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Hutchinson, Thomas 1711-1780

Royal governor; born in Boston, Sept. 9, 1711; graduated at Harvard College in 1727, and, after engaging unsuccessfully in commerce, studied law, and began its practice in Boston. That city sent him to London as its agent in important business; and he represented it in the general court for [469] ten years. In 1752 he was chosen judge of probate; was a councillor from 1749 to 1766; was lieutenant-governor from 1758 to 1771; and was made chief-justice

Thomas Hutchinson

of the province in 1768. At that time he held four high offices under the King's appointment, and he naturally sided with the crown in the rising disputes, and became very obnoxious to the republicans. When, in 1769, Governor Bernard was recalled, Hutchinson became acting-governor of Massachusetts, and was commissioned governor in 1771. He was continually engaged in controversies with the popular Assembly, and often with his council. The publication of some of his letters (1773), which proved that he had been for years urging upon Parliament the necessity for the strict enforcement of power over the colonies, raised a storm of indignation, and his recall was demanded. This indignation was increased by his action concerning the landing of cargoes of tea in Boston, and he sailed for England, June 1, 1774, where he was rewarded with a pension. He never returned to his native country. He wrote and published a history of Massachusetts from the first settlement until 1750. The official residence of the governor of Massachusetts was called the “Province House.” It was a large brick building, three stories in height, and was formerly decorated with the King's arms, richly gilded. A cupola surmounted the roof. In front of the house was a lawn, with an iron fence, and on each side of the gate was a large oak-tree. The ground sloped, and in front were about twenty stone steps. The King's arms are in possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Hutchinson died in Brompton, near London, June 3, 1780.

Hutchinson took a seat in Governor Bernard's council, January, 1767, where he had no right. The Massachusetts Assembly resented this usurpation, this “lust of power,” in intruding into an elective body to which he had not been chosen. The council, by unanimous vote, denied the pretensions of the intruder, for the language of the charter was too clear to admit of a doubt; yet Bernard urged the interposition of the British government to keep him there. This conduct of the crown officers greatly irritated the people.

When, in May, 1770, he called a meeting of the Assembly at Cambridge, that body insisted that, by the terms of the charter, the general court could only be held at Boston. A dispute arose that consumed much of the time of two sessions, and it was October before the Assembly would agree to proceed with needed business, and then under protest, after a day spent in solemn humiliation and prayer. Then they made a bitter complaint against the governor because he had withdrawn from the castle in Boston Harbor

The province House.

the company in the pay of the province and given the fortress up to the regulars. They also complained of the unusual number of ships-of-war in Boston Harbor; all [470] of which they charged to misrepresentations at court by Governor Bernard, as well as the incumbent. They appointed Dr. Franklin as agent of the province in England. And then began that series of contests between Hutchinson and the people which speedily caused his exile from his native land.

Early in 1773, letters written by Governor Hutchinson and others of the crown officers in Massachusetts to Mr. Whately, one of the under-secretaries of the government, were put into the hands of Dr. Franklin, agent for Massachusetts, by Dr. Hugh Williamson, of Philadelphia. In these letters the popular leaders were vilified, the liberal clauses of the colonial charter were condemned, the punishment of Bostonians by restraints upon their commercial privileges was recommended, and “an abridgment of what are called English privileges” in America, by coercive measures, was strongly urged. Franklin saw in these letters evidences of a conspiracy against his country by enemies in its bosom, and he sent them to Thomas Cushing, speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly. They were finally published, and created intense excitement throughout the colonies. The tempest of indignation which they raised was fearful to Hutchinson and his friends. When a committee waited upon him for an explicit answer as to the authenticity of his own letters, he replied, “They are mine, but were quite confidential.” This was not satisfactory, and the Assembly adopted a petition to the King for his removal. The writers of the letters were Thomas Hutchinson, Andrew Oliver (lieutenant-governor), Charles Paxton, Thomas Moffatt, Robert Auchmuty, Nathaniel Rogers, and George Rome. See Franklin, Benjamin.

