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Chapter 44:

The non-importation agreements fail.—Hillsborough's Administration of the Colonies continued.

March—July, 1770.

at the cry of innocent blood shed by the sol-
Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
diery, the continent heaved like a troubled ocean.1 But in Boston itself, the removal of the troops to the barracks at Castle William, however offensive to the pride of the army, smoothed the way for conciliation. The Town was resolved on bringing the party who had fired to trial, that the supremacy of the civil authority might be vindicated; at the same time, it wished that every opportunity of defence should be furnished the prisoners; and with the very general approbation of the people,2 and at the urgent3 solicitations of Samuel Adams and his associates, John Adams and the younger Quincy consented to be retained as their Counsel.

It was for England to remove the cause of the [351] strife. In the House of Lords, Chatham, affirming as

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
he had done four years before, the subordination of the Colonies and the right of Parliament to bind their trade and industry, disclaimed the American policy, adopted by his former colleagues when he himself was nominally the Minister. ‘In this,’ said he, as in all the rest, “I have been disappointed and deceived.” 4 ‘The idea of drawing money from the Americans by taxes was ill judged; trade is your object with them. They should be encouraged; those millions are the industrious hive who keep you em ployed;’ and he invited the entire repeal of the Revenue Act of Charles Townshend.

On the evening of the fifth of March, the House of Commons entered seriously upon the consideration of the question. Lord North founded a motion for a partial relief, not on the Petitions of America, because they were marked by a denial of the right; but on one from merchants and traders of London. ‘The subject,’ said he,5

is of the highest importance. The combinations and associations of the Americans for the temporary interruption of trade, have already been called unwarrantable in an Address of this House; I will call them insolent and illegal.6 The duties upon paper, glass, and painters' colors bear upon the manufactures of this country, are uncommercial, and ought to be taken off. It was my intention to have extended the proposal to the removal of the other duties; but the Americans have not deserved indulgence. The Preamble to the Act and the duty on [352] tea must be retained as a mark of the Supremacy of

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
Parliament and the efficient declaration of its right to govern the Colonies.7

I saw nothing unjust, uncommercial or unreasonable in the Stamp Act; nothing but what Great Britain might fairly demand of her Colonies; America took flame and united against it. If there had been a permanence of Ministers, if there had been a union of Englishmen in the cause of England, that Act would at this moment have been subsisting.

I was much inclined to yield to the wishes of many, who desire that the duty upon tea should be repealed. But tea is not a manufacture of Great Britain. Of all commodities it is the properest for taxation. The duty is an external tax such as the Americans had admitted the right of Parliament to impose. It is one of the best of all the port duties. When the revenue is well established, it will go a great way towards giving additional support to our Government and judicatures in America. If we are to run after America in search of reconciliation, I do not know a single Act of Parliament, that will remain. Are we to make concessions to these people, because they have the hardihood to set us at defiance? No authority was ever confirmed by the concession of any point of honor or of right. Shall I give up my right? No, not in the first step. I will strengthen my waterguard: I will do any thing before I will buy off contraband trade. New-York has kept strictly to its agreements; but the infractions of them by the people of Boston, show that they will soon come to nothing. The necessities of the Colonies and their want of union [353] will open trade. There is an impossibility of their

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
manufacturing to supply any considerable part of their wants. If they should attempt it and be likely to succeed, it is in our power to make laws, and so to check the manufactures in America for many years to come. This method I will try, before I will give up my right. Gentlemen talk of the harsh measures pursued by this country towards America. Every session has produced some mark of affection towards her; bounty after bounty; importation of flax; permission to export rice. We are treated as hard task-masters, because we will not give up an undoubted right of the Legislature.

