Martial law introduced into Massachusetts
.—Hillsbo-rough's Administration of the Colonies continued.
greater joy was never shown than prevailed in
London at the news that America
was resuming commercial intercourse.
The occasion invited corresponding concessions, which Lord North would have willingly made; but the majority of his colleagues had been led to consider ‘the state of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay
more desperate than ever;’1
and on the sixth of July the King
in Council gave an order, making a beginning of Martial Law
within that Province, and preparing the way for closing the Port of Boston
paid court by acting in the same spirit; and in July once more summoned the Legislature to Cambridge
For this repeated wrong to the public service of the Colony, he continued to offer no other excuse than the King
The highest advocate for the divine right of regal power
had never gone so far as to claim, that it might
be used at caprice, to inflict wanton injury.
There was no precedent for the measure but during the worst of times in England
, or in France
, where a Parliament had sometimes been worried into a submission by exile.
The Assembly expressed in the strongest terms the superiority of the Legislative
body to royal instructions; and in answer to the old question of what is to be done upon the abusive exercise of the prerogative, they went back to the principles of the Revolution, and adopted the words of Locke
: ‘In this as in all other cases, where they have no judge on earth, the people have no remedy but to appeal to Heaven.’
They drew a distinction between the King
and his servants; and attributed to ‘wicked Ministers’ the daring encroachments on their liberty, as well as the impudent mandate ‘to one House
,’ to rescind an excellent resolution of a former one.
made haste to expose his Sovereign
personally to contempt.
On the third day of August he communicated to the House
, that the instruction to rescind, which they had called an impudent mandate, was an order from the King
himself, whose ‘immediate attention,’ he assured them, they would not be able ‘to escape.’
In this manner the royal dignity and character were placed on trial before a colonial Assembly, and Monarchy itself was losing all its halo.
The session had passed without the transaction of
any business, when, near the evening of Saturday, the eighth day of September, Hutchinson
received the order which had been adopted in July by the King
in Council, and which marks the beginning of a system
of measures having for their object the prevention of
The harbor of Boston
was made ‘the rendezvous of all ships, stationed in North America
,’ and the fortress which commanded it was to be delivered up to such officer as Gage
to be garrisoned by regular troops, and put into a respectable state of defence.3
At the same time Hutchinson
received from Gage
the direction to surrender up Castle William to Dalrymple
But the Charter
purposely and emphatically reserved to its Governor the command of the militia of the Colony and of its forts; the Castle
had been built and repaired and garrisoned by the Colony itself at its own expense; to take the command from the Civil Governor
and bestow it on the Commander-in-chief
, was a plain violation of the Charter
, as well as of immemorial usage.
For a day Hutchinson
but what was a scruple about the Charter
rights of Massachusetts
, compared with the favor of Hillsborough and the King
On second thoughts he resolved to obey the order at once.
Early on Monday, Dalrymple
hastened to the Castle
, provided with a power to substitute regular troops for the provincial sentries.
then repaired to the Council Chamber
, and enjoining secrecy on the mem bers upon their oaths divulged to them his instructions.
The Council was struck with amazement, for the town was very quiet, and the measure seemed a wanton provocation.
‘Does not the Charter
demanded of him, ‘place the command of the Castle
in the Governor
After a secret discussion which lasted for two hours, till Dalrymple
had had time to take possession, he entered his carriage which was waiting at the door, hurried to the Neck, stole into a barge, and was rowed to the Castle
The officers and garrison were discharged without a moment's warning; Hutchinson
delivered up the keys to Dalrymple
, and in the twilight retired to his country house at Milton
But he was so haunted by fear as to dread being waylaid; and the next day, as he and Bernard
had done five years before, he fled for safety to the Castle
, where he remained every night for the rest of the week.
His fears were groundless.
The people of Boston
, especially Samuel Adams
, were indignant at the breach of their Charter; the act was a commencement of civil war. Yet the last appeal was not to be made without some prospect of success, and the Castle
remained in the possession of England
for five and a half years.
A fleet in the harbor of Boston
, a fort garrisoned and commanded by the regular troops and threatening it at any moment with a total loss of its commerce, were the invention of the Ministry to coerce the town into unresisting obedience.
Distrust, injury, and menace were the chosen medicines against rebellion.
‘As a citizen of the world,’ cried Turgot
, ‘I see with joy the approach of an event which more than all the books of the philosophers, will dissipate the puerile and sanguinary phantom of a pretended exclusive commerce.
I speak of the separation of the British Colonies
from their metropolis,
which will soon be followed by that of all America
Then, and not till then, will the discovery of that part of the world become for us truly useful.
Then it will multiply our enjoyments far more abundantly, than when we bought them by torrents of blood.’6
, too, was possessed with the fear,
hat the idea of independence would indeed be realized, unless he could persuade all but the abettors of ‘a few desperate men,7
to see the necessity of restoring the authority of the Supreme Legislature
by a reform of the Constitution
of the Massachusetts Bay
‘No more time,’ said he, ‘should be lost in deliberation,’ and he exerted all his power to establish the binding obligation of the decisions of the Privy Council and the decrees of Parliament.