So eager was the King to see Governor Hutchinson, of Massachusetts, on his arrival in England in July, 1774, that he was hurried by Lord Dartmouth to the presence of his Majesty without time to change his clothes. He gave the King much comfort. He assured him that the Port Bill was a wise and effective method for bringing the Boston people into submission; that it had occasioned extreme alarm; that no colony would comply with their request for a general suspension of commerce; and that Rhode Island had accompanied its refusal with a sneer at the selfishness of the Bostonians. The King had heard and believed that the Boston clergy preached toleration for all kinds of immoralities for the sake of liberty, and scores of other tales, which Hutchinson did not deny; and for two hours the conversation went on, until the King was satisfied that Boston would be unsupported in its rebellious attitude by the other colonies. “The author of this intelligence,” says Bancroft, “became at once a favorite, was offered the rank of a baronet, and was consulted as an oracle by Gibbon, the historian, and other politicians at court.”

Boston tea party.

In his history of Massachusetts Bay, Governor Hutchinson gives the following account of the destruction of tea in Boston Harbor:

The Assembly being prorogued, there was again room to hope for a few months of freedom from civil contention. The complaint against the governor was gone to England; the salaries of the judges were suspended for the consideration of the next session: these were the two subjects of controversy peculiar to Massachusetts colony. Not more than two or three months had passed before a new subject was brought on, which had its effect on all the colonies, but greater in Massachusetts than in any other.

When the affairs of the East India Company were under the consideration of Parliament, to facilitate the consumption of tea, a vast quantity whereof then lay in the warehouses, it was determined to export a part of it, on account of the company, to the colonies, there to be sold by factors at a much lower price than it could be afforded by particular merchants who purchased it in England. When the intelligence first came to Boston, it caused no alarm. The 3d. duty had been paid the last two years without any stir, and some of the great friends to liberty had been importers of tea. The body of the people were pleased with the prospect of drinking tea at less expense than ever. The only apparent discontent was among the importers of tea, as well those who had been legal importers from England, as others who had illegally imported from Holland; and the complaint was against the East India Company for monopolizing [471] a branch of commerce which had been beneficial to a great number of particular merchants. And the first suggestion of a design in the ministry to enlarge the revenue, and to habituate the colonies to parliamentary taxes, was made from England; and opposition to the measure was recommended, with an intimation that it was expected that the tea would not be suffered to be landed. The committees of correspondence in the several colonies soon availed themselves of so favorable an opportunity for promoting their great purpose. It soon appeared to be their general determination that, at all events, the tea should be sent back to England in the ships which brought it. The first motions were at Philadelphia, where, at a meeting of the people, every man who should be concerned in unlading, receiving, or vending the tea was pronounced an enemy to his country. This was one of the eight resolves passed at the meeting.

The example was soon followed at Boston. The people were summoned, by notifications posted in different quarters, to meet at the tree of liberty, to hear the resignation of the consignees of the tea, which was then daily expected. The consignees also, by a letter left at one of their houses, were required to attend at the same time at their peril. The people met, but, the consignees not appearing, a committee was appointed to acquaint them at one of their warehouses where they had met that, as they had neglected to attend, the people thought themselves warranted to consider them as their enemies. They treated the message with contempt, and the people, many of whom had followed the committee, forced open the doors of the warehouse, and attempted to enter a room in which the consignees, with some of their friends, were shut up; but, meeting with resistance, they soon after dispersed, and the body of the people who remained at the tree, upon the return of their committee, dispersed also. This seems to have been intended only as an intimation to the consignees of what they had to expect. Two days after, what was called a “legal” meeting of the inhabitants was held in Faneuil Hall. Here the resolves which had been passed by the people of Philadelphia were first adopted; and then a further resolve passed that the inhabitants of the town, by all means in their power, will prevent the sale of the teas exported by the East India Company, and that they justly expect no merchant will, on any pretence whatever, import any tea liable to the duty. Committees were also appointed to wait on the several persons to whom the teas were consigned, and in the name of the town to request them, from a regard to their characters, and to the peace and good order of the town, immediately to resign their trust. Each of the consignees gave an answer of the same import, that, as they were not yet acquainted with the terms upon which the teas were consigned to them, they were not able to give a definite answer to the request of the town. The answers were all voted to be daringly affrontive to the town, and the meeting was immediately after dissolved.

