A way to take off the Incendiaries.—Hillsborough's Ad-Ministration of the Colonies continued.
December, 1768—February, 1769.
the opinion of Parliament was hardly pro-
nounced, when Du Chatelet
again pressed America
on the attention of Choiseul
‘Without exaggerating the projects or the union of the Colonies,’ said he,
the time of their independence is very near.
Their prudent men believe the moment not yet come; but if the English government undertakes vigorous measures, who can tell how far the fanaticism for liberty may carry an immense people, dwelling for the most part in the interior of a continent, remote from imminent danger?
And if the metropolis should persevere, can the union, which is now their strength, be maintained without succor from abroad?
Even if the rupture should be premature, can France and Spain neglect to profit by the opportunity which they may never find again?
Three years ago the separation of the English Colonies was looked upon as an object of attention for the next generation; the germs were observed, but no one could foresee that they would be so speedily developed.
This new order of things, this
event which will necessarily have the greatest influ- ence on the whole political system of Europe, will probably be brought about within a very few years.
‘Your views,’ replied Choiseul
, “are as subtle as they are comprehensive and well considered.
is perfectly aware of their sagacity and solidity; and I will communicate them to the Court of Madrid.”
The statesmen of France
had their best allies in the British Ministry
, who hoped to control America by menace and terror.
‘The matter is now brought to a point;’ said Hillsborough in the House of Lords.2
‘Parliament must give up its authority over the Colonies, or bring them to effectual submission.
Your Lordships will see it absolutely necessary not to recede an ace; for my part, I cannot entertain a thought of repealing the late Acts, and hope nobody will even move it, or so much as wish for it. Not the amount of the duties, which will not be more than ten thousand pounds per annum in all North America
, but the principle upon which the laws are founded, is complained of. Legislation and taxation will stand or fall together.
The notion of the Americans
is a polytheism in politics, absurd, fatal to the constitution, and never to be admitted.
The North Americans
, in general, are a very good set of people, and only misled by a few wicked, factious and designing men. I will, therefore, for the present only propose
several Resolutions which may show the sense
of the Legislature.
If this is not sufficient, the hand of power must be lifted up, and the whole force of this country exerted to bring the Colonies into subjection.’
The Resolutions condemned the Assembly of Massachusetts, its Council, and still more its Convention; approved of sending a military force to Boston
; and foreshadowed the abrogation of the municipal liberties of that town, and the intended change in the Charter
of the Province.
was seconded by Bedford
, who also moved an Address to the King
to bring to ‘condign punishment the chief authors and instigators of the late disorders;’ and if sufficient ground should be seen, to put them on trial for ‘treason’ before a special Commission in England
, ‘pursuant to the provisions of the statute of the Thirty-fifth year of King Henry the Eighth.’
The Resolutions and Address were readily adopted, with no opposition except from Richmond
The policy of the Administration deceived neither France
‘Under the semblance of vigor,’ said Choiseul
,‘it covers pusillanimity and fear.
If those who are threatened with a trial for High Treason, are not alarmed, the terror and discouragement will affect nobody but the British Ministers
And after all, the main question of taxing the Colonies is as far from a solution as ever.’4
the attempt was made to spread terror by threats of seizing the popular leaders.
‘They expect a voyage to England
against their inclination;’
who had the chief command of
the ships in the harbor.
But Samuel Adams
, whom it was especially desired to ‘take off’ for treason, ‘unawed by the menaces of arbitrary power,’6
pursued his system without fear or faltering.
‘I must,’ said he,7
‘tell the men, who on both sides of the Atlantic
with rebellion, that military power will never prevail on an American to surrender his liberty;’ and through the press he taught the public that a standing army,8
kept up in the Colonies in time of peace without their consent, was as flagrant a violation of the Constitution
as the laying a tax on paper, glass, painters' colors and tea. To effect the removal of the troops from Boston
was his unremitting care.
In the mean time he sought in the common law the means to curb their insolence; and called upon the magistrates of Boston
to govern, restrain, and punish ‘soldiers of all ranks,’ according to the laws of the land.9
The Justices of the Peace for Suffolk
at their Quarter Sessions
, and the Grand Jury
, over which the Crown had no control, never failed to find indictments against soldiers and officers, for their frequent transgressions;10
and if they escaped the penalties of conviction, it was through the favoritism of a higher Court.
Every where the British
claims of power were denied.
approved the conduct and correspondence of Massachusetts
completed the expression of American opinion, by
unanimously asserting its legislative rights12
and appointing an intercolonial committee of correspondence.14
The New Year brought a dissolution15
of its Assembly; and in the new elections, the Government
party employed every art to create confusion.
It excused the violence of recent disputes; concealing the ex tremes of difference between the British Parliament and the American
It sought to gratify the cravings of every interest.
