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Chapter 13:

Congress will make the last appeal if necessary.

October, 1774.

Washington was convinced that not one thinking
Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
man in all North America desired independence. He ardently wished to end the horrors of civil discord, and restore tranquillity upon constitutional grounds, but his indignation at the wrongs of Boston could be appeased only by their redress; and his purpose to resist the execution of the regulating act was unalterable. ‘Permit me,’ said he, addressing a British officer, then serving under Gage, ‘with the freedom of a friend, to express my sorrow that fortune should place you in a service, that must fix curses to the latest posterity upon the contrivers, and if success (which by the by is impossible) accompanies it, execrations upon all those who have been instrumental in the execution. The Massachusetts people are every day receiving fresh proofs of a systematic assertion of an arbitrary power, deeply planned to overturn the laws and constitution of their country, and to violate the most essential and valuable rights [145] of mankind. It is not the wish of that government,
Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
or any other upon this continent, separately or collectively, to set up for independence; but none of them will ever submit to the loss of those rights and privileges without which life, liberty, and property are rendered totally insecure. Is it to be wondered at, that men attempt to avert the impending blow in its progress, or prepare for their defence if it cannot be averted? Give me leave to add as my opinion, that if the ministry are determined to push matters to extremity, more blood will be spilled on this occasion, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America.’

Ross, a Pennsylvanian, moved that Massachusetts should be left to her own discretion with respect to government and the administration of justice as well as defence. The motion was seconded by Galloway, in the hope of obstructing the interference of congress. Had it been adopted, under the Pine Tree flag of her forefathers she would have revived her first charter, elected her governor, and established a popular government. But the desire of conciliation forbade a policy so revolutionary. The province was therefore left to its anarchy; but on the eighth of October it was resolved, though not unanimously, ‘that this congress approve the opposition of the inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay to the execution of the late acts of parliament; and if the same shall be attempted to be carried into execution by force, in such case, all America ought to support them in their opposition.’ This is the measure which hardened George the Third to listen to no terms. He was inexorably bent on enforcing the new system of government [146] in Massachusetts, and extending it to Connec-

Chap. XIII.} 1774 Oct.
ticut and Rhode Island. The congress, when it adopted this resolve, did not know the extent of the aggressions which the king designed. Henceforth conciliation became impossible. Galloway and Duane desired leave to enter their protests against the measure; and as this was refused, they gave to each other privately certificates that they had opposed it as treasonable. But the decision of congress was made deliberately. Two days later, they further ‘declared that every person who should accept or act under any commission or authority derived from the regulating act of parliament, changing the form of government and violating the charter of Massachusetts, ought to be held in detestation;’ and in their letter to Gage, they censured his conduct, as tending ‘to involve a free people in the horrors of war.’ In adopting a declaration of rights, the division which had shown itself in the committee was renewed. ‘Here,’ said Ward of Rhode Island, ‘no acts of parliament can bind. Giving up this point is yielding all.’ Against him spoke John Adams and Duane. ‘A right,’ said Lynch of Carolina, ‘to bind us in one case may imply a right to bind us in all; but we are bound in none.’ The resolution of concession was at first arrested by the vote of five colonies against five, with Massachusetts and Rhode Island divided, but at last was carried by the influence of John Adams. Duane desired next to strike the Quebec act from the list of grievances; but of all the bad acts of parliament Richard Henry Lee pronounced it the worst. His opinion prevailed upon a vote which Duane's adhesion made unanimous. [147] Thus eleven acts of parliament or parts of acts, in-
Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
eluding the Quebec act and the acts specially affecting Massachusetts, were declared to be such infringements and violations of the rights of the colonies, that the repeal of them was essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between the colonies and Great Britain.

The congress had unanimously resolved, from the first day of the coming December, not to import any merchandise from Great Britain and Ireland. If the redress of American grievances should be delayed beyond the tenth day of September of the following year, a resolution to export no merchandise to Great Britain, Ireland and the West Indies after that date was carried, but against the voice of South Carolina. When the members proceeded to bind themselves to these measures by an association, three of the delegates of that colony refused their names. ‘The agreement to stop exports to Great Britain is unequal,’ reasoned Rutledge; ‘New England ships little or nothing there, but sends fish, its great staple, to Portugal or Spain; South Carolina annually ships rice to England to the value of a million and a half of dollars. New England would be affected but little by the prohibition; Carolina would be ruined;’ and he and two of his colleagues withdrew from the congress. Gadsden, who never counted the cost of patriotism, remained in his place, and trusting to the generosity of his constituents, declared himself ready to sign the association. All business was interrupted for several days; but in the end congress recalled the seceders by allowing the unconditional export of rice.

The association further contained this memorable [148] covenant, which was adopted without opposition,

Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
and inaugurated the abolition of the slave-trade: ‘We will neither import, nor purchase any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time we will wholly discontinue the slavetrade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.’

This first American congress also adopted another measure, which was without an example. It recognised the political existence and power of the people. While it refused to petition parliament, it addressed the people of the provinces from Nova Scotia to Florida, the people of Canada, the people of Great Britain; making the printing press its great ambassador to the rising power.