Three vessels were expected every hour with the teas. The consignees were afraid of exposing themselves and their bondsmen to damages, which might arise from a refusal or neglect to execute their trust; on the other hand, they were anxiously concerned for their personal safety, and made their application to the governor. He foresaw that this would prove a more difficult affair than any which had preceded it since he had been in the chair. The controversies with the council and house had a tendency to deprive him of the esteem and favor of the people; but he had not been apprehensive of injury to his person. He was now to encounter with bodies of the people collected together, and a great proportion of them the lowest part of the people, from whom, when there is no power to restrain them, acts of violence are to be expected. He knew that the council would give him no aid. A man of the most influence among them had said to him that he was of opinion, instead of any attempts to suppress the motions of the people, it was more advisable to recommend to the consignees to reship the tea to England. He had no expectations of being able to protect the persons of the consignees or the property under their care. He considered that, if the ships came into the harbor above the castle, they could not pass by it again without a permit under [472] his hand, and that his granting such permit would be more than he should be able to justify. He therefore advised to their anchoring without the castle, and their waiting for orders; and this advice was approved of by the consignees, and by the owner of the ship first expected, if not by the owners of the other ships; and orders were given to the pilots accordingly.

All design of riots and acts of violence had been disclaimed by the conductors of measures for preventing the tea from being landed. A great number of rioters assembled, notwithstanding, before the house of Mr. Clarke, one of the consignees, in the evening, and attempted to force their way in, broke the windows to pieces, and otherwise damaged it, so as to cause the occupiers to remove out of it. One of the consignees fired with ball upon the mob, from one of the windows, soon after which the rioters dispersed.

The next day a town-meeting was held in Boston, for the sole purpose of inquiring of the consignees whether they were prepared to give a definite answer to the request of the town. They informed the town that they had received advice from their friends in England of such engagements in their behalf, merely of a commercial nature, as to put it out of their power to comply with the request of the town. Immediately upon receiving this answer the meeting dissolved itself. This sudden dissolution struck more terror into the consignees than the most minatory resolves. The same evening, by the advice of some of their friends, they resolved to petition the governor and council to take under the protection of government the property of the East India Company, which they were willing to resign, in order to its being landed and secured, until further direction from the owners. This measure was charged to the governor, who knew nothing of it until he came to town from his house in the country, the next morning, to attend a council summoned upon the general state of the province; nor had he any expectation of success from it.

The governor laid before the council the distracted state of the province from the measures of the inhabitants of Boston, who were in possession of the powers of government, and required advice and assistance, in order to the recovery of them. He acquainted them with the attack upon the house of one of the consignees, their dread of further violence upon the arrival of the tea, which was expected every hour; that he had called upon the civil magistrates, and had directed a military company of the inhabitants to hold themselves in readiness to obey their orders, in suppressing all riotous assemblies of the people; but all had been to no purpose. One of the council observed that the last riot was not of the most enormous kind; that in Sir Robert Walpole's time mobs had been frequent in England. Government there was then forced to give up the excise, and Sir Robert had promised never to bring it on again; the people would not bear the cider act; and the disorders among the people here were caused by unconstitutional acts of Parliament. Another observed that sending the tea by the East India Company to America was the plan of the ministry, in order to raise a revenue; that he dreaded the consequences, and was of opinion that the only way to prevent them was by the consignees resigning their trust.

While this debate was going on, the consignees delivered their petition to the secretary, some parts whereof, after it had been read, they were called in to explain; and having signified that they were in danger of violence to their persons, and that they feared the destruction of the tea, if there should be any attempt to land it, they prayed for protection to both, promising to wait for further directions from the East India Company, and in the mean time to take no steps towards the sale of the tea without permission from the governor and council. When they had withdrawn, the gentleman who had proposed their resigning explained himself, not intending a resignation into the hands of the governor and council; and exception was taken to their having any concern with the tea, lest they should make themselves liable to answer for any damage which might happen to it. But, some of the council desiring an adjournment, the matter was continued from Friday until Tuesday following, and, there being then but a bare quorum present, it was moved [473] that the governor should make a further adjournment, to which he consented; and, the selectmen of Boston having been first sent for, it was recommended to them to use their endeavors to preserve the peace of the town, and they expressed their opinions that, while the affair was under the consideration of the governor and council, the people would remain quiet.