It evaded conflicts with the merchants, and connived at importations from Saint Eustatia and Holland
The family of the Delanceys, which had long seemingly led the Opposition in the Province, was secretly won over to the side of authority.
One of the Livingstons could no longer sit in the Assembly, for a law made the office of Judge and Representative incompatible; another who was to be returned from the Manor, was held to be ineligible because he resided in the city.
The men of business desired an increase of the paper currency, and the Government
gave support to the measure.
The tenantry wished to vote not by word of mouth on the nomination of their landlords, but as in New England
, and the royalists professed to favor the introduction of the ballot.
Above all; in New-York
the old cry of ‘No Presbyterian,’ gave place to that of ‘No Lawyer.’16
Add to this, that all parties still hoped
for an escape from strife by some Plan of Union;
, who was much connected with New-York
, was believed to be well disposed; that the population was not homogeneous in religion, language, customs, or origin; that the Government
and the churchmen acted together; that the city was a corporation in which the mayor was appointed by the king; and the reasons appear why at the hotly17
contested election, which was the last ever held in New-York
under the Crown, the coalition gained success over John Morin Scott
and the ardent Sons of Liberty.
In Massachusetts Bernard
kept up the ferment.
He knew it to be a part of Lord Hillsborough's19
system that there never should be another election of Councillors, and he20
also, most secretly22
furnished lists of persons whose appointment they advised.
They both importuned the Ministry to remove Temple
who would not conceal his opinion,24
that the affections of the colonists were wasting away from the mother country, from the incapacity and ‘avarice’25
of his associates.
The wily Hutchinson
opposed with all his influence the repeal of the
recommended to remove the main
objection to Parliamentary authority, by the offer to the colonists of such ‘a plan of representation’ in the British Parliament, as he knew they must reject;27
informed against the free constitutions of Massachusetts
and Rhode Island
as tending to produce another Congress;28
and advised and solicited and importunately demanded such an extension of the laws of Treason as would have rendered every considerable man in Boston
liable to its penalties.
In letters to a member of that Parliament,29
whose authority he wished it made treasonable to deny,—written for public purposes,30
and communicated to Grenville31
himself, to Temple
and to others,—he declared that ‘measures which he could not think of without pain were necessary for the peace and good of the Colony.’
‘There must be,’ said he, ‘an abridgment of what are called English Liberties.’33
He avowed his desire to see some further restraint, lest otherwise the connection with Great Britain
should be broken; and he consoled himself for his advice, by declaring it impossible for so distant a Colony to ‘enjoy all the liberty
of the Parent State
He had put many sugges-
tions on paper, but behind all he had further ‘thoughts, which he dared not trust to pen and ink.’34
‘Poison will continue to be instilled into the minds of the people,’ wrote Hutchinson
's brotherin-law, Oliver
‘if there be no way found to take off the original incendiaries.’
The Bedford Address for shipping American traitors to England
having come to hand, a way was open for ‘talking them off;’ and Bernard
, the three relentness enemies to Colonial freedom, with the Attorney-General
, were very busy36
in getting evidence especially against Samuel Adams
; and affidavits, sworn to before Hutchinson
were sent to England
, to prove him fit to be transported under the Act of Henry the Eighth.
Nor was he alone to be called to account; but Edes
, also, ‘the trumpeters of sedition,’ and through them ‘all the chiefs of the Faction, all the authors of numberless treasonable and seditious writings.’38
‘A few individuals stigmatized,’ wrote one of Hutchinson
“would cause us to reform.”
‘I sometimes wish,’ said one of a neighboring Colony, ‘that two thirds of the gentlemen of the law, and as great a number of the printers, had been shipped to some sandy spot on the African shore for at least seven years.’40
, eager to find ‘proceedings41
amounting to treason,’ was taking depositions, so that ‘the principal ac ors might be called to account,’ those whom he sought to arraign as traitors were aware of his designs, publicly42
reproached him for his baseness in performing ‘the office of an informer’ while he held the post of Chief Justice
, and avowed their opinions more boldly than ever.
‘Parliament will offer you a share in the representative body,’ said the royalists; and the suggestion was always indignantly spurned, since a true representation was impossible.43
may be deprived of its trade,’ thus they foreshadowed the policy adopted five years later.
it was asked.
‘Will the decline of British credit be remedied by turning our sea-ports into villages?’
has been spoken of with great respect;’ reported the official journal.
‘And so has Otis
,’ rejoined the Boston Gazette
; ‘and has been compared to the Pyms, the Hampdens, the Shippens of Britain.’
has had some very uncommon difficulties to contend with,’ said royalists in his excuse.
and his compatriots,’ retorted Samuel Adams
, ‘have doubtless had none!
no toils, no self-denials, no threatenings, no tempting baits!
