Chatelet
son of the celebrated woman with whom Voltaire
had been intimately connected.
The new diplomatist was a person of quick perceptions, daring courage as a statesman, and perfect knowledge of the world; and he was, also, deeply imbued with the liberal principles of the French
philosophy of his age.
The difficulty respecting taxation was heightened
by personal contentions, which exasperated members of the Legislature of Massachusetts.
discovered that their leaving the Crown officers out of the Council had been misrepresented by Bernard
to Shelburne; and in the most temperate language they wisely suggested the recall of the Governor
of whose accusatory letters they requested copies.11
‘It is not in the power of these people to move my temper,’ wrote Bernard
The indignation of Otis
rose almost to a frenzy; a paper in the Boston Gazette
, bearing the marks of his excited mind,13
exposed ‘the obstinate malice, diabolical thirst for mischief, effrontery, guileful treachery, and wickedness’ of Bernard
The Governor called on the House
to order a prosecution of the printers.
Liberty of the Press,’ they answered,14
‘is the great bulwark of freedom.’
On occasion of proroguing the Legislature, Bernard15
chid in public its leading Members.
‘There are men,’ said he, ‘to whose importance everlasting contention is necessary.
Time will soon pull the masks off those false patriots, who are sacrificing their country to the gratification of
their own passions.
I shall defend this injured coun-
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
try from the evils which threaten it, arising from the machinations of a few, very few, discontented men.’
‘The flagitious libel,’16
he wrote home, ‘blasphemes Kingly government itself.’
But it was only a coarse sketch of his own bad qualities.
‘I told the Grand Jury
,’ said Hutchinson
, ‘almost in plain words, that they might depend on being damned,17
if they did not find against the paper, as containing High Treason.’
The Jury refused.
‘Oaths and the laws have lost their force,’18
; while the people were overjoyed,19
and ‘the honest and independent Grand Jurors’ became the favorite toast of the Sons of Liberty.
On the day on which the General Court was prorogued, merchants of Boston
came together, began a subscription to renounce commerce with England
, and invited the merchants of the whole Continent to give the world the spectacle of a universal passive resistance.
, who was astonished at the prosperity of the Colonies and the immense number of merchant vessels in all the waters from the Chesapeake20
, thought for a moment, that if the Provinces could jointly discuss their interests by deputies, an independent State would soon be formed.
The people were brave; and their militia not inferior to regular troops.
And yet after studying the spirit of
he was persuaded that all classes sin-
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
cerely loved their mother country, and, as he believed, would never accept foreign aid. Besides so convinced were they of the justice of their demands and their own importance, they would not hold it possible that they should be driven to the last appeal.
‘It is my fixed opinion,’ said he, ‘that the firebrands will be worsted, and that the Colonies will, in the end, obtain all the satisfaction which they demand.
Sooner or later the government must recognise its being in the wrong.’
The Crown officers in Boston
were resolved that instead of concessions, America should suffer new wrongs.
‘The annual election of Councillors,’ wrote Bernard
‘is the canker worm of the constitution of this government, whose weight cannot be put in the scale against that of the people.’
‘To keep the balance even,’ argued Hutchinson
, ‘there is need of aid from the other side of the water.’23
How to induce the British Government
to change the Charter
, and send over troops was the constant theme of discussion; and it was concerted that the eighteenth of March, the anniversary of the Repeal of the Stamp Act, should be made to further the design.
Reports were industriously spread of an intended insurrection on that day; of danger to the Commissioners
of the Customs.
The Sons of Liberty, on their part, were anxious to preserve order.
At day-break the effigy of Paxton
and that of another revenue officer, were found hanging
on Liberty Tree
; they were instantly taken
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
down by the friends of the people.
The Governor endeavored to magnify ‘the atrociousness of the insult,’ and to express fears of violence; the Council justly insisted there was no danger of disturbance.
The day was celebrated24
by a temperate festival, at which toasts were drunk to the Freedom of the Press, to Paoli
and the Corsicans, to the joint freedom of America
; to the immortal memory of Brutus
Those who dined together broke up early.
There was no bonfire lighted, and ‘in the evening,’ these are Hutchinson
words, written within the week of the event, ‘we had only such a mob as we have long been used to on the Fifth of November, and other holidays.’
too, who afterwards made careful inquiry in Boston
, declared the disturbance to have been ‘trifling.’
reported a ‘great disposition to the utmost disorder; hundreds parading the streets with yells and outcries that were quite terrible.’
