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The crisis

[2] [3]

How Great Britain Estranged America.

Chapter 25:

The Charter of Massachusetts in peril.—the fall of the Rockingham Administration.

May—July, 1766.

The satisfaction of America was not suffered to con-
Chap. XXV.} 1766. May.
tinue long. The King, regarding the repeal of the Stamp Act as ‘a fatal compliance,’1 which had for May. ever ‘wounded the majesty’ of England, and ‘planted thorns’ under his own pillow,2 preferred the hazard of losing the colonies3 to tempering the British claim of absolute authority. Their denial of that claim and their union were ascribed by his friends to the hesitation of his Ministers, whose measures, they insisted, had prevailed by ‘artifices’ against the real opinion of Parliament; and ‘the coming hour’ was foretold, ‘when he British Augustus would grieve for the obscuring of the glories of his reign by the loss, not of a province, [4] but of an empire more extensive than that of Rome;
Chap. XXV.} 1766. May.
not of three legions, but of whole nations.’4

No party in England could prevent an instantaneous reaction. Pitt had erected no stronger bulwark for America than the shadowy partition which divides internal taxation from imposts regulating commerce; and Rockingham had leapt over this slight defence with scorn, declaring the power of Parliament to extend of right to all cases whatsoever. But they who give absolute power, give the abuse of absolute power; —they who draw the bolts from the doors and windows, let in the robber. When the opinions of Bedford and Grenville became sanctioned as just principles of constitutional law, no question respecting their policy remained open but that of its expediency; and country gentlemen, if they had a right to raise a revenue from America, were sure that it was expedient to ease themselves of one fourth of their land-tax by exercising the right. The Administration were evidently without vitality; ‘they are dead and only lying in state,’ was the common remark. Conway avowed himself eager to resign;5 and Grafton not only threw up his office, but, before the House of Lords, addressing the Prime Minister, who regarded the ascendency of the old whig aristocracy as almost a part of the British constitution, called on him to join in a willingness to be content with an inferior station, for tile sake of accomplishing a junction of the ablest and most experienced statesmen of the country.6

On the resignation of Grafton, Conway, with his accustomed indecision, remained in office, but seized [5] the occasion to escape from the care of America7 to

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the Northern Department. There appeared a great and general backwardness8 to embark with Rockingham. Lord North9 had hardly accepted a lucrative post, before he changed his mind and excused himself. Lord Howe would not serve unless under Pitt.10 Lord Hardwicke also refused the place left vacant by Grafton; so did his brother, Charles Yorke; and so did Egmont; till at last it fell to the husband of Conway's step-daughter, the liberal, self-confident Duke of Richmond; who added grace and courtesy of manners to firm affections, but was swayed by a violent and undiscerning ambition, that far outran his ability.11 He, too, shunned12 the conduct of American affairs, and they were made over to a new Department of State, which Dartmouth was to accept,13 and which Charles Townshend avowed his hope of obtaining from a future Administration. Once, to delay his fall, Rockingham suggested a coalition14 with the Duke of Bedford. In saloons, female politicians, at their game of loo, divined the ruin of the Ministry, and were zealots for governing the colonies by the hand of power.15

In America half suppressed murmurs mingled with the general transport. Arbitrary taxation by Parliament16 began to be compared with restrictions on industry [6] and trade, and the latter were found to be

Chap. XXV.} 1766. May.
‘the more slavish thing of the two,’ and ‘the more inconsistent with civil liberty.’ The protesting Lords had affirmed, that if the provinces might refuse obedience to one statute, they might to all,—that there was no abiding place between unconditional universal submission and independence. Alarmed that such an alternative should be forced upon them, the colonists, still professing loyalty to a common sovereign, drew nearer and nearer to a total denial of the power of the British Legislature. ‘I will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound,’ said Franklin, ‘to defend my right of giving or refusing the other shilling; and, after all, if I cannot defend that right, I can retire cheerfully with my little family into the boundless woods of America, which are sure to afford freedom and subsistence to any man who can bait a hook or pull a trigger.’17 ‘The Americans,’ said the press of Virginia,18 ‘are hasty in expressing their gratitude, if the repeal of the Stamp Act is not at least a tacit compact that Great Britain will never again tax us;’ and it advised ‘the different Assemblies, without mentioning the proceedings of Parliament, to enter upon their journals as strong declarations of their own rights as words could express.’19

