Founds the American union.
the essays of Freeman
had appeared, and the sum-
mons for the Congress
had gone forth from Massachusetts
, when the resolves of Virginia
were published to the world.
‘They have spoken treason,’ said the royalists.
‘Is it treason,’ retorted others, ‘for the deputies of the people to assert their rights, or to give them away?’
‘Oh! those Virginians
,’ cried Oxenbridge Thacher
, from his deathbed, where, overplied by public exertions, he was wasting away with a hectic, ‘those Virginians
are men; they are noble spirits.
I long to be out—to speak in court against tyranny, words that shall be read after my death.’
‘Why,’ said one of his friends, ‘are not our rights and liberties as boldly asserted by every government in America
as by Virginia
?’ * * * ‘Behold,’ cried another, ‘a whole continent awakened, alarmed, restless, and disaffected.’1
Every where, from North to South—through the press, in letters, or as they met
in private, for counsel, or in groups in the street, the
‘Sons of Liberty’ told their griefs to one another, and planned retaliation or redress.
‘No good reason can be given,’ observed the more calm among them, ‘why the colonies should not modestly and soberly inquire, what right the parliament of Great Britain has to tax them.’
‘We were not sent out to be slaves,’ they continued, citing the example of ancient Greece
, and the words of Thucydides
; ‘we are the equals of those who remained behind.
hold equal rights with those in Britain, not as conceded privileges, but as inherent and indefeasible rights.’
‘We have the rights of Englishmen,’ was the common voice, ‘and as such we are to be ruled by laws of our own making, and tried by men of our own condition.’2
‘If we are Englishmen,’ said one, ‘on what footing is our property?’
‘The great Mr. Locke
,’ said another, ‘lays it down that no man has a right to that which another may take from him.’
And a third, proud of his respect for the law, sheltered himself under the words of the far-famed Coke
: ‘The Lord
may tax his villain, high or low, but it is against the franchises of the land for freemen to be taxed but by their own consent in parliament.’
‘If the people in America
are to be taxed by the representatives of the people in England
, their malady,’ said Hopkins
, of Rhode Island
, ‘is an increasing evil, that must always grow greater by time.’
‘When the parliament once begins,’ such was the discourse at Boston
, ‘there is no drawing a line.’
‘And it is only the first step,’ repeated the New-York
owners of large
estates; ‘a land tax for all America
will be thought
‘It is plain,’ said even the calmest, ‘Englishmen do not regard Americans
as members of the same family, brothers, and equals, but as subordinates, bound to submit to oppression at their pleasure.’
bill was even prepared,’ thus men warned each other against new dangers, ‘that authorized quartering British soldiers upon American private families.’
‘And is not our property seized,’ they further exclaimed, ‘by men who cry, “give, give,” and never say, “enough,” and thrown into a prerogative court to be forfeited without a jury?’4
‘There is not silver enough in the colonies to pay for the stamps,’ computed patriot financiers, ‘and the trade by which we could get more is prohibited.’
‘And yet,’ declared the eager merchants of New-York
, ‘we have a natural right to every freedom of trade of the English
‘To tax us, and bind our commerce and restrain manufactures,’ reasoned even the most patient, ‘is to bid us make brick without straw.’
‘The northern colonies will be absolutely restricted from using any articles of clothing of their own fabric,’ predicted one colony to another.
And men laughed as they added: ‘catching a mouse within his majesty's colonies with a trap of our own making will be deemed, in the ministerial cant, an infamous, atrocious, and nefarious crime.’
‘A colonist,’ murmured a Boston man who had dipped into Grenville
's pamphlet, ‘a colonist cannot make a horse-shoe
or a hob-nail, but some ironmonger of Britain shall
bawl that he is robbed by the “ American republican.”
’ ‘Yes, they are even stupid enough,’ it was said in the town of Providence
, ‘to judge it criminal for us to become our own manufacturers.’5
‘We will eat no lamb,’ promised the multitude, seeking to retaliate; ‘we will wear no mourning at funerals.’
‘We will none of us import British goods,’ said the traders in the towns.
The inhabitants of North Carolina
set up looms for weaving their own clothes, and South Carolina
was ready to follow the example.
‘The people,’ wrote the LieutenantGover-nor Sharpe
, of Maryland
, ‘will go on upon manufactures.’