As the mob passed his house, ‘there was so terrible a yell that it was apprehended they were breaking in. It was not so; however, it caused the same terror as if it had been so.’—‘The whole made it a very terrible night to those who thought themselves objects of the popular fury.’
And this was said of a mere usual gathering of men, women, and children at a time of rejoicing, when no harm was done or intended.
‘I can afford no protection
to the Commissioners
,’ he continues.
‘I have not
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
the shadow of authority or power.
I am obnoxious to the madness of the people, yet left exposed to their resentment without any possible resort of protection, I am then asked why I do not apply for troops, as well to support the King
's Government as to protect the persons of his officers.
I answer, His Majesty's Ministers have within these three years been fully acquainted with the defenceless state of this Government, and therefore I leave it entirely to the Administration to determine upon a measure which they are much more able to judge of, and be answerable for, than I can be. I shall have danger and trouble enough when such orders arrive, though I keep ever so clear of advising or promoting them.
Those who have the command of the mob can restrain them, and of course let them loose.’27
‘Your Lordship may depend upon it, that nothing less than the abolition of all the Acts imposing duties is proposed.
When that is done, the transition to all other acts of Parliament will be very short and easy.’28
Such were Bernard
's importunities for troops, while he was giving the strongest assurances that he had not written any thing to get them sent; and he used to protest he wished the people of the Province could have a sight of all his letters to the Ministry, that they might become convinced of his friendship.29
At the same time he was constantly entreating the Secretary
to conceal his correspondence.
To ensure the arrival of an armed force, the Com
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
missioners of the Customs applied directly to the Naval Commander
and also sent a second memorial to the Lords
of the Treasury.
They said that a design had certainly been formed to bring them on the eighteenth of March to Liberty Tree
, and oblige them to renounce their commissions.
‘The Governor and magistracy,’ they add, ‘have not the least authority or power in this place.
The mob are ready to be assembled on any occasion.
Every officer who exerts himself in the execution of his duty will be exposed to their resentment.
If the answer from Government to the remonstrances of the Lower House
of Assembly should not be agreeable to the people, we are fully persuaded, that they will proceed to violent measures.
In the mean time we must depend on the favor of the mob for our protection.
We cannot answer for our security for a day, much less will it be in our power to carry the Revenue Laws
These letters went from Boston
to the Ministry in March.
The tales of riots were scandalously false.
The people were opposed to the revenue system of the British Parliament; and they hoped for redress; if the Ministry should refuse it, they on their part were resolved to avoid every act of violence, to escape paying the taxes by never buying the goods on which they were imposed, and to induce their repeal by ceasing to consume
had on her
side the general affection of the people, the certainty that the country could not as yet manufacture for itself, and consequently the certainty that the schemes of non-importation would fail.
If she refuses to take back the last Revenue Act, there is danger that she will substitute a frank and upright man for Bernard
, whose petulance, duplicity, and corruption are now exposed, and patiently await the time when the wants of the colonists will weary them of their self-denial, and lead them to abandon it of themselves.
But the administration of public affairs had degenerated into a system of patronage, which had money for its object; and was supported by the King
from the love of authority.
The Government of England
had more and more ceased to represent the noble spirit of England
The Twelfth Parliament, which had taxed America and was now near its dissolution, has never been rivalled in its bold profligacy.
Its predecessors had been corrupt.
The men of Bolingbroke's time took bribes more openly than those of Walpole
; those of Walpole
than those of the Pelhams; and those of the Pelhams, than those since the accession of George the Third; so that direct gifts of money were grown less frequent, as public opinion increased in power.
But there never was a Parliament so shameless in its corruption as this Twelfth Parliament which virtually severed America from England
It had its votes ready for any body that was Minister, and for any measure that the Minister
of the day might propose.
It gave an almost unanimous support to Pitt
, when, for the last time in seventy years, the foreign politics of England
were on the
side of liberty.
It had a majority for Newcastle
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
he had ejected Pitt
; for Bute
when he dismissed Newcastle
; for Grenville
so long as he was the friend of Bute
; for Grenville
, when he became Bute
's most implacable foe; and for the slender capacity of the inexperienced Rockingham
The shadow of Chatham
, after his desertion of the House
, could sway its decisions.