To the anxious colonies, Boston proposed union as the means of security. While within its own borders it sought ‘the total abolishing of slavery,’ and encouraged learning, as the support of the constitution [7] and the handmaid of liberty, its representatives20 were

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charged to keep up a constant intercourse with the other English governments on the continent, to conciliate any difference that should arise; ever preferring their friendship and confidence to the demands of rigorous justice. Henceforth its watchword was union, which the rash conduct of the dismayed21 officers of the crown contributed to establish. Bernard was elated at having been praised in the House of Lords by Camden for one set of his opinions, and quoted in the Bedford Protest as an oracle for the other. There was even a rumor that he was to be made a baronet. His superciliousness22 rose with his sense of personal safety; and he gave out, that on the meeting of the legislature, he should play out his part as Governor.

In choosing the new House in Massachusetts, many towns, stimulated by the ‘rhapsodies’ of Otis,23 put firm patriots in the places of the doubtful and the timid. Plymouth sent James Warren, the brotherin-law of Otis; and Boston, at the suggestion of Samuel Adams, gave one of its seats to John Hancock, a young merchant of large fortune and a generous nature. At their organization, on the last Wednesday in May, the Representatives elected James Otis their Speaker, and Samuel Adams their Clerk. Otis was still the most influential Member of the House; had long been held in great esteem throughout the province; had been its Delegate to the New-York Congress; and had executed that trust to universal acceptance.24 Though irritable, he was also placable, [8] and at heart was truly loyal. Bernard ostentatiously

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negatived the choice. The negative, as unwise as it was unusual, excited in the whole colony25 undefined apprehensions of danger; but the House, deferring to legal right, acquiesced without complaint, and substituted as its Speaker the respectable but irresolute Thomas Cushing.

In the afternoon of the same day, at the choice of the Council, the four Judges of the Supreme Court, of whom Hutchinson was the Chief, the King's Attorney, and Oliver, the Secretary and late Stamp-master, all Members of the last year's Board, were not reelected; for, said Samuel Adams, ‘upon the principle of the best writers, a union of the several powers of government in one person is dangerous to liberty.’26 The ballot had conformed strictly to the charter27 and to usage, and the successful candidates were men of prudence, uprightness, and loyalty. But Bernard ‘resented’28 the exclusion of the crown officers, and from the whole number of twenty-eight he rejected six29 of the ablest ‘friends of the people in the board.’30 He had the legal right to do so; and the Legislature submitted without a murmur.31

Here the altercation should have terminated. But on the following day, Bernard—an ‘abject’ coward,32 where courage was needed, and now insolent when [9] he should have been conciliatory—sought to constrain

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the election of Hutchinson, Oliver, and two others,33 and accused the House of having determined its votes from ‘private interests and resentment and popular discontent,’ disguised ‘under the borrowed garb of patriotism.’ ‘It were to be wished,’ he continued, ‘that a veil could be drawn over the late disgraceful scenes. But that cannot be done till a better temper and understanding shall prevail. The recent election of Councillors is an attack on government in form, and an ill-judged and ill-timed oppugnation of the King's authority.’34

Concurrently, Rigby, as the leader of the Bedford

party,35 on the third day of June, proposed in the British House of Commons an Address to the King, censuring America for its ‘rebellious disposition,’ as well as the Ministry for its dilatoriness; pledging Parliament to the coercion of the colonies; and praying that there might be no prorogation till positive assurances should be received from the provincial Governors of the return of the people to obedience.36

From the ministerial benches Charles Townshend, professing to oppose the motion, spoke substantially in its favor. ‘It has long been my opinion,’ said he, in conclusion, ‘that America should be regulated and deprived of its militating and contradictory charters, and its royal Governors, Judges, and Attorneys be rendered independent of the people. I therefore expect that the present Administration will, in [10] the recess of Parliament, take all the necessary pre-

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vious steps for compassing so desirable an event. The madness and distractions of America have demanded the attention of the Supreme Legislature, and the colony Charters have been considered and declared by judges37 of the realm, inconsistent, and actually forfeited by the audacious and unpardonable Resolves of subordinate Assemblies. This regulation must no longer be trusted to accidental obedience. If I should differ in judgment from the present Administration on this point, I now declare, that I must withdraw, and not longer co-operate with persons of such narrow views in government. But I hope and expect otherwise, trusting that I shall be an instrument among them of preparing a new system.’38

Rigby was ably supported by Lord North and Thurlow; and especially by Wedderburn, who railed mercilessly at the Ministers, in a mixed strain of wit, oratory, and abuse;39 so that, notwithstanding a spirited speech from Conway, and a negative to the motion without a division, their helplessness stood exposed. America was taken out of their control and made the sport of faction.