‘We will have homespun markets of linens and woollens,’ passed from mouth to mouth, till it found its way across the Atlantic
, and alarmed the king in council; ‘the ladies of the first fortune shall set the example of wearing homespun.’
‘It will be accounted a virtue in them to wear a garment of their own spinning.’
‘A little attention to manufactures will make us ample amends for the distresses of the present day, and render us a great, rich, and happy people.’6
When the churchmen of New-York
preached loyalty to the king as the Lord
's anointed, ‘The people,’ retorted William Livingston
, ‘are the Lord
Though named “mob” and “rabble,” the people are the darling of Providence
Was the Bible
quoted as demanding deference to all in authority?
it was insisted, ‘is to add dulness to impiety.’
‘tyranny,’ they cried, ‘is no government; the gospel promises liberty, glorious liberty.’
‘The gospel,’ so preached Mayhew
, of Boston
, always, ‘the gospel permits resistance.’7
And then patriots would become maddened with remembering, that ‘some high or low American had had a hand in procuring every grievance.’
,’ it was said, ‘is deceived and deluded by placemen and office-seekers.’
‘Yes,’ exclaimed the multitude; ‘it all comes of the horse-leeches.’
When ‘the friends to government’ sought to hush opposition by terror of the power of parliament and its jealousy of its own supremacy, ‘you are cowards,’ was the answer; ‘you are fools; you are parasites; or, rather, you are parricides.’8
‘Power is a sad thing,’ said the Presbyterians of Philadelphia
; ‘our mother should remember we are children and not slaves.’9
‘When all Israel
saw that the king hearkened not unto them,’ such was the response of the Calvinists of the North
, ‘the people answered the king, saying: ‘What portion have we in David?
what inheritance in the son of Jesse?
To your tents, O Israel!
Now see to thine own house, David!’’10
‘Who cares,’ said the more hardy, ‘whether George or Louis is the sovereign, if both are alike?’11
‘The beast of burden,’ continued others, ‘asks not whose pack it carries.’12
‘I would bear allegiance to King George,’ said one who called himself a lover of truth, ‘but not be a slave to his British subjects.’13
‘But the members of parliament,’ argued the
royalists, ‘are men of the highest character for wisdom, justice, and integrity, and incapable of dealing unjustly.’
‘Admitting this to be true,’ retorted Hopkins
, ‘one who is bound to obey the will of another is as really a slave, though he may have a good master, as if he had a bad one; and this is stronger in politic bodies than in natural ones.’
The plea recurred, that the British parliament virtually represented the whole British empire.
‘It is an insult on the most common understanding,’ thought James Habersham
, and every American from the banks of the Savannah
to the frontier of Maine
, ‘to talk of our being virtually represented in parliament.’
‘It is an insult on common sense to say it,’ repeated the Presbyterian
ministers of the middle states to the Calvinist ministers of New England
. ‘Are persons chosen for the representatives of London
, in like manner chosen to be the representatives of Philadelphia
Have two men chosen to represent a poor borough in England
, that has sold its votes to the highest bidder, any pretence to say that they represent Virginia
And have four hundred such fellows a right to take our liberties?’14
But it was argued again and again: ‘Manchester
, and Sheffield
, like America, return no members.’
‘Why,’ rejoined Otis
, and his answer won immediate applause in England
‘why ring everlasting changes to the colonists on them?
If they are not represented, they ought to be.’
‘Every man of a sound mind,’ he continued, ‘should have his vote.’
‘Ah, but,’ replied the royalists, holding
to his repeated concessions, ‘you own that par-
liament is the supreme legislature; will you question its jurisdiction?’
And his answer was on the lips of all patriots, learned and unlearned: ‘Lord Coke June
declares, that it is against Magna Charta
and against the franchises of the land, for freemen to be taxed but by their own consent; Lord Coke rules, that an act of parliament against common law is void.’16
Thus opinion was echoed from mind to mind, as the sun's rays beam from many clouds, all differing in tints, but every hue an emanation from the same fires.
In the midst of the gloom, light broke from the excitement of a whole people.
Associations were formed in Virginia
, as well as in New England
, to resist the Stamp Act by all lawful means.
Hope began to rise, that American rights and liberties might safely be trusted ‘to the watchfulness of a united continent.’