All the virtue is on one side; virtue was never known to be separated from power or profit.’44
‘We should have been ruined by this time, had not the troops arrived,’45
wrote one who was grasping at a lucrative
‘Military power,’ repeated the people, ‘is
the last resource of ignorant despotism.’
‘The opposition to government is faction;’ said the friends to Government.
‘As well,’ answered Samuel Adams
, ‘might the general uneasiness that introduced the reolution by William the Third, or that settled the succession in the House of Hanover
, be called a Faction.’
The patriot was in earnest.
Since Great Britain
persisted in enforcing her Revenue Act, he knew no remedy but American Independence.
Lord North, though he feared to strike, wished to intimidate.
He would not allow a Petition from the Council of Massachusetts46
for the Repeal of Townshend
's Act to be referred with the other American papers; nor would he receive a Petition which denied that the Act of Henry the Eighth extended to the Colonies; and on the twenty-sixth of January after a delay of many weeks, he asked the House of Commons to agree with the Resolves and Address of the House of Lords.47
‘No lawyer,’ said Dowdeswell, ‘will justify them; none but the House of Lords who think only of their dignity, could have originated them.’
‘Suppose,’ said Edmund Burke
, ‘you do call over two or three of these unfortunate men; what will become of the rest?
Let me have the heads of the principal leaders
, exclaimed the Duke
of Alva; these heads proved Hydra
Suppose a man brought over for High Treason; if his witnesses do not appear, he cannot have a fair trial.
God and nature oppose you.’
spoke against the Address,
and scoffed at the whole plan, as no more than
‘angry words,’ and ‘the wisdom fools put on.’
Lord North, in reply, assumed the responsibility of the measure; refused ‘ever to give up an iota of the authority of Great Britain
;’ and promised good results in America
from the refusal to repeal the Revenue Act
‘It is not a question of one refractory Colony,’ cried Barre
the whole country is ripe for revolt.
Let us come to the point.
Are the Americans proper objects of taxation?
I think they are not. I solemnly declare, I think they will not submit to any law imposed upon them for the purpose of revenue.
On a former occasion, the noble Lord told us, that he would listen to no proposition for repeal, until he saw America prostrate at his feet.
To effect this is not so easy as some imagine; the Americans are a numerous, a respectable, a hardy, a free people.
But were it ever so easy, does any friend to his country really wish to see America thus humbled?
In such a situation, she would serve only as a monument of your vengeance and your folly.
For my part, the America I wish to see, is America increasing and prosperous, raising her head in graceful dignity, with freedom and firmness asserting her rights at your bar, vindicating her liberties, pleading her services and conscious of her merit.
This is the America that will have spirit to fight your battles, to sustain you when hard pushed by some prevailing foe, and by her industry will be able to consume your manufactures, support your trade, and pour wealth and splendor into your towns and cities.
If we do not change our conduct towards her, America will be torn from our side.
I repeat it; unless you repeal this law, you run the risk of losing America.
His reasoning was just; his language flowing and
forcible; his voice and action animated; warmed by the nobleness of his subject, he charmed all that heard him; yet the Resolutions were adopted in committee by nearly three votes to one; and the Address was carried by a decided majority.48
This adoption of a vengeful and impracticable policy renewed the wakefulness of France
‘An attempt to seize the defenders of American Liberties,’ said its ambassador to Choiseul
would precipitate the revolution.
How great will be the indignation of the Americans, when they learn that Britain, without receiving their representations, without hearing their agents, treats them as slaves, and condemns them as rebels.
They never will recognise the right claimed by Parliament; even if they bear with it, their hearts will breathe nothing but independence, and will own no other country than the wilderness which their industry has fertilized.
Henceforward, the Colonies are divided from the Metropolis in interests and in principles; and the bonds of their dependence will be severed on the first opportunity.
Spain and France should adopt towards them general principles, entirely different from those which have been practised till now; and, even at the risk of transient inconveniences, should depart from the ancient prohibitory laws of commerce.
The two courts must consider whether it is for their interest to second the revolution which menaces England, at the risk of the consequences which may a little later result from it for
the totality of the New World; and whether the weakening of a common enemy can compensate the risk of such an example to their own Colonies.
If this question is answered in the affirmative, no precautions must be omitted, to profit by the favorable circumstances, which imprudence alone could have created, and which human wisdom could hardly have foreseen.
The inflammatory remedies applied by the Parliament of England, the spirit of revolt, and still more the spirit of contempt shown by a factious people for a vacillating and humiliated Administration, the disunion and indecision which reign in the British cabinet, the acknowledged weakness and instability of the principles of the King's government, all presage coming calamities to England; the only man whose genius might still be feared, is removed from affairs, and enfeebled by gout; and his state of mind is a problem.
The others whom birth, credit, wealth or eloquence, may destine to high places, are known to us, and not one of them appears likely to become a formidable enemy.