Several members appeared upon this adjournment, who had not been present before. Mr. Bowdoin acquainted the governor that he had reduced his thoughts to writing, which he begged leave to read, and to lay the paper on the table. To this the governor excepted as irregular, and as it would make an ill precedent. After much debate, and after the council had, in general, discovered a disinclination to any other act or advice than a formal call upon the peace officers to be vigilant, which had been often done, and as often met with contempt, a motion was made that, as the opinion of the council was evident, a committee might be appointed to reduce it to a proper form. There was no room to doubt that the design was to prepare something for the public rather than for the sake of propriety in the council records, and the governor doubted whether he ought to consent; but, finding his instructions countenanced such a proceeding, he suffered the appointment of a committee, which withdrew into the lobby, where they had not remained long enough to write a paper of one-half the length of their report before they returned with it in form. There was no room to doubt of its being the paper intended to be read by Mr. Bowdoin, with such preface or other addition as was proper for the report of a committee. Upon hearing it read, the governor immediately warned them of the consequences of it; that it would be highly resented in England and would be urged there to show the necessity of a change in their constitution. He pointed out one very exceptionable part, which struck many of them so forcibly that they wished the governor would give them more time for consideration, to which desire he readily acceded, and ordered an adjournment from Saturday to Monday following.

On Sunday one of the ships with the tea arrived, and anchored below the castle. Notification in a form1 proper to inflame the people was posted up, calling upon them to assemble; and while the governor and council were sitting on the Monday in the council chamber, and known to be consulting upon means for preserving the peace of the town, several thousands, inhabitants of Boston and other towns, were assembled in a public meeting-house at a small distance, in direct opposition and defiance. The council, when they had considered the exception which the governor had made, ordered a recommitment of the report; but it was returned without any material alteration, all advice to secure the tea upon its being landed being expressly refused, because such advice would be a measure for procuring payment of the duty. Three or four of the council in the debate appeared to disapprove of the report, but, when the question was put, it passed unanimously; and the last and senior councillor, though he had argued very strongly against it, gave his voice for it, adding that it would not do for him to be alone. The council advised the governor's calling upon the magistrates to meet, and to take necessary care for the preservation of the peace; which advice being complied with, the people, in a few hours after, passed a vote, which they caused to be printed, declaring that “the conduct of Governor Hutchinson, in requiring the justices of peace in the town to meet and use their endeavors to suppress routs, riots, &c., carried a designed reflection upon the people there met together and was solely calculated to serve the views of administration.” The council, declining any further advice, were dismissed; the people continued together, in possession of all the power of government, for any purpose they thought fit.

The consignees of the tea, when they [474] saw no prospects of protection from government, made proposals to Mr. Adams, and others, a standing committee of the town, for securing the tea, and forbearing to make sale of any part of it, until they could receive directions from their principals; but no proposals were hearkened to. And, as soon as the master of the ship which brought the tea came on shore, he was sent for by this committee; and, after examination, both the master and owner were required, at their peril, to cause the ship to be brought up to town, and to a particular wharf, where it had not been customary for ships from London to unlade. The consignees of the tea, judging themselves no longer in a place of safety, withdrew to the castle.

The people assembled in Boston took the name of “the body” instead of a “legal town-meeting,” and began with that spirit with which all established powers ought to act in the exercise of their legal constitutional authority. They resolved that, “at all events,” the tea arrived in charge of Captain Hall should be returned to the place from whence it came, and that no duty should be paid upon it. They then adjourned to the afternoon, to give time for the consignees to deliberate. As soon as they reassembled, they resolved that the tea should be sent back in the same bottom in which it came. To this resolve the owner of the vessel, who was present in the meeting, said he must enter a protest. It was thereupon resolved that Mr. Rotch, the owner, be directed not to enter the tea, and Captain Hall, the master, not to suffer any of it to be landed, at their peril. They did not stop at mere declaratory acts or naked resolves This, they knew, would render future acts and resolves contemptible. They established a watch of twenty-five inhabitants for securing the ship and cargo, and appointed a captain for the night.