The insolence of the royal officers provoked to insulated acts of resistance The people of Rhode Island
, angry with the commander of a ship of war, who had boarded their vessels and impressed their seamen, seized his boat, and burned it on Newport17
Men of New England
, ‘of a superior sort,’ had obtained of the government of New Hampshire
a warrant for land down the western slope of the Green Mountains
, on a branch of the Hoosic, twenty miles east of the Hudson river
; formed already a community of sixty-seven families, in as many houses, with an ordained minister; had elected their own municipal officers; founded three several public schools; set their meeting-house among the primeval forests
of beech and maple; and, in a word, enjoyed the
flourishing state which springs from rural industry, intelligence, and unaffected piety.
They called their village Bennington
The royal officers at New-York
, disposed anew of that town, as well as of others near it, so that the king was known to the settlers near the Green Mountains
, chiefly by his agents, who had knowingly sold his lands twice over.18
In this way, the soil of Bennington
became a fit battle-ground for independence.
Events like these sowed the seeds of discontent; but still there was no present relief for America
, unless union could be perfected.
Union was the hope of Otis
—union that ‘should knit and work into the very blood and bones of the original system every region, as fast as settled.’
Yet how comprehensive and how daring the idea!
The traditions of the Board of Trade branded it as ‘mutinous.’19 Massachusetts
had proceeded cautiously and almost timidly, naming for its delegates to the proposed Congress, with the patriot Otis
, two others who were ‘friends to government.’20
was ready to convince the world that her people were firm and unanimous in the cause of liberty,21
but its newly-elected assembly was not suffered by Fauquier
to come together.
received the circular letter of Massachusetts
on the twentieth of June, the last day of the session of its legislature.
The Speaker, a friend to the British
government, at first inclined to urge sending delegates to the proposed Congress; but, on
some ‘advice’ from the governor, changed his mind,
and the house, in the hurry preceding the adjournment, rather from uncertainty than the want of goodwill, unanimously declined the invitation.
The Assembly of New Hampshire
seemed to approve but did not adopt it.
The great measure was in peril; and its failure
would make of American resistance a mockery.
‘Nothing will be done in consequence of this intended Congress,’ wrote Bernard
, in July; and he seized the opportunity to press ‘more and more’ upon the government at home ‘the necessity of taking into their hands the appointment of the American
civil list,’ as well as changing the council of the province.
Even the liberal Governor of Maryland
reported ‘that the resentment of the colonists would probably die out; and that, in spite of the violent outcries of the lawyers, the Stamp Act would be carried into execution.’
But far away towards the lands of the sun, the Assembly of South Carolina was in session; and on the twenty-fifth day of July, the circular from Massachusetts
Many objections were made to the legality, the expediency, and most of all to the efficiency of the proposed measure; and many eloquent words were uttered, especially by the youthful John Rutledge
, when the subject, on the deliberate resolve of a small majority, was referred to a committee, of which Gadsden
was the chairman.
He was a man of deep and clear convictions; thoroughly sincere; of an unbending will, and a sturdy, impetuous integrity, which drove those about him, like a mountain torrent dashing resistlessly on an over-shot
wheel, though sometimes clogging with back water
from its own violence.
He possessed not only that courage which defies danger, but that persistence which neither peril, nor imprisonment, nor the threat of death can shake.
Full of religious faith, and at the same time inquisitive and tolerant, methodical, yet lavish of his fortune for public ends, he had in his nature nothing vacillating or low, and knew not how to hesitate or feign.
After two legislatures had held back, South Carolina
, by ‘his achievement,’ pronounced for union.
‘Our state,’ he used to say, ‘particularly attentive to the interest and feelings of America, was the first, though at the extreme end, and one of the weakest, as well internally as externally, to listen to the call of our northern brethren in their distresses.
sounded the trumpet, but to Carolina is it owing that it was attended to. Had it not been for South Carolina
, no Congress would then have happened.’
As the united American people spread through the vast expanse over which their jurisdiction now extends, be it remembered that the blessing of union is due to the warm-heartedness of South Carolina
. ‘She was all alive, and felt at every pore.’
And when we count up those who, above others, contributed to the great result, we are to name the inspired ‘madman,’ James Otis
; and the magnanimous, unwavering lover of his country, Christopher Gadsden.
now seemed to himself to hear the prophetic song of the ‘Sibyls,’ chanting the spring-time of a ‘new empire.’