The very same day on which Townshend proclaimed a war of extermination against American Charters, similar threats were uttered at Boston. In communicating the circular letter from Conway, proposing ‘to forgive and forget’ the incidents of the [11] Stamp Act, and directing the several Governors to

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‘recommend’ to the Colonial Legislatures an indemnification of all sufferers by the riots which it occasioned,40 Bernard renewed his complaints that the principal crown officers had been dropped from the Council. ‘If,’ said he, ‘this proceeding should be justified by asserting a right, the justification itself would serve to impeach the right.’41 And inviting them again42 to choose among others Hutchinson, whom, after thirty years uninterrupted concern in public affairs, the thought of a retreat, though with the occupation of Chief Justice and Judge of Probate, had plunged into melancholy,43 he added, ‘The fate of the Province is put in a scale, which is to rise or fall according to your present conduct.’

‘The Requisition44 is founded upon a Resolution of the House of Commons,’ he continued, employing the word which that body, after debate, as well as Conway, had purposely avoided. ‘The authority with which it is introduced should preclude all disputation about complying with it.’

The patriots of Massachusetts could hardly find words45 fit to express their indignation. Bernard's speeches fell on the ear of Samuel Adams, as not less ‘infamous and irritating’ than the worst ‘that ever came from a Stuart to the English Parliament;’46 and with sombre joy he called the Province happy in having for its Governor, one who left to the people no [12] option, but between perpetual watchfulness and total

Chap. XXV.} 1766. June.

‘The free exercise of our undoubted privileges,’ replied the House,47 ‘can never, with any color of reason, be adjudged an abuse of our liberty. We have strictly adhered to the directions of our Charter and the laws of the land. We made our election with special regard to the qualifications of the candidates. We cannot conceive how the assertion of our clear Charter right of free election can tend to impeach that right or Charter. We hope your Excellency does not mean openly and publicly to threaten us with a deprivation of our Charter privileges, merely for exercising them according to our best judgment.’

‘No branch of the Legislature,’ insisted the Council,48 ‘has usurped or interfered with the right of another. Nothing has taken place but what has been constitutional and according to the Charter. An election duly made, though disagreeable to the Chair, does not deserve to be called a formal attack upon Government, or an oppugnation of the King's authority.’

Mayhew, of Boston, mused anxiously over the danger, which was now clearly revealed, till, in the morning watches of the next Lord's Day, light dawned upon his excited mind, and the voice of wisdom spoke from his warm heart, which was so soon to cease to beat. ‘You have heard of the communion of churches,’ he wrote to Otis; ‘while I was thinking of this in my bed, the great use and importance [13] of a communion of colonies appeared to me in a

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strong light. Would it not be decorous for our Assembly to send circulars to all the rest, expressing a desire to cement union among ourselves? A good foundation for this has been laid by the Congress at New-York; never losing sight of it may be the only neans of perpetuating our liberties.’49 The patriot uttered this great word of counsel on the morning of his last day of health in Boston. From his youth he had consecrated himself to the service of colonial freedom in the State and Church; he died, overtasked, in the unblemished beauty of manhood, consumed by his fiery zeal, foreseeing independence.50 His character was so deeply impressed on the place of his activity, that it is not yet grown over. Whoever repeats the story of American liberty renews his fame.

The time for intercolonial correspondence was not come; but to keep up a fellow-feeling with its own constituents, the House, setting an example to be followed by all representative bodies, opened51 a gallery for the public to attend its debates. It also sent a grateful Address to the King,52 and voted thanks53 to Pitt and to Grafton; and, among many others, to Conway and Barre, to Camden and Shelburne; to Howard, who had refused to draw his sword against the colonies; to Chesterfield, who left retirement for their relief. But as to compensating the sufferers by the late disturbances, it upheld its [14] right of deliberating freely, and would only pro-

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mise at its next session to act as should then appear just and reasonable.54

Connecticut,55 overjoyed at the repeal of the Stamp Act and applauding its connection with Great Britain, elected as its Governor the discreet and patriotic William Pitkin, in place of the loyalist Fitch.