It being intimated that the consignees, if they had time, would make their proposals to the body, “out of great tenderness to them, and from a strong desire to bring this matter to a conclusion, notwithstanding the time they had hitherto expended on them, to no purpose.” the meeting was prevailed with to adjourn to the next morning.

The governor, seeing the powers of goverment thus taken out of the hands of the legally established authority, could not justify a total silence, though he knew he could say nothing which would check the usurpers. He sent the sheriff with a proclamation, to be read in the meeting, bearing testimony against it as an unlawful assembly, and requiring the moderator and the people present forthwith to separate at their peril. The sheriff desired leave to read the directions he had received from the governor, which was granted; but the reading of the proclamation was opposed, until Mr. Adams signified his acquiescence. Being read, a general hiss followed, and then a question whether they would surcease all further proceedings as the governor required, which was determined in the negative, nemine contradicente.

The consignees, in a letter to the selectmen of Boston, which was read to the meeting, signified that it was utterly out of their power to send the tea back to England, but they would engage to keep it in a store until they could receive further directions from England, to which they afterwards added that they would be content to have it under the constant inspection of a committee, to be appointed by the town. But all was declared not in the least degree satisfactory, and that nothing short of sending back the tea would be so. The owner and master of the ship were directed to attend the “body” ; and a vote passed, while they were present, without a negative, “that it is the firm resolution of the body that the owner shall return the tea in the same vessel in which it came, and that they now require it of him.” The owner promised to comply, but intimated that it was by compulsion, and that he should be obliged to protest, to save himself from damage. The master also promised to carry it back. The factors for the two other vessels expected were sent for, and, being informed of the engagements made by the owner and master of the ship arrived, they also made such engagements as were satisfactory; and, after making provision for the continuance of a watch, so long as the tea continued in the harbor, and for an alarm to the inhabitants upon any molestation, they passed a resolve “that if any person, or persons, [475] shall hereafter import tea from Great Britain, or if any master, or masters, of any vessel, or vessels, in Great Britain, shall take the same on board to be imported to this place, until the unrighteous act (mentioned in the preamble to the resolve) shall be repealed, he, or they, shall be deemed, by this body, an enemy to his country; and we will prevent the landing and sale of the same, and the payment of any duty thereon, and will effect the return thereof to the place from whence it shall come.” Copies of this resolve were ordered to be sent to England and to the seaport towns in the province.

A resolve passed to carry the votes and resolves into execution at the risk of their lives and properties; and the meeting was dissolved.

A more determined spirit was conspicuous in this body than in any of the former assemblies of the people. It was composed of the lowest as well, and probably in as great proportion, as of the superior ranks and orders, and all had an equal voice. No eccentric or irregular motions, however, were suffered to take place. All seemed to have been the plan of but few, it may be of a single person. The “form” of a town-meeting was assumed, the selectmen of Boston, town clerk, &c., taking their usual places; but, the inhabitants of any other towns being admitted, it could not assume the name of a “legal” meeting of any town.

Immediately after the dissolution of this body the committees of correspondence of the towns of Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Brookline, and Cambridge united, and held their meetings daily, or by short adjournments, in Faneuil Hall, or one of the rooms belonging to it, and gave such directions as they thought proper. Two of the other vessels with tea arriving from London, they were ordered by this new body to the same wharf where the first ship lay, under pretence of the conveniency of having the whole under one guard. It soon after appeared that a further conveniency accompanied it.2