This letter from Du Chatelet
inspired neither by the Courtiers, nor the Parliaments, nor the Aristocracy, nor even by the Burgesses of France
; it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, the ripened wisdom of the ages from Descartes
, uttering its oracles and its counsels in the palaces of absolute monarchs.
It excited the most attentive curiosity of Louis the Fifteenth and of every one of his council.
An extract of it
was sent to Madrid
, to ascertain the sentiments and
intentions of the Catholic King
; the Minister
of the marine and the Minister
of finance were directed to consult the Chambers of Commerce of the Kingdom; while Choiseul
, aware of the novelty of a system founded on the principle of a free trade, looked about him on every side for prevailing arguments and motives against hereditary prepossessions.49
While the proposals were under consideration, the state of America
was again the theme of conversation in the House of Commons;50
where once more on the eighth of February, strenuous efforts were made to prove the illegality and cruelty of fetching Americans
across the Atlantic
‘They may save themselves,’ said Rose Fuller
, ‘by going still further, and bringing the question to the point of arms.’—‘You have no right to tax the Colonies,’ repeated Beckford
; ‘the system has not produced a single shilling to the exchequer; the money is all eaten up by the officers who collect it.’—‘Your measures,’ cried Phipps
after an admirable statement, ‘are more calculated to raise than to quell a rebellion.
It is our duty to stand between the victim and the altar.’—‘The statute of the thirty-fifth year of Henry the Eighth,’ observed Frederic Montagu
, ‘was passed in the worst times of the worst reign, when the taste of blood had inflamed the savage disposition of Henry.’
‘The Act,’ declared Sir William Meredith
, ‘does not extend to America
; and were I an American I
would not submit to it.’
On the other side little was
urged, except that concession would endanger the Act of Navigation; and the British Parliament after long deliberation, by a great majority, refusing to consider the redress of American grievances, requested the King
to make inquisition at Boston
for Treason, and to bring over the accused for trial before a Special Commission, away from their country, their relations, friends, and witnesses.
It was hoped to make Boston
tremble, and terrify the zealous Americans
with the apprehension of being arraigned in Westminster Hall and hanged at Tyburn.
The press also gave to the world an elaborate reply51
to the Farmer
's Letters, for which the Board of Trade furnished the materials,52
himself wrote the constitutional argument.53
‘I am tempted,’ confessed Knox
, the champion of the Ministry, ‘to deny that there is any such thing as Representation at all in the British Constitution; until this notion of Representation is overthrown, it will be very difficult to convince, either the Colonies or the people of England
, that wrong is not done the Colonies.’54
The question of British and of American Liberty was identical.
The zeal against America
was ready to sacrifice the principle of Representative Government in England
; where the love of order began to find apologists for ‘absolute Government.’55
was enforcing its restrictive corn-
mercial system with the most jealous vigilance,56 Du Chatelet
continued his intercession with Choiseul
, to employ Free Trade as the great liberator of Colonies.
‘The question,’ he pleaded,
cannot be submitted to the decision of the Chambers of Commerce.
We know their principles.
They regard every thing in colonial commerce which does not turn exclusively to the benefit of the Kingdom, as contrary to the end for which Colonies were established, and as a theft from the State.
To practise on these maxims is impossible.
The wants of trade are stronger than the laws of trade.
The North of America can alone furnish supplies to its South.
This is the only point of view under which the cession of Canada can be regarded as a loss for France; but that cession will one day be amply compensated for, if it shall cause the rebellion and independence of the English Colonies, which become every day more probable and more near.
At the same time the Parisian world was alive with enthusiasm for the Americans
, and with admiration for their illustrious advocates.57
had been the parent of the protective system, and remained the steadfast supporter of that restrictive policy, by which, in the midst of every resource of wealth, she had been impoverished.
From the first proposal of throwing colonial commerce open, she feared the contraband exportation of gold
‘Besides;’ thus Grimaldi
Spanish Minister, gave his definitive answer; ‘the
position and strength of the countries occupied by the Americans
, excite a just alarm for the rich Spanish possessions on their borders.
They have already introduced their grain and rice into our Colonies by a commerce of interlopers.
If this introduction should be legalized and extended to other objects of commerce, it would effectually increase the power and prosperity of a neighbor, already too formidable.
Moreover; it is probable, that if this neighbor should separate from its metropolis, it would assume the republican form of Government; and a republic is a government dangerous from the wisdom, the consistency, and the solidity of the measures which it would adopt for executing such projects of conquests as it would naturally form.’58
The opinion of Spain
was deliberately pronounced and sternly adhered to. She divided the continent of North America
, and loved to see ‘her enemy’ embarrassed by war with its Colonies; but while she feared England
much, she at that early day feared America more; she preferred as a neighbor a dependent Colony to an independent Republic; and Spain
was later than Great Britain
itself to confess our national existence.