Of the British people, congress entreated a return to the system of 1763: ‘Prior to this era,’ said they in the language of Jay, ‘you were content with wealth produced by our commerce. You restrained our trade in every way that could conduce to your emolument. You exercised unbounded sovereignty over the sea.’ Still assenting to these restrictions, they pleaded earnestly for the enjoyment of equal freedom, and demonstrated that a victory over the rights of America, would not only be barren of advantage to the English nation, but increase their public debt with its attendant pensioners and placemen, diminish their commerce, and lead to the overthrow of their liberties by violence and corruption. ‘To your justice,’ they said, ‘we appeal. You have been told that we are impatient of government and desirous of independency. These are calumnies. Permit [149] us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever

Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
esteem a union with you to be our greatest glory and our greatest happiness. But if you are determined that your ministers shall wantonly sport with the rights of mankind; if neither the voice of justice, the dictates of law, the principles of the constitution, or the suggestions of humanity, can restrain your hands from shedding human blood in such an impious cause, we must then tell you that we will never submit to any ministry or nation in the world.’

A second congress was appointed for May, at which all the colonies of North America, including Nova Scotia and Canada, were invited to appear by their deputies. The ultimate decision of America was then embodied in a petition to the king, written by Dickinson, and imbued in every line with a desire for conciliation. In the list of grievances, congress enumerated the acts, and those only which had been enacted since the year 1763, for the very purpose of changing the constitution or the administration of the colonies. They justified their discontent by fact and right; by historic tradition, and by the ideas of reason. ‘So far from promoting innovations,’ said they truly, ‘we have only opposed them; and can be charged with no offence, unless it be one to receive injuries and be sensible of them.’ Acquiescing in the restrictions on their ships and industry, they professed a readiness on the part of the colonial legislatures to make suitable provision for the administration of justice, the support of civil government, and for defence, protection, and security in time of peace; in case of war, they pledged the colonies to ‘most strenuous efforts in granting supplies and raising [150] forces.’ But the privilege of thus expressing

Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
their affectionate attachment they would ‘never resign to any body of men upon earth.’ ‘We ask,’ they continued, ‘but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor the grant of any new right. Your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain, we shall always support and maintain;’ and they besought of the king ‘as the loving father of his whole people, his interposition for their relief, and a gracious answer to their petition.’

No more was asked by congress for their constituents than security in their ancient condition. From complacency towards Rockingham, they passed over the declaratory act in silence; and they expressed their cheerful assent to that power of regulating commerce, for which the elder Pitt had always been strenuous. But the best evidence of their sincerity is found in the measure which they recommended. Had independence been their object, they would have strained every nerve to increase their exports, and fill the country in return with the manufactures and munitions which they required. The suspension of trade was the most disinterested manner of expressing to the mother country how deeply they felt their wrongs, and how earnestly they desired a peaceful restoration of reciprocal confidence. While Britain would have only to seek another market for her surplus manufactures and India goods, the American merchant sacrificed nearly his whole business. The exchequer might perhaps suffer some diminution in the revenue from tobacco, but the planters of Maryland and Virginia gave up the entire exchangeable [151] produce of their estates. The cessation of the export

Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
of provisions to the West Indies, of flax-seed to Ireland, injured the Northern provinces very deeply; and yet it would touch only the British merchants who had debts to collect in the West Indies or Ireland, or the English owners of West Indian or Irish estates. Every refusal to import was made by the colonist at the cost of personal comfort; every omission to export was a waste of the resources of his family. Moreover, no means existed of enforcing the agreement; so that the truest patriots would suffer most. And yet the people so yearned for a bloodless restoration of the old relations with Britain, that they cheerfully entered on the experiment, in the hope that the extreme self-denial of the country would at least distress British commerce enough to bring the government to reflection.

But since their efforts to avert civil war might fail, John Adams expressed his anxiety to see New England provided with money and military stores. Ward, of Rhode Island, regarded America as the rising power that was to light all the nations of the earth to freedom. Samuel Adams urged his friends incessantly to study the art of war, and organize resistance; for he would never admit that the danger of a rupture with Britain was a sufficient plea for giving way. ‘I would advise,’ said he, ‘persisting in our struggle for liberty, though it were revealed from heaven that nine hundred and ninety-nine were to perish, and only one of a thousand to survive and retain his liberty. One such freeman must possess more virtue, and enjoy more happiness, than a thousand slaves; and let him propagate his like, and [152] transmit to them what he hath so nobly preserved.’

Chap. XIII.} 1774. Oct.
‘Delightful as peace is,’ said Dickinson, ‘it will come more grateful, by being unexpected.’ Washington, while he promoted the measures of congress, dared not hope that they would prove effectual. When Patrick Henry read the prophetic words of Hawley, ‘after all we must fight,’ he raised his hand, and with the entire energy of his nature, called God to witness as he cried out, ‘I am of that man's mind.’

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