As a permit or pass was always required at the castle, for all vessels except small coasters, and there were several men-of-war in the harbor, which it was supposed would stop the ship from proceeding any other way, the destruction of the tea was considered as necessary to prevent payment of the duty. A demand was made from the collector, in form, of a clearance for the ship, which he could not grant until the goods which were imported, and regularly entered, were landed, and the duties paid, or secured; and the like demand of a permit was made of the naval officer, with whom blank permits were intrusted by the governor, to be filled up, and delivered to such vessels only as had been cleared at the custom-house, and, therefore, in this case was refused. It was expected that in twenty days after the arrival of the tea a demand of the duty would be made by the collector, and the ship or goods be seized; which would occasion additional difficulties. Another meeting of the body was, therefore, called, in order to inquire the reason of the delay in sending the ship back to England. The people came into Boston from the adjacent towns within 20 miles, from some, more, from others, less, as they were affected; and, as soon as they were assembled, enjoined the owner of the ship, at his peril, to demand of the collector [476] of the customs a clearance for the ship, and appointed ten of their number a committee to accompany him; and adjourned for two days to receive the report. Being reassembled and informed by the owner that a clearance was refused, he was then enjoined immediately to apply to the governor for a pass by the castle. He made an apology to the governor for coming upon such an errand, having been compelled to it; and received an answer that no pass ever had been, or lawfully could be, given to any vessel which had not first been cleared at the custom-house, and that, upon his producing a clearance, such pass would immediately be given by the naval officer. The governor inquired of him whether he did not apprehend his ship in danger from the people, and offered him a letter to Admiral Montagu, desiring him to afford all necessary protection. He said he had been advised to remove his vessel under the stern of the admiral's ship, but, among other reasons for not doing it, mentioned his fears of the rage of the people; that his concern was not for his ship, which he did not believe was in danger, but he could not tell what would be the fate of the tea on board. He declined taking any letter to the admiral, and returned to the people. The governor was unable to judge what would be the next step. The secretary had informed him that a principal leader of the people had declared, in the hearing of the deputy secretary, that, if the governor should refuse a pass, he would demand it himself, at the head of 150 men, &c.; and he was not without apprehensions of a further application. But he was relieved from his suspense, the same evening, by intelligence from town of the total destruction of the tea.

It was not expected that the governor would comply with the demand; and, before it was possible for the owner of the ship to return from the country with an answer, about fifty men had prepared themselves, and passed by the house where the people were assembled to the wharf where the vessels lay, being covered with blankets, and making the appearance of Indians. The body of the people remained until they had received the governor's answer; and then, after it had been observed to them that, everything else in their power having been done, it now remained to proceed in the only way left, and that, the owner of the ship having behaved like a man of honor, no injury ought to be offered to his person or property, the meeting was declared to be dissolved, and the body of the people repaired to the wharf, and surrounded the immediate actors, as a guard and security, until they had finished their work. In two or three hours they hoisted out of the holds of the ships 342 chests of tea, and emptied them into the sea. The governor was unjustly censured by many people in the province, and much abused by the pamphlet and newspaper writers in England for refusing his pass, which, it was said, would have saved the property thus destroyed; but he would have been justly censured if he had granted it. He was bound, as all the King's governors were, by oath, faithfully to observe the acts of trade, and to do his endeavor that the statute of King William, which establishes a custom-house, and is particularly mentioned in the oath, be carried into execution. His granting a pass to a vessel which had not cleared at the custom-house would have been a direct violation of his oath, by making himself an accessory in the breach of those laws which he had sworn to observe. It was out of his power to have prevented this mischief without the most imminent hazard of much greater mischief. The tea could have been secured in the town in no other way than by landing marines from the men-of-war, or bringing to town the regiment which was at the castle, to remove the guards from the ships, and to take their places. This would have brought on a greater convulsion than there was any danger of in 1770, and it would not have been possible, when two regiments were forced out of town, for so small a body of troops to have kept possession of the place. Such a measure the governor had no reason to suppose would have been approved of in England. He was not sure of support from any one person in authority. The House of Representatives openly avowed principles which implied complete independency. The council, appointed by charter to be assisting to him, declared against any advice from which might be inferred [477] an acknowledgment of the authority of Parliament in imposing taxes.

The superior judges were intimidated from acting upon their own judgments by the censure of the House of Representatives, and by the threats of impeachment of all who shall receive their salaries under the authority of an act of Parliament, which had enabled the King to grant them.

There was not a justice of peace, sheriff, constable, or peace officer in the province who would venture to take cognizance of any breach of law, against the general bent of the people.