Thomas Pownall moved the repeal of the duty on tea also. The House of Commons, like Lord North in his heart,8 was disposed to do the work of conciliation thoroughly. It was known that Grenville would not give an adverse vote.9 ‘It is the sober opinion of the Americans,’ said Mackay, fresh from the military Command in Boston, ‘that you have no right to tax them. When beaten out of every argument, they adduce the authority of the first man of the law, and the first man of the State.’ Grenville assumed fully the responsibility of the Stamp Act; but he revealed to the House that the measure of taxing America had been the wish of the King. On the present occasion, had the King's friends remained neutral, the duty on tea would have been repealed; with all their exertions, in a full House, the majority for retaining it was but sixty-two.10 Lord [354] North seemed hardly satisfied with his success; and

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
reserved to himself liberty to accede to the repeal on some agreement with the East India Company;11 with fatal weakness of purpose, delaying the measure which his good sense and humanity approved.

The decision came from the King who was the master of the House of Commons, and the soul of the Ministry, busying himself even with the details of all important affairs. He had many qualities that become a sovereign,—temperance, regularity, and industry; decorous manners, and unaffected piety; frugality in his personal expenses, so that his pleasures laid no burden on his people; a moderation which made him ever averse to wars of conquest; courage, which dared to assume responsibility, and could even contemplate death serenely; a fortitude that met accumulated dangers without flinching and rose with adversity.

But his mind was bigoted, narrow, and without comprehensiveness, morbidly impatient of being ruled, and yet himself incapable of reconciling the demands of civilization with the establishments of the past. He was the great founder and head of the New Tory or Conservative party, which had become dominant through his support. To that cause all his instincts were blindly true; so that throughout his career, he was consistent in his zeal for authority, his hatred of reform, and his antipathy to philosophical freedom of inquiry and to popular power. On these points he was inflexibly obstinate and undisguised; nor could he be justly censured for dissimulation, except for that 12 [355] disingenuousness which studies the secret characters

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
of men in order to use them as its instruments. No one could tell whether the king really liked him. He could flatter, cajole, and humor, or frown and threaten; he could conceal the sense of injuries and forget good service; bribe the corrupt by favors, or terrify deserters by punishment. In bestowing rewards, it was his rule, as far as possible, to preserve the dependence of his favorites by making none but revocable grants; and he required of his friends an implicit obedience. He was willing to govern through Parliament, yet did not conceal his readiness to stand by his Ministers, even though they should find themselves in a minority; and was sure that one day the Government must disregard majorities.

With a strong physical frame, he had also a nervous susceptibility which made him rapid in his utterance; and so impatient of contradiction, that he never could bear the presence of a Minister who resolutely differed from him, and was easily thrown into a state of high excitement, bordering upon madness. Anger which changed Chatham into a seer, pouring floods of light upon his mind, and quickening his discernment, served only to cloud or disturb the mind of George the Third, so that he could not hide his thoughts from those about him, and, if using the pen, could neither spell correctly nor write coherently. Hence the proud, unbending Grenville was his aversion; and his years with the compliant Lord North, though full of public disasters, were the happiest of his life. Conscious of his devotion to the cause of legitimate authority, and viewing with complacency his own correctness of morals, he identified himself with the cause which he venerated. [356] His eye did not rest on Colonial liberty or a people

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
struggling towards more intelligence and happiness; the Crown was to him the emblem of all rightful power. He had that worst quality of evil, that he, as it were, adored himself; and regarded opposition to his designs as an offence against integrity and patriotism. He thought no exertions too great to crush the spirit of revolution, and no sufferings or punishment too cruel or too severe for those whom he esteemed as rebels.

The chaotic state of parties in England at this period of transition from their ancient forms, favored the King's purposes. The liberal branch of the aristocracy had accomplished the duty it had undertaken; and had not yet discovered the service on which humanity would employ it next. After the revolution of 1688, the defeated cause, whose followers clung to the traditions of the Middle Age, had its strongest support in the inhabitants of the rural districts. Through them only could the tory, who retained the implicit reverence for Monarchy and for the Church, hope to succeed against the friends of the new political system; and the more frequent and the more complete the opportunity of the appeal, the greater was his prospect of a victory. The Tory faction, therefore, in its warfare against actual progress, addressed itself to the sympathies of the common people. It would have annual Parliaments; it would have democratic supremacy; it led the van of patriotism, and its speeches even savored of republicanism. The party of the past sought to win a triumph over those in power, by making an alliance with the party of the future. In this manner it came about that the Whigs for half a century stood [357] between the tendency of Monarchy towards absolute