The very day, on which Hillsborough
commenced his fixed purpose of subverting the Constitution
, its two Houses, which had been called for the third time to Cambridge
, having summoned all absent members,8
were keeping a day of fasting, solemn prayer and humiliation.
‘We have,’ said Hutchinson
, ‘many people who are enthusiasts, and believe they are contending for the cause of God.’9
“Some days after their solemn communing with Heaven, the House
, which heretofore had refused to proceed to business away from Boston
, expressed alarm at the new, additional and insupportable grievances under which the Colony labored, and after a
protest, entered on an inquiry into the state of the
Province with a view to a radical redress of its grievances.”
At the same time Hutchinson
, with whom Hillsborough was interchanging private letters, sent word, that ‘no measure could have been pitched upon more proper than the possession of the harbor of Boston
by the King
's troops and ships,’ as a mark of royal resentment, and a preparation for further measures.11
with fiercer zeal than ever against the liberties of his native country, he advised not a mere change of the mode of electing the Council, but ‘a bill for the vacating or disannulling the Charter
in all its parts, and leaving it to the King
to settle the Government
by a royal Commission.’
Yet as Hillsborough
and the King
seemed content with obtaining the appointment of the Council, Hutchinson
suppressed his misgivings, considered how the change could be carried into effect, and forwarded lists from which the royal councillors were to be named.
‘If the kingdom,’ said he, ‘is united and resolved, I have but very little doubt, we shall be as tame as lambs.’
He presented distinctly the option, either to lay aside taxation as inexpedient, and to wait till the Colonies should submit from weariness;—a policy against which all his letters protested;—or to deal with the
inhabitants as being ‘in a state of revolt.’13
that should be decided, he proposed to starve the Colony into obedience by narrowing its commerce and excluding it from the fisheries.
If this should fail, the military might be employed to act by their own authority, free from the restraints of civil Government.14 Boston
, he thought, should be insulated from the rest of the Colony, and specially dealt with; and he recommended the example of Rome
, which, on one occasion, seized the leading men in rebellious Colonies, and detained them in the metropolis as hostages.
An Act of Parliament, curtailing Massachusetts
of all the land east of the Penobscot
, was a supplementary proposition.15
Less occasion never existed for martial rule than at Boston
At the ensuing trial of Preston
, every indulgence was shown him by the citizens.
, his Counsel, had the assistance of the patriots, John Adams
The prosecution was conducted with languor and inefficiency; the defence with consummate ability; the judges were the partisans of the prisoner; and selected talesmen were put upon the jury.
As the slaughter of the citizens took place at night, it was not difficult to raise a plausible doubt, whether it was Preston
, or some other person, who had actually cried out to the soldiers to fire; and on that ground a verdict of acquittal was obtained.
The public acquiesced; but was offended at the manifest want of uprightness in the Court
had taken part in the defence, afterwards denied the
propriety of the verdict.
‘The firmness of the judges’ in delivering opinions on ‘principles of Government,’ was vaunted to obtain for them all much larger salaries, to be paid directly by the Crown.
The Chief Justice
, who was a manufacturer, wanted, moreover, money in the shape of pay for some refuse cannon balls which the Province had refused to buy.16
The trial of the soldiers, which followed a few weeks after, resulted in a verdict of manslaughter against each one of them who could be proved to have fired.17
The self-possession which had marked the conduct of the Town
in regard to the trial of Preston
, appeared in the measures of the Assembly for the redress of their grievances.
In selecting an agent to bring them before the King
, Samuel Adams
and about one third of the House
following the advice of Joseph Reed
, gave their suffrages for Arthur Lee
; but by the better influence of Bowdoin
and of the Minister Cooper
,19 Benjamin Franklin
was elected with Arthur Lee
as his substitute.
held under the Crown the office of Deputy
, and his son was a
royal Governor; but his mind had reasoned on politics with the same freedom from prejudice which marked his investigations into the laws of nature; and from questioning the right of Parliament to tax the Colonies externally, he had been led to the conviction, that the Colonies originally were constituted distinct States; that the legislative authority of Parliament over them was a usurpation; that Parliament was not supreme, nor the American Assemblies
subordinate; that the American Assemblies
with the King
, had a true legislative authority, which ought not to be limited by his Parliament in Great Britain
; and that the keeping up a standing army in America
, without the consent of the colonial Assemblies, had no sanction in the Constitution
From the knowledge that these were his principles, and from confidence in his integrity and ability, the House
readily confided the redress of their grievances to his care.21
At the time when Franklin
was thus called by the people of Massachusetts
to be their mediator with the mother country, he was sixty-four years of age. His large experience had ripened his judgment, without impairing the vigor of his mind; and he still retained the kindly benignity of manner, genial humor, and comprehensiveness of observation, which made him every where welcome.
The difficult service demanded of him by the Colony of his nativity,
was rendered with exemplary fidelity and disinterest
edness, amidst embarrassment of all kinds.
took care to negative all appropriations for his salary;22
and to remind Hillsborough not to recognise him as an Agent.