The Legislature of South Carolina, retaining, like Georgia,56 its avowed sentiments on internal taxation, marked its loyalty by granting every requisition, even for doubtful purposes; at the same time, it asked for the pictures of Lynch, Gadsden, and Rutledge; and on the motion of Rawlins Lowndes, remitted a thousand pounds towards a statue of Pitt. Still they felt keenly that they were undeservedly distinguished from their happier fellow-subjects in England by the unconstitutional tenure of their judges during the King's pleasure. They complained, too, that ships, laden with their rice for ports north of Cape Finisterre, were compelled, on their outward and return voyage, to touch at some port in England; and they prayed for modifications of the Navigation Act, which would equally benefit Great Britain and themselves.57

At New-York, on the King's birthday, the bells rang merry peals to the strains of martial music and [15] the booming of artillery; the Fields near the Park

Chap. XXV.} 1766. June.
were spread for feasting; and a tall mast was raised to George the Third, William Pitt, and Liberty. At night enormous bonfires blazed; and all was as loyal and happy, as though freedom had been brought back with ample pledges for her stay.

The Assembly came together in the best spirit. They passed over the claims of Colden,58 who was held to have been the cause of his own griefs; but resolved by a majority of one to indemnify James.59 They also voted to raise on the Bowling Green an equestrian statue of George the Third, and a statue of William Pitt, twice the Preserver of his Country. But the clause of the Mutiny or Billeting Act, directing colonial legislatures to make specific contributions towards the support of the army, placed New-York, where the Headquarters were established, in the dilemma of submitting immediately and unconditionally to the authority of Parliament, or taking the lead in a new career of resistance.60 The rescript was, in theory, worse than the Stamp Act. For how could one legislative body command what another legislative body should enact And, viewed as a tax, it was unjust, for it threw all the burden on the colony where the troops chanced to be collected. The Requisition of the General, made through the Governor, ‘agreeably to the Act of Parliament,’ was therefore declared to be unprecedented in its character and unreasonable in its amount; yet in the exercise of the right of free [16] deliberation, every thing asked for was voted, except

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such articles as were not provided in Europe for British troops which were in barracks.

The General and the Governor united in accepting the grant; but in reporting the affair, the wellmeaning, indolent Moore reflected the opinions of the army, whose officers still compared the Americans to the rebels of Scotland, and wished them a defeat like that of Culloden.61 ‘My message,’ said he at the end of his narrative, ‘is treated merely as a Requisition made here; and they have carefully avoided the least mention of the Act on which it is founded. It is my opinion, that every Act of Parliament, when not backed by a sufficient power to enforce it, will meet with the same fate.’62

From Boston, Bernard, without any good reason, chimed in with the complainers. ‘This Government,’ said he, ‘quickened and encouraged by the occurrences at New-York, cannot recover itself by its own internal powers.’ ‘The making the King's Council annually elective, is the fatal ingredient in the constitution. The only anchor of hope is the sovereign power, which would secure obedience to its decrees, if they were properly introduced and effectually supported.’63 And he gave himself no rest in soliciting the interposition of Parliament, and the change of the Charter of Massachusetts.64

1 George the Third to Lord North, 4 February, 1776.

2 A short history, &c., &c., &c., 18, 19.

3 Considerations on the Present State of the Nation, &c., &c., by a late Under-Secretary of State, 50.

4 Lloyd's Conduct of the Late Administration, &c., &c.

5 Conway to Grafton, 23 April, 1766, in Grafton's Autobiography.

6 See Grafton's own account of the incident in his Autobiography.

7 De Guerchy, the French Ambassador at London, to Choiseul, 22 May, 1766.

8 Grafton's Autobiography.

9 Lord North to Rockingham, 24 May, 1766.

10 Lord Hardwicke's Memorial. Albemarle's Memoirs of Rockingham and his Contemporaries, i. 335.

11 Albemarle, i. 340.

12 Garth, member of the House of Commons, and Agent for South Carolina, to the Committee of South Carolina, 6 June, 1766.