Chap. XLIV} 1770. March
power on the one hand, and the hereditary superstitions and tender affection of the country for the old social hierarchy on the other; fighting strenuously alike against the prerogative and against the people. But time which is the greatest of all innovators had changed their political relations. The present King found the Whig aristocracy divided; and he readily formed a coalition with that part of it which respected the established forms more than the principles of the Revolution. No combination could rise against this organized conservatism of England, but one which should revive ‘Revolution principles,’ and insist on a nearer harmony between them and the forms of the Constitution. As yet Rockingham and his adherents avowed the same political creed with the clan of Bedford, and were less friendly to reform than Grenville. When Burke and Wedderburne were allies, the opposition wore the aspect of a selfish struggle of the discontented for place; and the Whig aristocracy, continuing its war against the people as well as against the King, fell more and more into disrepute. A few feeble voices among the Commoners, Chatham and Shelburne and Stanhope among the Peers, cried out for Parliamentary reform; they were opposed by the members of the great Whig connection, who may have had a good will to advocate public liberty, but, like hounds which have lost the scent and wander this way and that, were ignorant in what direction to go, and too haughty to be taught by men of humble birth. The King, therefore, was strengthened by the divisions among those who really wished to practise a policy of liberty, and had nothing to fear from an opposition. The changing [358] politicians were eager to join his standard; and while
Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
the great seal was for a time put in commission, Thurlow superseded the liberal Dunning.

The new Solicitor General whose ‘majestic sense’ and capacity of mind13 have been greatly overrated, was a man of a coarse nature and a bad heart. The mother of his children was a kept mistress; he himself was strangely profane, and unmindful of social decorum. His manners were so rough that he enjoyed among the people the credit of being fearless of the aristocracy; but no man was in reality more subservient to their interests. Lord North, who timidly conformed to precedents, governed himself on questions of law by his advice;14 and Thurlow proved the evil genius of that Minister and of England. Towards America no man was more sullenly unrelenting; and his influence went far towards rendering a crisis unavoidable.15

Schemes were revived for admitting representatives from the American Colonies into the British House of Commons;16 but they attracted little attention. The Government would not change its system; the well-founded Petition of Massachusetts against Bernard was dismissed by the Privy Council, as ‘groundless, vexatious and scandalous.’17 At the same time, his interference had involved his successor in needless embarrassments. By his advice, Hutchinson, [359] against his own judgment,18 convened the Legislature

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. March
at Cambridge.19 For this display of resentment he could give no plausible reason. To the Assembly he excused himself by saying that his instructions had ‘made it necessary;’ but he produced no such intructions; the plea, moreover, was false, for Hillsborough had left him discretionary power.20 The House and the Council remonstrated, insisting that even though he were instructed21 to meet the Assembly at Cambridge, yet it was his duty under the Charter to adjourn the session to the Courthouse in Boston. ‘I am a servant of the King,’ replied Hutchinson, ‘to be governed by his Majesty's pleasure.’22 Thus a new question arose respecting the proper use of the prerogative; while the Assembly proceeded to business ‘only from absolute necessity.’23

Yet in spite of appearances and of the adverse influence of the Government, popular liberty was constantly gaining ground in England as well as in America. The last public act of Grenville's life was a step towards representative reform by establishing a more impartial method of deciding controverted elections. [360] It was perhaps the most honorable trophy of his long

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. April.