The military authority, which by charter was given to the governor, had been assumed by this body of the people, who appointed guards and officers, which appeared sometimes with fire-arms, though generally without them. And, when he required the colonel of the regiment of militia in the town to use the powers with which by law he was intrusted, he excused himself by urging the hazard to which he should be exposed and the inefficacy of any attempt.

Even the declarations of the governor against the unlawful invasions of the people upon the authority of government were charged against him as officious, unnecessary acts, and were made to serve to inflame the people and increase disorders. He considered the intimations given him of personal danger as part of the general plan for discouraging him from persevering in his duty; but, in some instances of a serious appearance, he could not take any measures for his security, without the charge of needless precaution, in order to bring an odium against the people, when they meant him no harm.

Notwithstanding the forlorn state he was in, he thought it necessary to keep up some show of authority, and caused a council to be summoned to meet at Boston the day after the destruction of the tea, and went to town himself to be present at it; but a quorum did not attend. The people had not fully recovered from the state of mind which they were in the preceding night. Great pains had been taken to persuade them that the obstructions they had met with, which finally brought on the loss of the tea, were owing to his influence; and, being urged to it by his friends, he left the town, and lodged that night at the castle, under pretence of a visit to his sons, who were confined there with the other consignees of the tea. Failing in an attempt for a council the next day at Milton, he met them, three days after, at Cambridge, where they were much divided in their opinion. One of them declared against any step whatever. The people, he said, had taken the powers of government into their hands—any attempt to restrain them would only enrage them, and render them more desperate; while another observed that, having done everything else in their power to prevent the tea from being landed, and all to no purpose, they had been driven to the necessity of destroying it, as a less evil than submission to the duty. So many of the actors and abettors were universally known that a proclamation, with a reward for discovery, would have been ridiculed. The attorney-general, therefore, was ordered to lay the matter before the grand jury, who, there was no room to expect, would ever find a bill for what they did not consider as an offence.

This was the boldest stroke which had yet been struck in America. The people in all parts of the province showed more or less concern at the expected consequences. They were, however, at a distance; something might intervene to divert them. Besides, the thing was done: there was no way of nullifying it. Their leaders feared no consequences. To engage the people in some desperate measure had long been their plan. They never discovered more concern than when the people were quiet upon the repeal of an act of Parliament, or upon concessions made, or assurances given; and never more satisfaction than when government had taken any new measures, or appeared to be inclined to them, tending, or which might be improved, to irritate and disturb the people. They had nothing to fear for themselves. They had gone too far to recede. If the colonies were subject to the supreme authority and laws of Great Britain, their offences, long since, had been of the highest nature. Their all depended upon attaining to the object which first engaged them. There was no way of attaining to it but by involving the body of the people in the same circumstances [478] they were in themselves. And it is certain that ever after this time an opinion was easily instilled, and was continually increasing, that the body of the people had also gone too far to recede, and that an open and general revolt must be the consequence; and it was not long before actual preparations were visibly making for it in most parts of the province.

1 “Friends! brethren! countrymen!—That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in this harbor—the hour of destruction of manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stare you in the face. Every friend to his country, to himself, and posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock this day, at which time the ells will ring, to make an united and successful resistance to this last, worst, and most destructive measure of administration.”

2 Two days after the dissolution of the body the following publication was posted in different parts of the town, and printed in the newspapers. It might be the act of a single person unknown, but in such a time it carried terror with it, which probably was the principal design of it:

Whereas it has been reported that a permit will be given, by the custom-house, for landing the tea now on board a vessel lying in this harbor, commanded by Captain Hall: This is to remind the public that it was solemnly voted, by the body of the people of this and the neighboring towns, assembled at the Old South Meeting-house, on Tuesday, the 30th of November, that the said tea never should be landed in this province, or pay one farthing of duty. And, as the aiding, or assisting, in procuring, or granting, any such permit for landing the said tea, or any other tea so circumstanced, or in offering any permit, when obtained, to the master or commander of the said ship, or any other ship in the same situation, must betray “an inhuman thirst for blood,” and will also, in a great measure, accelerate confusion and civil war, this is to assure such public enemies of this country that they will be considered and treated as wretches unworthy to live, and will be made the first victims of our resentment.

the people.

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