13 De Guerchy to Choiseul, 22 May, 1766.

14 Duke of Richmond's Journal in Albemarle, i. 349.

15 Rigby to Bedford, in Bedford Cor., 4 June, 1766.

16 Philalethes in Holt's Gazette, No. 1218, 8 May, 1766.

17 Franklin's Hints for a Reply to the Protests of Certain Members of the House of Lords against the Repeal of the Stamp Act.

18 Gage to Conway, 1766.

19 A British American, Virginia, 20 May, 1766, reprinted in Holt's Gazette, 1226; 3 July, 1766. Compare Moore to the Secretary of State, 11 July, 1766.

20 Records of the Town of Boston for 26 May, 1766. Boston Gazette, 2 June, 1766; 583, 2, 1.

21 Hutchinson to Richard Jackson, 11 June, 1766.

22 Diary of Oakes Angier.

23 Advertisement by Otis, 14 April, 1766.

24 John Adams: Diary, 203.

25 Compare Boston Gazette, 17 6 November, 1766; 607, 1, 1.

26 Samuel Adams to Dennys De Berdt, 1766.

27 Compare the Answer of the House to Governor Bernard, 2 June, 1766.

28 Compare Bernard to Hillsborough, 30 May, 1768.

29 Thomas Hutchinson to his son, then in England, 29 May, 1766.

30 John Adams: Diary in Works, II. 204.

31 Samuel Adams to Arthur Lee, 19 April, 1771.

32 See the Journal of Captain Conner of the Romney, and the letters of the Romney, and the letters Commodore Hood, &c., &c., as well as the Boston Gazette.—Grenville Papers, IV. 375.

33 Bernard to the Lords of Trade, 7 July, 1766.

34 Speech of Governor Bernard to the Council and House of Representatives, 29 May, 1766, in Bradford's Massachusetts State Papers, 74.

35 Rigby to the Duke of Bedford, 4 June, 1766, in Bedford Correspondence, III. 336.

36 Journal of the House of Commons, XXX. 841.

37 The allusion is probably to the Speech of the Lord Chancellor, Northington, in the House of Lords, February 8, 1766.

38 Manuscript Report of the Conclusion of Townshend's Speech, in my possession. The manuscript appears to me to be in the hand writing of Moffat of Rhode Island, and was obtained from among the papers of the late George Chalmers, after their sale.

39 Rigby to Bedford, 4 June, 1766.

40 Prior Documents, 89.

41 Speech of Governor Bernard to the Legislature, 3 June, 1766, in Bradford's Massachusetts State Papers, 81.

42 Bernard to Lords of Trade, 7 July, 1766.

43 Hutchinson to Bollan, 2 June, 1766.

44 Bernard in Bradford, 82.

45 John Adams's Private Diary. Works, II. 204.

46 Samuel Adams to Arthur Lee, 19 April, 1771.

47 Answer of the House, in Bradford 88.

48 Answer of the Council, in Bradford, 86.

49 Jonathan Mayhew to James Otis, Lord's Day Morning, 8 June, 1766. See Bradford's Life of Mayhew, 428, 429.

50 Compare Thomas Hollis to Andrew Eliot, 1 July, 1768.

51 Vote of the House of 12 June, 1766.

52 Address to the King, in Brad ford, 91.

53 Vote of Thanks, &c., & c., 20 June.

54 House to the Governor, 25 June—Governor to House, 27 June the—House to Governor, 28 June,—all in Bradford. Also, Bernard's Observations, in Prior Documents, 107. Further: Letters from Ber-nard of 29 June, and 19 July, 1766.

55 Gov. Pitkin to Secretary Conway, 4 Aug., 1766.

56 Sir James Wright (nephew to Lord Chancellor, Northington) to the Secretary, 23 July, 1766.

57 South Carolina Committee of Correspondence to Garth, a Member of Parliament, their Agent, 2 July, 1766. Compare his answer of 26 September, 1766.

58 Lieut. Gov. Colden to General Amherst, 24 June, 1766.

59 Colden to Conway, June, 1766.

60 Moore to Conway, and Gage to Moore, in Prior Documents, 94, &c.

61 Leake's Life of John Lamb.

62 Gov. Moore to Conway, 20 June, 1766.

63 Bernard to Lords of Trade, 7 July, 1766.

64 Bernard to Conway, 19 July, 1766.

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