On the ninth of April, four days after Grenville had carried his bill triumphantly to the House of Lords, one more attempt was made to conciliate America; and Trecothick of London, supported by Beckford and Lord Beauchamp, by Dowdeswell, Conway, Dunning the late Solicitor General, and Sir George Saville, proposed24 the repeal of the duty on tea. The King who watched Parliament closely, was indignant at this ‘debate in the teeth of a standing order,’25 on a proposal which had already been voted down. ‘I wish to conciliate the Americans, and to restore harmony to the two countries,’ said Lord North; ‘but I will never be intimidated by the threats nor compelled by the combinations of the Colonies to make unreasonable or impolitic concessions.’ So the next order of the day was called for by a vote of eighty to fifty-two.

The news of the Boston Massacre26 reached England at a time when the Legislature of Massachusetts was solemnly declaring, that the keeping a standing army in the Colony, in a time of peace, without its consent, was against law. ‘God forbid,’ said Grenville in the House of Commons,27 on the twenty-sixth of April, ‘we should send soldiers to act without civil authority.’—‘Let us have no more angry votes against the people of America,’ cried Lord Beauchamp. ‘The officers’ observed Barre, ‘agreed in [361] sending the soldiers to Castle William; what Minis-

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. April.
ter will dare to send them back to Boston?’ ‘The very idea of a military establishment in America,’ cried William Burke, ‘is wrong.’ In a different spirit, Lord Barrington proposed a change in the too democratical Charter of Massachusetts.28

The American question became more and more complicated with the history and the hopes of freedom in England. The country was suffering from the excess of aristocracy in its constitution; Burke, writing with the authority of the great whig party, prescribed more aristocracy as the cure of the evil. But English liberty was like the lofty forest tree which begins to decay at its top; it needed a renewal of the soil round its root. Chat-

ham saw the futility of the plan; and unable to obtain from Rockingham the acceptance of his far reaching views, he stepped forward himself as the champion of the people. ‘I pledge myself to their cause,’ said he in the House of Lords on the first of May, ‘for I know it is the cause of truth and justice.’ ‘I trust the people of this country,’ said Camden, ‘will renew their claims to true and free and equal representation as their inherent and unalienable right.’ Shelburne insisted that Lord North, for his agency with regard to the Middlesex elections, deserved impeachment. Stanhope pledged himself to the support of liberty, if necessary, at the cost of his life.

On the ninth of May, Edmund Burke,29 acting in thorough conjunction with Grenville, brought the [362] affairs of America before the House of Commons

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. May.
in Resolutions, condemning the contradictory measures that had been pursued since his friends had been dismissed, but carefully avoiding any indication of the policy which the party in power should adopt.30 Burke was supported by Wedderburn, who equally had no measures to propose. ‘Nothing,’ said he, ‘offers itself but despair. Lord Hillsborough is unfit for his office. The nation suffers by his continuance. The people have a right tosay, they will not be under the authority of the sword. If you drive men to desperation, they will act upon the principles of human nature; principles to be supported; principles to be honored. At the close of the last reign, you had the continent of Ame: rica in one compact country. Not quite ten years have passed over, and you have lost those Provinces by domestic mismanagement. All America, the fruit of so many years' settlement, nurtured by this country at the price of so much blood and treasure—is lost to the Crown of Great Britain in the reign of George the Third.’ Lord North, in his reply, declared himself the only man of the Ministry, who was decidedly for the repeal of the Revenue Act of 1767; defended the partial repeal, because he wished to see the American associations defeat themselves; questioned the veracity of Wedderburn; and treated the ill-cemented coalition, as having no plan beyond the removal of the present Ministers. ‘God forgive the noble Lord for the idea of there being a plan to remove him,’ retorted Wedderburn; ‘I know no man [363] of honor and respectability, who would undertake to
Chap XLIV.} 1770. May.
do the duties of the situation.’

The Opposition was plainly factious; and the resolutions which only censured the past were defeated by a vote of more than two to one. Chatham would not attend the debate, when they were brought forward in the House of Lords; but spurning the lukewarm temper of the Rockingham Whigs, he placed himself before the nation as the guide of the future, zealous for introducing ‘a more full and equal representation.’31 His patriotism was fruitless for that generation; light on representative reform was not to break on England from the House of Lords. But America was an essential part of the English world. To New England the men of the days preceding the ill-starred Commonwealth had borne their ideas of government, and there the system of an adequate, uncorrupt and equal representation existed in undimmed lustre. There the people annually came together in their towns, annually elected their representatives, and gave them instructions which were sacredly obeyed.