When Charles Townshend
, rebelling in the Cabinet
, seemed likely to become Minister, it listened to him. When Townshend
died, North easily restored subordination.
Nor was it less impudent as to measures.
It promoted the alliance with the King
and deserted him; it protected the issue of general warrants, and utterly condemned them; it passed the Stamp Act, and it repealed the Stamp Act; it began to treat America
with tenderness, then veered about, imposed new taxes, changed essentially American Constitutions, and showed a readiness to suspend and abolish the freedom of the American Legislative
It was corrupt, and it knew itself to be corrupt, and made a jest of its own corruption.
While it lasted, it was ready to bestow its favors on any Minister or party; and when it was gone, and had no more chances at prostitution, men wrote its epitaph as of the most scandalously abandoned body that England
had ever known.32
Up to this time the Colonists had looked to Parliament as the bulwark of their liberties; henceforward they knew it to be their most dangerous enemy.
They avowed that they would not pay
taxes which it assumed to impose.33
Some still al-
lowed it a right to restrain colonial trade; but the, advanced opinion among the patriots was, that each provincial Legislature must be perfectly free; that laws were not valid unless sanctioned by the consent of America
Without disputing what the past had established, they were resolved to oppose any Minister that should attempt to ‘innovate’ a single iota in their privileges.
‘Almighty God himself,’ wrote Dickinson
‘will look down upon your righteous contest with approbation.
You will be a band of brothers, strengthened with inconceivable supplies of force and constancy by that sympathetic ardor which animates good men, confederated in a good cause.
You are assigned by Divine Providence, in the appointed order of things, the protector of unborn ages, whose fate depends upon your virtue.’
The people of Boston
responded to this appeal.
In a solemn Meeting,35 Malcom
moved their thanks to the ingenious author of the Farmer
's Letters; and Hancock
, Samuel Adams
, and Warren
, were of the committee to greet him in the name of the Town
as ‘the Friend of Americans
, and the benefactor of mankind.’
‘They may with equal reason make one step more;’ wrote Hutchinson
to the Duke
; ‘they may deny the regal as well as the parliamentary authority, although no man as yet has that in his thoughts.’
, having made his inqui-
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
ries into the resources of America
, was persuaded that even if the detailed statements before him were one half too large, England
could not reduce her Colonies should they raise the standard of rebellion.
‘Their population is so great,’ said he to Choiseul
, ‘that a breath would scatter the troops sent to enforce obedience.
The ever existing attractions of an entire independence and of a free commerce, cannot fail to keep their minds continually in a state of disgust at the national subjection.
The English Government may take some false step, which will in a single day set all these springs in activity.
A great number of chances can hasten the revolution which all the world foresees without daring to assign its epoch.
I please myself with the thought that it is not so far off as some imagine, and that we should spare neither pains nor expense to co-operate with it. We must also nourish his Catholic Majesty's disposition to avenge his wrongs.
The ties that bind America to England
are three fourths broken.
It must soon throw off the yoke.
To make themselves independent, the inhabitants want nothing but arms, courage, and a chief.
If they had among them a genius equal to Cromwell
, this republic would be more easy to establish than the one of which that usurper was the head.
this man exists; perhaps nothing is wanting but happy circumstances to place him upon a great theatre.’
At Mount Vernon
conversation turned at this
time on the dangers that overhung the country.
‘Whenever my country calls upon me,’ said Washington
, ‘I am ready to take my musket on my shoulder.’
cried one of the famed New-York
‘Triumvirate’ of Presbyterian lawyers, William Livingston
as I believe; ‘Courage, Americans
: liberty, religion and sciences, are on the wing to these shores.
The finger of God points out a mighty empire to your sons.
The savages of the wilderness were never expelled to make room for idolaters and slaves.
The land we possess is the gift of Heaven to our Fathers, and Divine Providence seems to have decreed it to our latest posterity.
So legible is this munificent and celestial deed in past events, that we need not be discouraged by the bickerings between us and our parent country.
The angry cloud will soon be dispersed, and America
advance to felicity and glory, with redoubled rapidity and vigor.
The day dawns, in which the foundation of this mighty empire is to be laid, by the establishment of a regular American Constitution.
All that has hitherto been done seems to be little beside
the collection of materials for this glorious fabric.
Chap. XXXII.} 1768.
'Tis time to put them together.
The transfer of the European
part of the family is so vast, and our growth so swift, that, before seven years Roll over our heads, the first stone must be laid.’