The instructions which the town of Boston, adopting the language of the younger Quincy, this year addressed to the faithful representatives of its choice, cited the Journals of the House of Lords in evidence of ‘a desperate plan of imperial despotism,’ which was to be resisted if necessary, ‘even unto the uttermost;’ and therefore recommended martial virtues, valor, intrepidity, military emulation, and, above all, the firm and lasting union of the Colonies. [364]

The document could not increase the zeal of the

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. May.
patriots of Boston; Hutchinson made an effective use of it to quicken the apprehensions of the Ministry; and its reception contributed to produce that new set of measures, which hastened American Independence by seeking to crush its spirit.32 England assumed, that there existed a design for a general revolt, when there only existed a desire to resist ‘innovations;’ but the inference was a just one, that between the opinions of the House of Lords and those of the Town of Boston, the difference was irreconcilable.

The eagerness of Hutchinson to keep Bernard's favor and ingratiate himself with Hillsborough, induced him to call the newly elected Legislature, as he had done the last, to Cambridge. ‘Not the least shadow of necessity,’ said the House in its remonstrance, ‘exists for it. Prerogative is a discretionary power vested in the King only for the good of the subject.’ Hutchinson had over-acted

his part; and now found himself embarrassed by his own arbitrary act, for which he dared not assign the true reason and could not assign a good one. The House censured his conduct by a vote of ninety-six against six, and refused to proceed to any other business than that of organizing the Government. Thus Hutchinson opened his administration with a foolish strife, wantonly provoked, and promising no advantage whatever to British authority.

Meantime a most elaborate paper on the disorders in America, was laid before the British Council. [365] Long and earnest deliberations ensued. On the one

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. June.
side, Hillsborough pressed impetuously for the execution of his plans, as the only means of arresting the progress of America towards Independence; while Lord North, with better judgment, was willing to wait, being persuaded that the associations for nonmportation would fall asunder of themselves.

Canada, Carolina and Georgia, and even Maryland

and Virginia had increased their importations; and New England and Pennsylvania had imported nearly one half as much as usual; New-York alone had been perfectly true to its engagement; and its imports had fallen off more than five parts in six. It was impatient of a system of voluntary renunciation, which was so unequally kept; and the belief was common, that if the others had adhered to it as strictly, all the grievances would have been redressed.33

Merchants of New-York, therefore, consulted those of Philadelphia on agreeing to a general importation of all articles except of tea; the Philadelphians favored the proposition, till a letter arrived from Franklin, urging them to persevere on their original plan.34 Sears and MacDougall in New-York strenuously resisted concession; but men went from ward to ward to take the opinions of the people; and it was found that eleven hundred and eighty against three hundred were disposed to confine the restriction to tea alone.35 ‘If any merchant should presume to break through the non-importation agreement, except in concert [366] with the several Provinces, the goods imported

Chap. XLIV.} 1770. July.
should be burnt as soon as landed, and I am ready to peril my life in the attempt.’ Such were the words of Isaac Sears at a public meeting of the resolute patriots. The decision was on the balance; an appeal was again taken to the people; and as it appeared that a majority favored resuming importations, the packet of July which had been detained for a few days, sailed before the middle of the month with orders for all kinds of merchandise excepting tea.36 ‘Send us your old Liberty Pole, as you can have no further use for it,’37 said the Philadelphians. The students at Princeton burnt the New-York merchants' letter by the hands of the hangman. Boston tore it into pieces and threw it to the winds.38 South Carolina, whose patriots had just raised the statue to Chatham, read it with disdainful anger. But there was no help; Lord North had reasoned so far correctly; the non-importation agreement had been sacredly enforced by New-York alone, and now trade between America and England was open in every thing but tea.

1 Gov. Wentworth of New Hampshire to Hillsborough.

2 It is an error to suppose that the Town of Boston did not consistently wish every proper assistance to be rendered the prisoners. It took care publicly to mark its confidence in Quincy in May, and in John Adams in June.

3 Advised and urged by an Adams, [S. Adams,] a Hancock, a Molineux, &c. &c. Quincy, 27.

4 W. S. Johnson to Gov. Trumbull, 6 March, 1770.

5 Debates of the Fifth of March, 1770, in Cavendish, II. 484.

6 W. S. Johnson's report of the Debate.

7 W. S. Johnson's Report.

8 Franklin to Dr. Cooper, 8 June, 1770; Franklin's Works, VII. 475. And compare VII. 467.

9 Compare Du Chatelet to the Duke of Choiseul, No. 38; 27 Feb. 1770.

10 Franklin to a Friend in America, 18 March, 1770; Writings, VII. 466.

11 Garth to South Carolina Committee, 6 March, 1770.

12 Johnson to Gov. Trumbull, 6 March, W. S. 1770.

13 Henley's Northington, 59.

14 Compare Frances to Choiseul, 20 July, 1770.

15 Grafton in his Autobiography.

16 Considerations on the Expediency of admitting representatives from the American Colonies in the British House of Commons, 1770. See Tucker's Four tracts, 164; and The Monthly Review, XLIII. 161.

17 Report of Council, 7. March, and Orders in Council, 14 March, 1770; in appendix to Bernard's Select Letters.

18 Hutchinson to Gage, 25 Feb. 1770.

19 Hutchinson to Hillsborough, 28 Feb. 1770. First draft in the Remembrancer, 1775, p. 95. Same to Same, Second draft, written in March, but dated 23 Feb. 1770.

20 Hillsborough to Hutchinson, 9 December, 1769. Hutchinson to Gage, 25 Feb. 1770. ‘I am left to my discretion.’

21 Address of the Council to Hutchinson, 20 March, 1770; Bradford, 197.

22 Message from the Governor to the Council, 21 March, 1770, Bradford.

23 Bradford's State Papers, 202 Suppose a petulant or angry minister were to be displeased with the two Houses of Parliament, and to mark his resentment, were to sum mon them to meet at Wolverton or Rye, instead of Westminster; in what temper would he find them? Yet that would be analogous to the act of Hutchinson.

24 Garth to Committee of South Carolina, 11 April, 1770. W. S. Johnson to Gov. Trnmbull of Connecticut, 14 April, 1770.

25 King to Lord North, 9 April, 1770; from the papers of Lord North, communicated to me by his daughter.

26 Sir Philip Francis to Calcraft, 21 April, 1770.

27 Cavendish Debates, i. 551.

28 Report of the Debate in the Boston Gazette of 25 June, 1770; 794, 4, 2.

29 Cavendish Debates, II. 14; Boston Gazette, 9 July, 1770; 796, 2, 2.

30 W. S. Johnson to Gov. Trumbull, 21 May, 1770.

31 Vote of the Common Council of London, 14 May, 1770. Motion of Lord Chatham, 14 May, 1770; in Chat. Corr. III. 457. Chatham to the London Deputation, 1 June, 1770.

32 Hutchinson's History, III. 290.

33 W. S. Johnson to Gov. Trumbull, 6 March, 1770.

34 Franklin's Works, VII. 468, 469. Compare too, W. S. Johnson to Gov. Trumbull, 21 May, 1770.

35 C. Golden to Hillsborough, 7 July, 1770. J. Duane to W. S. Johnson, 15 June, 1770.

36 Golden to Hillsborough, 10 July, 1770; A. Golden to A. Todd, 11 July, 1770; James Duane to W. S. Johnson, 9 Dec. 1770.

37 A Card from the Inhabitants of Philadelphia, &c. July, 1770.

38 Votes at a full Meeting of the Trade at Faneuil Hall, 24 July, 1770.

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